Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Saving the world one bed at a time

Photo: Christy Burton
Innisfil's Suzanne Dobinson relaxes at home with
one of the bedkits she helped distribute in Honduras.

... from The Barrie Advance & Simcoe.com,
January 29, 2008

Author: Christy Burton

The air is filled with excitement as the visitors climb out of the two cars, leaving behind thoughts of the rut-filled mud roads that had chattered their teeth for kilometres.

About 20 makeshift shanties are scattered before them. The stone and plaster shelters are joined together under terra cotta clay roofs.

Curious adults cautiously approach the well-travelled vehicles and their emerging cargo. The hamlet’s children are much more adventurous, joyfully accepting the stickers and flags the visitors offer.

One of the visitors to this remote Honduran village sends a flurry of bubbles into the air to their raucous delight. Innisfil’s Suzanne Dobinson is no stranger to facing poverty head on. She knows what an icebreaker the bubbles and toys can be, and she smiles at the cheerful faces of the hosts who are about to be blessed by some very important gifts.

There are six visitors altogether from ‘Sleeping Children Around the World’ (SCAW).

One is Barrie’s Harry Gauthier. He is, as always, snapping pictures, recording the inspiring events.

Harry and Suzanne and the others they travelled with aren’t being paid to help distribute 4,500 bed kits to children. In fact, much of the thousands of dollars required to get to and from the remote village came from their own pockets.

SCAW Team with Hoduras First Lady
From Honduras 2007 Photo Album
The visitors are a little surprised to see armed soldiers as they round up the children to receive their bed kits. It turns out they are guarding the wife of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who wanted to see what the international aid organization was doing. First Lady Xiomara Castro de Zelaya has her own program to feed and otherwise care for destitute school children. She is impressed with what she learns.

SCAW is a registered Canadian charity started by the parents of hockey legend Ken Dryden. Murray Dryden (now deceased) went without benefit of a bed himself during the Great Depression.

He knew first hand what it was like having to sleep on the ground. He believed ‘the comfort of a bed is a basic right of every child.’ He and his wife Margaret (also deceased) initially provided bedkits to 50 children in India in 1970.

The organization they began flourished, and to date has provided bedkits for more than 800,000 children in 31 countries. The organization helps destitute children get a good night’s sleep to go along with school supplies that come with their ‘bed’.

Dobinson says SCAW is a fantastic organization. Every element of each bed kit is purchased in the distribution location in order to improve the local economy, and 100 per cent of donations go towards the kits, she says. All administrative costs are covered by an investment account set up by Murray Dryden.

“SCAW connects with established service groups in countries where the income per person is $2,000 or less per year. The groups are responsible for getting the beds from the factories to the schools to be distributed.”

Each bedkit is worth about $30 Canadian. Each contains a small covered mattress, pillow and sheet rolled around a new outfit and supplies including writing and reading materials.

“It varies by country depending on what the money in that country will buy,” Dobinson explains.

“I’ve seen some kits from India that have maybe 30 things in their kit. They get maybe a pail for their family so they don’t have to bail water and use the same pail for other things. They really appreciate the books because they have to buy all those things for school.”

Back in Tegucigalpa (pronounced Teh-gooch-ee-GALP-a), the area’s Rotary Club, made up of Honduran doctors, lawyers and other professionals, helped hand out bedkits to thrilled young students. Suzanne assists, making sure to make contact with each child.

Suzanne in Honduras
From Honduras 2007 Photo Album
Dobinson is a holistic healer by trade, and she says the whole effort is physically and mentally healing for everyone involved. One boy, she says, eagerly pitched in with the SCAW volunteers.

“He was about 12 years old,” she notes. “He worked so hard. He was such a nice kid. He got to know who would want what. He would see a little girl coming along and he would grab a pink one and a teddy bear one and bring them up to the door. It was just so sweet.”

Dobinson says the money she spent on her trip gave her a great opportunity to see the difference she was making.

