When Jean Callarec first decided she wanted to visit Africa, she was a 12 year old in geography class.
“I was learning about different countries – geography is a very good subject by the way – and there were two places in the world I wanted to go to: the Northwest Territories, and I wanted to go to Africa,” the 89-year-old White Rock resident said.
“And I did.”
It was in the early 2000s when Callarec went to Africa while travelling with her daughter and son-in-law. And one of the things that struck the octogenarian was how the temperature – scorching hot during the day – dropped as soon as night arrived to the sub-Saharan continent.
“It’s very cold in Africa as we discovered at night,” she said.
That memory stayed with Callerac as she meticulously sewed together donated fabric into thick, warm quilts for children in Ol Pejeta, Kenya.
The senior sent over her first batch of quilts two years ago after hearing about a friend of her daughter’s, Kate Mulligan – a teacher at the Langley Fine Arts School – who is involved with Project Kenya Sister Schools, which helps Kenyan children go to school while supporting the conservation efforts of the Ol Pejeta Wildlife Conservancy in the Laikipia region of Kenya.
While discussing the program over tea, Mulligan suggested Callarec use her sewing skills to help.
“I laughed and said, ‘your quilts would come in handy,’ Mulligan recalled. “It gave her a new lease on life. It gives her focus.”
Last year, Callarec sewed four quilts to be given to expecting mothers; this year, she has created 12 quilts, and shows no signs of stopping.
“I always think of some little kid being really cold and their feet like ice, because I lived in Saskatchewan where it gets to 52 below, and it’s not really funny,” she said.
“Then I think of the kids in Africa, which gets really cold at night. I know they don’t have much of anything, and they’re not really dressed all that well.
“I just do what I can.”