As published in the Oakville Beaver,
|Photo: Ron Kuzyk,|
HEADED TO AFRICA:
Megan Johnson, general manager of
Oakville Place, will be going on a
charity trip for Sleeping Children
Around the World, to give out
bedkits to children in Kenya.
June 14, 2008
Imagine yourself sleeping on hard ground every single day of your life, and then suddenly someone gives you a bed-kit -- a mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket and mosquito net -- the recipe for a comfortable sleep. How would that make you feel?
Megan Johnson has been imagining that ever since she first donated her first $30 for a bed-kit from the Sleeping Children Around the World charity.
"I gave it as a gift for my dad's 70th birthday," said the Oakville Place general manager. "The idea is actually really neat. You give the charity $30, which allows them to buy a bed-kit for a child. The child is then photographed with their new kit and a label that either has your name or a message."
Now, 10 years after her first donation, Johnson was due to leave for Kenya yesterday with five other volunteers from Sleeping Children Around the World, to witness the children's reactions herself.
"I've just always wondered how they would react. Would they know what a mattress is? How would their first sleep on a mattress feel like? I'm just really excited to see their faces. I bet it probably feels just like heaven to them."
During her two-week stay, Johnson, along with the rest of the volunteer team, will be distributing 6,500 bed kits.
"That's 6,500 children who'll be going to sleep happier," she said, smiling.
There are specific criteria however that enable certain children to be more likely to receive a bed-kit than others. According to Johnson, a child must be attending school and have at least one working parent. She also said that the Rotary Club of Kenya selects the children and the charity organizes the manner in which the bed-kits are distributed.
"They gather the children in one area and talk to them a little bit about the charity and what's going to happen. Then they give them a fresh pair of clothes, their bed-kits and take their picture."
Johnson also added, that the point of the process is to make the children as comfortable as possible, because this experience, is often, very new to them.
She recalled a story that a pervious traveller had told her about his own personal experiences with the trip.
"He was taking the pictures, and as he would take the pictures he would tell the children to smile. However, in this country, every time he said the word smile, the children would look around, confused, and walk towards him," she laughed. "He kept thinking, what the heck am I saying that's making them come. And apparently the word smile, sounds a lot like the word come here in their language. So while he wanted them to smile, they thought he was asking them to move towards him."
Because the charity has a zero overhead policy -- that is, it is completely operated by volunteers -- Johnson is paying for the trip and its expenses from her own pocket.
"I've always been a traveller. I think that traveling for the sake of travelling is great, but I think travelling for a cause is just something totally different. That's why I'm going," she explained.
Johnson applied for the volunteer trip a year-and-a-half ago. She was accepted in March.
She first heard about the charity from an announcement made at her church, and she has supported it, ever since.
"It's one of the quiet charities that I want to give my attention to, so that it won't be forgotten," said Johnson. "It's simple, no one phones you and no one knows how much money you donated."
The charity was founded by Margaret and Murray Dryden in 1970. Murray realized that a bed should be the basic right of every child, during the Great Depression, when he slept many nights without a bed. Since 1970, the charity has raised more than $20 million for bed-kits for more than 900,000 children in 32 countries.
For more information visit, www.scaw.org