Sweet Success on Centre Court

Cantón Bella Vista girls’ basketball team come up winners

What child can resist playing with a ball? We discover that joy early in life as we learn to bounce, catch, kick, throw, and chase after them in pursuit of fun.

For a group of 10 to 12-year-old girls in Cantón Bella Vista, Guatemala, the pursuit of fun and basketball has led to champion status in their community, and they have the Compassionate Eye Foundation to thank for getting the ball rolling.

 

In 2010, a group of teachers in municipalities surrounding the small, remote community (25 schools in 25 communities) sought to find interesting, skill-building activities for their students. They pooled their energies into hosting regular sporting and cultural events and for the past eight years, these events get underway every Friday from June through August.

One of these events is a regional basketball tournament, an activity supported by teachers to foster the development of psychomotor skills, teamwork, and friendly competition. It’s through this tournament that the young girls of the Cantón Bella Vista school achieved their prized second place standing and became darlings of the community.

Thanks to the generosity of a private donor, CEF funded the construction of a playground and concrete basketball court in Cantón Bella Vista. And it’s become a real game changer for the community.

Before the tournaments, the concept of sports wasn’t well-defined in Cantón Bella Vista. Children were active enough, but playing ball consisted mostly of small groups of girls or boys tossing or kicking around a soccer ball. They played in a dirt playground by the school, kicking up dust in the summer and mud in winter. There was no concrete surface on which to properly bounce a ball, no hoops to sink a basketball, and little understanding of the game.

Fredy Matias Lopez, an instructor and project coordinator for the Cantón Bella Vista school, remembers how the playground transformed the community. “When the basketball court was built, it was a great joy and curiosity for parents, teachers, boys, and girls,” he said (via translated email correspondence.) “The environment was improved…children started playing during recess hours, and the parents of family and young people also played in the afternoon on the court. It was a new environment for the school and the community.”

As the popularity of the tournaments took off, it opened an exciting new world for the children. “The students, parents, and teachers are so proud of having a sports field and taking second place in girls’ basketball,” said Fredy.  “It demonstrates to the other 24 schools that the girls can play well. The students are proud to receive congratulations, medals, trophies, and mentions in the media through radio and television. In 2017, the girls even received congratulations from relatives in the United States who saw the news on Facebook.”

Pride in the success of the girls’ team is shared by the entire community, and enthusiasm for the game has spurred greater participation on basketball teams for both genders. The children gain skills through competitions with peers in neighbouring schools and as they succeed in the game, they share their skills with other children. To commemorate the team’s success, the community is working together to establish a space to display team trophies that mark proud moments in the history of the school.

“Other school teams know that the Cantón Bella Vista school can win and are afraid to face our team,” Fredy boasted. “Parents collaborate to cover some expenses during sporting events because they know there will be favourable results for the school.”

By far the team’s greatest success is instilling healthy ideas into young minds. “The successes obtained [through practicing basketball] are strengths that each of our students has, and they will carry the idea of ​​being successful in life,” says Fredy. “Our school must be a model of what can be achieved.”

 

A hand up, not a hand out

By Arjun Shankar & John Shoust

One of CEF’s newest partners, Winds of Change, is returned recently to complete its project in Pedro Arauz – a small community of approximately 80 families that is located in rural Nicaragua. While Winds of Change has been developing a relationship with this community for some time, this is CEF’s first opportunity to learn about its environment and people – to evaluate its needs, and to assess the impact of this project on its peoples’ quality of life. Since the project’s inception, Winds of Change has already built one windmill, two irrigation systems and supported the rehabilitation of a local school. The work in February includes installing two additional irrigation systems, as well as multiple water purification systems meant to address the growing incidence of diarrhea and kidney disease among local children and adults.