“In Canada we have so much more than people in developing countries. We have a welfare system, hostels, food banks, and it’s needed and well used, but the countries I go to don’t have that sort of thing. One mother told me she sells (gum) on the street for $3 a day, and she has several children. She said there was no way she was going to let her children quit school like so many others. I’m so blessed that I need to give back, be of service elsewhere. The other selfish part is that you get back way more than you give. It feels like the world is so much smaller.”

For more information or to buy a bedkit for a child go online , email info@scaw.org or call (416) 231-1841.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Spaghetti Fundraiser = 20 Bedkits

Recently, the Social Justice Committee at Jean Vanier Catholic High School in Collingwood had a fund-raising event which raised $600 for Sleeping Children, enough money to buy 20 bedkits.

They said: "The dinner was in conjunction with our high school drama production. One of the four charities that we selected to support was SCAW."

Staff member Jeannine Murphy provided us with photos of the event.

(Click the photo to see a larger version.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Seventy Bedkits from Owen Sound

Happy students at Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute celebrated the end of a successful pre-Christmas campaign in Owen Sound, Ontario this morning.

Their campaign goal had been thirty bedkits, but this morning they presented Sleeping Children with a cheque which will buy more than seventy bedkits for children in developing countries.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ontario Volunteer Service Award Recipient

In 2007, SCAW Volunteer Harolyn Panetta received the Ontario Volunteer Service Award, nominated by the Retired Teachers of Ontario, for twenty years of volunteer service in the community, overseas, and especially in developing countries.

This was for working with teachers and school principals in Uganda, Ghana and Liberia as a volunteer and as a volunteer tour leader. Harolyn has led more than thirty groups of teachers to destinations around the globe: China, India, South Africa, South America, Australia/New Zealand, Europe, the Far East (Thailand, Hong Kong), and one tour around the world. All of this, of course, was volunteer work without one penny in remuneration. She says "It was a real pleasure and I would do it again in a heartbeat."

She and her husband celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past year. She tells us about how they celebrated: "We thought we would just send in $1500 (50 bedkits at $30 each = $1500) to SCAW. However, we remembered that we had friends who may not know about SCAW so, along with the money, we sent in fifty names with addresses and had the pictures sent to them. Several of these have since sent a bedkit contribution to SCAW to commemorate birthdays, deaths, graduations, and special occasions."

A gift that keeps on giving and giving.

A SCAW Calendar for 2009

My Mum, Renee Jarman, was an avid supporter of SCAW, and when she passed away, I wanted to do something special for our organization in her memory. So, I came up with the idea of making a SCAW calendar, with pictures from each of the distribution sites per month. Not just of the bedkits from that country, although they will be a part of it, but individual, personal, pictures of the children.

The calendar will be available for the end of this year, for 2009. The launch will be at the SCAW Christmas concert we have at Saint James Cathedral, "An Evening With Lynette and Friends," in November.

Hopefully we will be inundated with sales and this will help to "spread the word" even further. At our concert last year we raised $6,600 an incredible 220 Bedkits. Hurrah for us! Let's see how much more we can raise this year...

— submitted by SCAW Volunteer, Lynette Jenkins

Thursday, January 3, 2008

NoBS Comes to 28 Pinehurst Again

I just got back from the SCAW offices at 28 Pinehurst Crescent, the former home of the Dryden family which is now the headquarters for Sleeping Children Around the World.

Upstairs and downstairs was a beehive of activity as the team going to Kolkata was assembling labels and collecting the computer and camera equipment for the distribution later this month.

Then we had a visit from Rob Provencher and James Hodgins and their families. Rob and James (pictured above) are photographers in the Sudbury area who have a successful Web endeavour called NoBS PhotoSuccess and this year they raised money for Sleeping Children Around the World via their Web site again.

Last year they asked members of their forums to donate $5 if they so wished, ending up with donations totalling $3,750 ... and then they added $1,000 themselves. This year they asked their members for $10 to help Sleeping Children and this afternoon came to the house to hand a cheque for $7,000 to SCAW executive director, Linda Webb, and SCAW board chair, Dave Dryden.

Thanks again, guys ... and give a big hand to all the members of your forums too.