Friday, March 16, 2012

Londoner can't resist need in Togo

As posted on the London Free Press, March 16, 2012

Londoner Don Barclay, who is spearheading a relief project aimed at helping to educate children in Togo, is wearing a shirt from that African country and displaying a miniature tribal mask similar to those used in tribal ceremonies. (CHIP MARTIN, The London Free Press)


When Don Barclay retired as a business educator, he wasn’t done with education.

His interest has taken him to Togo, where he and a new charitable organization are bringing hope to children in the impoverished West African nation.

In the past year, Support. Education. Togo (SET) has put $46,000 into a new three-classroom school and to repair three more classrooms rendered unusable following a windstorm.

The money has come primarily from Barclay, a former professor at the Ivey business school at Western University, his younger brother, Robert, a retired banker in Mississauga, and Toronto doctors Anne and Simon Carette. The foursome were introduced to the educational challenges facing Togolese children when they distributed bed kits through Sleeping Children Around the World.

The Barclays and Carettes established SET, which obtained charitable status last year, and have begun to seek public donations they hope will produce $100,000 a year for two or three school-related projects annually.

“When you see an obvious situation when kids are being disadvantaged, the four of us felt compelled to jump in,” Barclay said. “The need was just sitting there in front of us.”

Aside from building projects undertaken with the help of local officials and parents, SET provides scholarship funds for deserving students, salaries for teachers, teaching supplies and uniforms.

Barclay said he is motivated to help because “it’s all about the kids,” but he is struck by the positive attitude in the tiny country of 6 million where the annual income per capita is less than $500. There is some agriculture and mining for phosphorous but little else to produce prosperity in Togo.

“These people are positive,” he said. “They are dedicated to hard work. They love their kids to death. Those kinds of attitudes are the reasons we decided to put a stake in the ground. They are great people to work with.”

The Togolese understand the value of education to help them move forward, he said.

“They have this inherent hope which is so easy to work with.”

SET has virtually no overhead and Barclay said all money received goes to Togo, where the new organization works with the well-established Action Enfance et Developement Togo (AED).

Barclay supports several organizations locally and provincially which raise funds for cancer survivors, brain tumour research, for a food bank and a province-wide referral service for those dealing with mental health, drug and gambling issues.

He felt it was time to act globally and he couldn’t resist the need in Togo. opting to act at the grass-roots level.

“I decided I was much more excited at this stage of my life to do something a bit more hands-on, closer to the ground,” he said.

As secretary-treasurer of SET, Barclay is appealing to others to support the new organization determined to bring a ray of hope to a tiny corner of Africa few Canadians could find on a map.

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The Organization: Support. Education. Togo (SET).

Goal: To improve education in the West African nation of Togo, population 6 million.

How: Through building and rebuilding schools, providing scholarships and funds for teaching supplies and to pay teachers, water and sanitation systems for schools.

To Donate: online at or by mail to 1423 Tecumseh Park Dr., Mississauga, ON, L5H 3P1, or email

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