Photo by Winds of Change

Bringing together a team of well-respected engineers, business leaders, professors and  University of Toronto students, Winds of Change is a Canadian non-profit organization that strives to promote water security in rural Nicaragua. The flagship project of the organization and its leadership team is the design and construction of windmills and irrigation systems using locally sourced material and labour; however, Winds of Change also supports education and capacity building through a range of initiatives. The latter is also a testament to the organization’s diverse constituency, which is a reflection of interests ranging from the public and private sectors, all the way to academia.

To those of us that have ready access to clean drinking water at all times of the day or night, it is undoubtedly easy to take for granted the efforts required by some to find and transport clean water to and from their homes. Although wells remain a lifeline to many communities around the world, windmills can facilitate access to potable water in larger quantity – not only for drinking, cooking and cleaning purposes, but also for harvesting crops which requires a degree of consistency. Sound irrigation systems are equally important to (a) maximize crop yield, and (b) minimize water usage; and agricultural education allows communities to harvest crops that are otherwise implausible to grow because of poor soil conditions, or a lack of knowledge.

For Winds of Change, it is incredibly important to enable individuals and families to create lasting change from within their communities through skill development and the implementation of lasting low-cost technologies. This allows local communities to become self-sufficient in the long-run, and promotes capacity, health, social solidarity and network building. It also facilities commerce in and between communities by supporting access to local food markets where crops can be bought and sold.

Photo by Winds of Change

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Through the continued interaction with community leaders Winds of Change plans to develop projects within Pedro Arauz and surrounding communities to provide new and exciting opportunities.  The longer-term impact of these projects and ongoing education / training is to allow families to remain as a unit longer, achieve higher levels of education among children, and provide predictable and sustainable access to the basic necessities of life.

 

Clean Water Makes the Difference

Today marks the 25th anniversary of World Water Day. Drawing attention to the ever-growing need for clean drinking water, World Water Day is a chance for worldwide reflection on how important water is to people and the environment alike.

Graphic by UN Water

It is also a time for action. UN Water estimates that “2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services.” And, according to UN Water, “by 2050, the world’s population will have grown by an estimated 2 billion people and global water demand could be up to 30% higher than today.” How will we combat this growing need?

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As an organization, CEF has aimed to increase access to clean drinking water by partnering with on-the-ground organizations in Guatemala, Ethiopia, India, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Cambodia.

In Cambodia, CEF and Kids International Development Society (KIDS) have partnered on clean water projects in four schools. In total, these projects have brought clean drinking water to 4,700 students and teachers. Our latest—and largest—water filtration project for the Pouk District High School is nearly finished.

We caught up with Rick and Adrianne, founders of Nanaimo-based charity KIDS, in Cambodia to find out just how important clean water is to the daily life of a student.

“Before the water projects are implemented, kids have to go without water all day if their families are too poor to afford bottled water,” said Adrianne. “We have noticed that the playgrounds are pretty quiet at recess. The children are often thirsty and lethargic due to stomach aliments caused by bad water.”

Since clean water is made available, Rick said they notice a “marked differences at the schools once they can drink to their heart’s content.” With an unlimited supply of clean water, kids can be just that: fun-loving kids.

Adding to this happy story is a positive environmental aspect: students at the school will carry a refillable water bottle. Rick and Adrianne report that there is a movement at Pouk High School, and at many of the schools in the area, to reduce the amount of plastic waste caused by single-use bottles.

Providing students and teachers with water, in an environmentally friendly way, is a real source of pride for both KIDS and CEF.

It may not be huge contribution—compared to the 2.1 billion people in need of reliable, clean water—but we are thrilled to be a part of a solution.

Happy World Water Day, everyone!

Photo by KIDS

Opening Minds & Opening Hearts

Helping to shape school life in Ethiopia

We seldom pause to consider how we got to go to school. We were enrolled in kindergarten in a neighbourhood school, progressed to middle and high school, then continued on to college, university, trade school, or other training to carry us through life.

