Monday, March 14, 2005

For the Children

An article on the Charity Village website, March 14, 2005.
By Doug Jamieson

When disaster strikes, some people don't think twice before putting their lives on hold and getting involved.

As we all know, on Boxing Day a tsunami devastated Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the southern coast of Asia, and areas on the African coast. Most of you probably supported the relief effort with your donations. But for some, just writing a cheque wasn't enough.

As news of the carnage spread, Clarence Deyoung of Bedford, Nova Scotia, his wife Mary Ann, and his son Roy met with a Sri Lankan family who live in Bedford to find out what they were hearing from their families.

They learned that 70 schools were completely destroyed and 95 schools were partly destroyed in Sri Lanka. In addition, more than 200 schools were being used as camps to house people who had lost their homes.

Clarence has long been a volunteer with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW), and has made many trips to underdeveloped countries to distribute bed kits to children who don't even own a toothbrush. So he felt that he could do something about this problem in Sri Lanka. Under the banner For the Children, he contacted friends, relatives, and business associates he thought would help, and raised enough money for 5,000 kits.

For $12 each, they put together school kits containing twelve exercise books, one science project book, two square rule exercise books, one box of coloured pencils, two pencils, two pens, one ruler, a pair of shoes, and a school bag to hold everything.

Clarence already had Rotary Club contacts in Sri Lanka from earlier SCAW trips, and they identified the remote areas that were most in need. Rotary also bought the kit contents with the funds that had been raised in Canada.

Plane tickets, visas, police checks, passports and innoculations were quickly arranged, and Clarence and Roy flew from Halifax on February 2nd via London and Dubai - 26 hours of flying - to assemble and distribute the kits.

Distribution of these school kits in seven of the affected areas was coordinated with the local school board, and all children in the chosen schools, both Tamil and Sinhalese, received a kit. DSI, a local shoe company, followed Clarence and Roy around in a truck loaded with shoes so the children could select the proper size.

While working 20-hour days in temperatures up to 38 degrees Celsius, Clarence and Roy still found time to send pictures and regular updates to their supporters by e-mail.

Clarence reports, "Many great things have happened as a result. For example, we got help from four schools. After we came back, Roy put together a PowerPoint presentation that we presented to all the children in those schools to thank them for their help, to show them the actual distribution of the school bag process, and answer any questions they might have. I have always felt that it is great to get children helping children. These children asked a lot of good questions, and you never know when you are planting a seed that will get these children involved in doing volunteer work or helping others somehow. As a matter of fact, from those presentations, I am working with three high school students who want to go to a developing country this summer to work on a project of some kind. Plus, we are now getting calls from other schools and churches to go and do the presentation for them."

They arrived back home on February 18th.

Mission accomplished. Thanks guys.