Girl Guides provide support for labour of love

A local troop is pitching in to help orphans in Uganda.

Local Girl Guides are pitching in to help Ugandan orphans.

The 1st Kla How Ya Guides will host Coquitlam native Carli Travers and her husband Robert Birungi at the South Surrey home of Susan Richards de Wit Dec. 5.

Led by the Guides, the event will include an opportunity to shop for Ugandan craft items, with all proceeds to benefit the Abetavu Children’s Village – Travers’ and Birungi’s labour of love.

Travers has lived in Uganda and taken in street children there since January 2007. She had returned to the impoverished country to continue a relationship that started during a two-month social work practicum when her journey took an unexpected turn: she came across six children begging on the street, and couldn’t simply walk away.

At 22 years old, Travers took all six of the children in.

Nearly five years later, she and Birungi are parents to 14 Ugandan children and three of their own. They created a non-profit organization and with the help of donors, bought 11 acres on the outskirts of Kampala, where they are now working to build Abetavu. Once complete, the plan is for the village to include a home for themselves and 20 children; eight satellite houses; a garden; an outside play area; a well; a primary school and library for 360 students; a community hall; a small health clinic; and a home that will accommodate about six grandmothers at a time – women who have cared for their grandchildren but now need care themselves.

The primary purpose of Travers’ and Birungi’s current visit to Canada is to raise funds for the main house, an $80,000 project. They have $30,000 so far.

It’s an effort Richards de Wit has personally supported for a number of years. She and Linnea Nordling introduced the Guides group to it as part of a project on international community service.

In addition to baking for, marketing and hosting the event, the girls have been busy collecting school supplies and gently used clothing that they will give Travers and Birungi to take back to Uganda.

“There’s a woman who’s taken 14 children off the street, so the stuff will go to her,” explained Tyra Henderson.

Lauren Benson said she was impressed to hear how much Travers has done.

“She doesn’t have to do this,” Benson said. “It was her own choice to help out. That’s a very good thing.”

The effort to help is not unfamiliar to Guide Lindsay Manning. During a recent trip to the Dominican Republic with her parents, the Semiahmoo Trail Elementary student helped deliver school supplies, toys and baseball equipment to children living in poverty in Punta Cana.

“They were really, really happy,” Manning said of the children who received the items, noting many at the one-room school she visited shared a desk and wore shoes that didn’t fit.

The baseball equipment was especially appreciated, she said.

Having an idea of how poor Africa is as a whole, Manning said she hopes her group’s efforts for Uganda will make a difference.

“Maybe if we bring in enough of this, maybe they would stop being so sad,” she said.

Richards de Wit said in addition to Monday’s proceeds, two local stores – Laura’s Fashion Fabrics and Wineberry Fabrics – are donating fabric that will be made into dresses for the girls in Travers’ care.

Anyone interested in attending Monday’s event is asked to email Richards de Wit at susan.richardsdewit@gmail.com

Cash donations for the Abetavu Children’s Village – payable to DMI Ministries – may be sent to DMI Ministries, 32171 Ashbrot Dr., Abbotsford, V2T5C7.

Donations of summer clothing for the Ugandan children may also be dropped off to South Fraser Women’s Services Society, 15318 20 Ave., in the next week. Society officials ask that any items for the cause are clearly marked ‘African donation’, and only dropped off between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to Friday.

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