For children in Wotet Abay, a small town 50 kilometers south of Bahir Dar in Ethiopia, schooling has been a challenge. With 2,033 students, the Wotet Abay Elementary School was struggling to meet the learning needs of its community.

Currently, twenty percent of the children entering grade one are between ages eight and 12.  This late enrolment, a serious detriment to learning, has been attributed to a number of factors: a distance too far to travel, families needing their children for work, inadequate physical conditions of the school, and poor quality teaching.

A shortage of classrooms meant staging two shifts of classes per day, with an average of 60 students per shift for grades one through eight. Classrooms in the mud-structure buildings were dark and dilapidated, and filthy, makeshift latrines offered no privacy for students or staff.

In 2017 big changes were being made at the school, and CEF was there to help. Approached by the Frances G. Cosco Foundation (FGCF) to support overall improvements being made at the school, CEF stepped up with funding to construct latrines and establish teacher training and a greening program. 

Gina Cosco, CFO and Secretary-Treasurer on the Board of Directors at FGCF, told us about the foundation’s work. “Our projects are based on a holistic model,” she explained, “which includes school, library, science lab and latrine construction, provision of furniture and books, teacher training, water, sanitation and hygiene programming, as well as a greening program.” 

She was happy to report on increased attendance and enrolment. “Children, and in particular girls, did not attend in part because of the horrible, filthy latrines,” she said. “Boys and girls now have separate latrines, and the girls helped choose where theirs would be located in order to be more private.”

CEF funding for teacher training helped them move beyond the traditional “chalk and talk” methods of instruction. “Our training focuses on student-centred learning,” explained Gina. “We use different teaching methods for different types of learners, and many more hands-on teaching methods and aids.”  One aspect encouraged teachers and administration to establish reading, sports, and health clubs. These didn’t existent previously, but are now thriving with growing numbers of students.

FGCF’s teacher training expert Abiyot Ashenafi, based in Bahir Dar, now oversees ongoing training. He manages planning, facilitating, maintaining best practices, modeling and monitoring student-centered instructional strategies, and measuring of students’ academic growth.

“Teachers from the International Community School (ICS), that uses a holistic method of teaching, help lead our workshops,” said Gina. “They host teachers from our schools in their own school so that they may shadow and mentor them.”

The main impact on teachers has been motivating them to try new methods and enjoy teaching more. “Many now spend more time in school and more time preparing innovative props and aids to help their teaching,” she said. “This is partly due to new facilities, but also because of inspiration from the training and the noticeable new enthusiasm of students in response to new teaching methods.”

CEF’s funding of a greening program took root to further enrich the school’s learning environment. The planting of fast-growing, indigenous canopy trees will in three years provide shade for classes held outdoors, and keep indoor classrooms cooler.

Fruit and vegetable trees, such as mangos and avocados, were planted to educate about agriculture and farming methods. Future sales from the garden’s harvest will generate needed income for the school, and support costs of uniforms and school supplies for destitute families.

Thanks to CEF, students are keener about school these days, reportedly arriving ahead of the start of class rather than straggling in throughout the day. “There seems to be much more desire to attend school on the part of teachers and students,” said Gina, “and parents are much keener to send their kids to school.”

 

In the Giving Spirit

There is something special about this time of year. And for CEF and many other charities, Giving Tuesday Canada has a lot to do with the specialness of the season.

Called the “opening day of the giving season,” Giving Tuesday is a day when nonprofits and businesses, as well as families and individuals, join together and rally for their favourite causes. November 28 is THE day of the year for the giving community: our Black Friday equivalent. Last year in Canada alone, 5,700 partners came together and millions of Canadians joined in the spirit of giving via donations, activism, and volunteerism.

Image courtesy of Giving Tuesday Canada

Entering into another year of Giving Tuesday, CEF is thrilled to join forces with long-time partner, Kids International Development Society (KIDS). We have partnered with KIDS on several past projects in Cambodia, such as a floating health clinic, a girls’ washroom, and new classrooms. In Giving Tuesday 2015, we had the pleasure of supporting KIDS and their program, Smart Kids. Two years later, we’re back supporting this wonderful program.

