Susan Janetti prepares to open up the 40-foot container; Janetti embraces children in Zimbabwe

Semiahmoo Peninsula provides lifeline for Zimbabwe

South Surrey woman asking for donors to support next stage of charity work

Just a month after her return from Zimbabwe, Susan Janetti is already thinking about what more she can do to help those struggling with crippling poverty in the African country she was born in.

The Ocean Park woman recently wrapped up her latest project April 3 – filling and shipping a 40-foot container of desperately needed donated items to the southern African country – and is focusing on her next.

Janetti, who founded the charitable organization Zimbabwe Gecko Society in 2008 with her husband, Frank, is working on bringing Canadian doctors to Zimbabwe in order to provide aid and education.

She will be working with Dr. Ray Markham, the medical director of the UBC Rural Continuing Professional Development Program, to find doctors – and funding – to support the program.

“Ray and his wife, Allison, joined us in Zimbabwe and now we’re working together and we’re going to put in a health component,” Janetti said, noting Markham, like herself, is originally from Zimbabwe.

For the last three years, Janetti has been running the society largely on her own, as her husband battles cancer.

And even though she’s tough enough to take on the task, she admitted help is needed.

“I’m getting old. I’m over 65,” she said. “Because it’s just me and the work is multiplying, we are looking for corporate sponsorship.”

Funding would support the doctors travelling to Zimbabwe, where more and more people are going to the hospital, not get better, but to die, Janetti said.

Now, by having a health component, donations can be made directly towards medical care and saving lives.

The couple’s first project was building an orphanage 21 years ago to bring relief to families caring for children whose parents had passed away.

Previously, there were no orphanages, as the children were simply absorbed into the relatives’ family, Janetti explained.

“But because of the situation with the money collapsing, lack of food and the amount of people dying daily, they couldn’t care for these children anymore,” she said.

Then, in 2008, amid financial turmoil in Zimbabwe due to hyperinflation, Janetti founded the society in order to increase support to those hit the hardest.

“People were dying of cholera, starvation – just literally dying by the hundreds – so we thought, we can’t do much, but we can do a little,” she said.

Janetti was quick to add that while she is often on the frontlines in Zimbabwe, none of the work she has done would have been possible without the outpouring of support she has received from her community.

“We really have to thank them,” she said. “They have been incredible.”

In the years since the society has formed, the Janettis have helped bring clean water and sanitation to communities in Zimbabwe, as well as farming program Foundations for Farming, which teaches sustainable farming methods.

“We work as a community, not individuals,” Janetti said. “Everyone that took a farming course had to teach 10 more.”

Though it has been hard work for the couple for the last two decades, the rewards are far greater, Janetti said.

She recalled her most recent trip and the reaction once the big, blue container was opened.

“We had people weep over things we throw away after one use. For the medical supplies, they were literally crying,” she said. “I remember asking ‘why are they so happy for such a little gift?’ and the reply was, ‘they have more now than they did 10 minutes ago.’

“Something about that just sticks with me.”

For more information, visit



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Left, Rowena Leivo early on in her volunteer career with the South Surrey/White Rock Food Bank. Right, Leivo in the food bank Tuesday. (Contributed photos)
After 34 years, ‘The Boss’ retires from South Surrey Food Bank volunteer gig

Rowena Leivo, 90, spent a third of her life volunteering at the food bank

The Surrey Eagles are currently seeking billet families for its players in advance of the 2020-‘21 BC Hockey League season. (Garrett James photo)
Surrey Eagles in ‘desperate’ need of billet families for BCHL season

COVID-19 pandemic has made finding homes for players difficult: billet co-ordinator

Matthew Campbell, director of the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank, stands amongst a large amount of non-perishable food and household items being stored inside the Pacific Community Church. This year’s ‘Halloween For Hunger’ food drive, put on by students at Clayton Heights, will go to benefit the Fraser Valley Regional Food Bank. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Clayton Heights Secondary kicks off annual ‘Halloween for Hunger’ event

Students to collect much-needed items for food bank

Ali Watson in Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of “No Child…,” which plays until Nov. 8. (photo: Moonrider Productions)
Viewers of Arts Club’s streaming plays support Surrey Civic Theatres

Company’s ‘bubble method’ of theatre production means just 50 in-person tickets for each performance

Surrey RCMP cruisers outside a Newton townhouse Tuesday night. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
UPDATE: Toddler in hospital, woman dead following stabbings at Surrey townhouse

Police say two-year-old was among victims found at townhouse complex in the 12700-block of 66 Avenue

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Rio Tinto Alcan’s aluminum smelter at Kitimat competes against producers in the Middle East and Russia that have no carbon tax. (Rio Tinto)
B.C. carbon tax highest in Canada, export industries unprotected

B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberals say they’re looking at exemptions

In this file photo, snow is seen falling along the Coquihalla Highway. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
Weather statement issued for Coquihalla, Hwy 3, as arctic front approaches

The early season snowfall expected to hit Fraser Valley, Friday, Oct. 23

Vancouver teacher suspended after swearing, touching students and complimenting underwear

McCabe touched students, including rubbing their backs and necks, touching their hair and hugging them

Most Read