As posted by the Seaforth Huron Expositor, May 14, 2014
By Whitney South, Seaforth Huron Expositor
Chris and Gail Hills have always had a passion for helping children and nothing could be closer to their hearts than the needs of Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW).
Recently, the couple traveled to the Philippines as part of a group of volunteers to help hand out bed kits, a much needed service provided by SCAW in developing nations.
“The reality of living in third world countries is grim,” says Chris, explaining how just one bed kit can make the difference for an entire family. “They’ve got nothing and when you’re there helping, the experience is just overwhelming, they’re just so grateful.”
Donors for over 20 years, Chris says the couple never thought about actually traveling.
“I didn’t think I could handle it emotionally,” explained Chris. “A friend of mine I didn’t know was involved, encouraged me and I was hooked, once you’ve experienced something like this you just can’t get enough of it.”
An organization which provides bed kits to kids across the globe, SCAW is a group dedicated to making a difference in a child’s life, regardless of race or religion, who are in need and are typically located in underdeveloped and developing countries. On this trip, the group was able to distribute 6,000 kits, an annual goal they have been able to reach the past couple years.
Murray and Margaret Dryden of Etobicoke founded the charity in 1970, with the hope every child in the world could benefit from the comfort of a good night's sleep.
"It all started when Murray tripped over a child sleeping on pavement in India. He thought if that child could get a better night's sleep, he would be able to do better at school," said Chris. "I actually met a young man who still had his blanket and bed mat from a bed kit he got in 1998, he'd even taken it to university. He said it changed everything for him."
Since the organization began, SCAW has raised over $23 million in order to provide bed kits for children in 33 countries worldwide, reaching their millionth child in 2009.
According to the organization's website, not one penny of the $35 bed kit donation is spent on administration, 100 per cent goes to a needy child.
The couple had previously gotten the chance to travel to Sri Lanka together two years ago, while Chris has traveled several times over the past four years.
For Gail, the ability to interact with the children and their families was something she’ll never forget.
“There was one child who was so small, very very tiny. Because he was so small, I got down on my knees to him and I was giving him a bed kit when he spontaneously ran into my arms and I swung him around, it was a wonderful moment,” she said, smiling. “These moments really hit you, you’re in tears often.”
The bed kits provided contain much more than just items needed for a good night's sleep.
Besides a mat or mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket and mosquito net, children selected for the program also receive other necessities including a towel, flip flops and even school supplies. Contents vary from country to country depending on local needs, and products selected to be part of the kit are made and purchased from the countries where they’re distributed, in order to support the local economy.
After each kit is handed out, every child is photographed with the donor’s name and country, or special occasion message, on a label. Each photograph is then mailed to the donor as a way to help them remember the child who so greatly benefited from their gift.
In the Philippines, children and their families usually live in 10-foot by 8-foot tin shack with dirt floors and no running water and many only earn enough to spend $1 a day on food.
“The whole thing won’t work without donors, so it’s up to generous people out there to help give children a chance to improve their way of life,” Chris explained. “Spreading the word and getting people interested is so important, absolutely everything is volunteer based.”
For more information on how to donate to Sleeping Children Worldwide, visit www.scaw.org.
Chris Hills can be contacted at either email@example.com, or by calling 519-522-1913.