Smart Kids program | Photo courtesy of KIDS

Smart Kids is a youth scholarship program based in a rural area of Cambodia called Kompong Khleang. Selecting children that are the most in need, KIDS works with families to assist one child per family in pursuing an education.

Taking a holistic approach to education, youth in the Smart Kids program receive school supplies, a school uniform, solar lights for home study, school fees, daily English classes, tutoring, and a bike to travel to school. To help the youth make the most of their education, KIDS also provides access to healthcare when needed.

Reaching Adrianne and Rick in Cambodia, we asked them what Smart Kids means to the youth in the program.

“Over the years the kids have told us,” say Adrianne and Rick, “that Smart Kids has given them the opportunity to learn computers, English, and to change their futures from working in brick factories for the rest of their lives to having the chance at a better future.”

Most of the families in this area work as brick labourers or fish for a living, making very poor wages. Many of the parents are illiterate and have little or no opportunity to better their lives or the lives of their children. As a result, most of the children work part-time in the brick factories and, without an education, will continue to live in poverty.

Living conditions for students in the area. House has since been upgraded by KIDS | Photo courtesy of KIDS

Through programs like Smart Kids, school builds, housing, clean water projects, floating health clinics, and solar lightings, Nanaimo-based KIDS is trying to make real change in rural Cambodia.

The efforts of KIDS in Cambodia really resonate with CEF, as many of their projects meet our goals to provide good healthcare, education, and sustainability to impoverished regions around the world.

KIDS play an important role in the lives of the children they help. More importantly, children love the opportunities KIDS provided to them. Described by one of the youth: “we love going to Smart Kids program because we work hard and learn a lot.”

To celebrate Giving Tuesday and the wonderful work of KIDS, CEF will match every one $1 donated (up to $3,000).

For more information and to donate, visit http://bit.ly/2gdizjR.

Smart Kids participants | Photo courtesy of KIDS

 

 

 

Loving the View

I am no photographer. Let me be clear about that. I’m not even particularly interested in photography except as a record of events and people. Which surprises some folks given my involvement in an organization that relies heavily on the talents of professional photographers who, along with many others, dedicate their time to produce excellent images to generate our primary revenue source.

But I love watching the process of a photographic production unfold like an intricate dance that is planned by the producer, the creative director and the photographer, and then executed by the photographer and his subjects incorporating whatever location and landscape is chosen. It evolves in slow motion but captures images that existed for but a moment but are documented for the rest of time.   

I try to make at least one of the CEF shoots per year to watch, and thank people, and help if I can. And this year on a wonderful couple of days in late June I went to Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC to “help” with the shoot produced by Amy Jones, shot by Steven Errico, and executed by a talented crew and cast.  Not a bad gig…2 sunny days in Tofino with two good friends and a great cast and crew.  

I see my role on these shoots to be a gopher. Whatever needs to be done. So I picked up lunch, I ran errands, I carried equipment, I shopped for groceries and props. Whatever I could do to be useful so the talented image creators could concentrate on what they were doing. It’s so different from my usual life I love it all: Amy’s focus on detail; her partner Gavin’s cheerful help seeming to anticipate what comes next all the time; the wardrobe and makeup artist’ patience as they wait for direction for what’s next and then next after that; the talent’s acceptance that Steven will decide what’s next and where and how.  He is the director and the recorder…always thinking and planning. His focus is amazing. I’ve seen it on a shoot, and also when we travelled together in Cambodia. He is a professional through and through, and CEF is lucky to have had him shoot for us more than any other photographer to date. The Tofino production marked his 11th CEF shoot.   

It was a great couple of days in Cathedral Grove and on Chesterman Beach and environs. I’m certain there will be many great “active lifestyle” images, (think surfing and beach running/walking, picnic, hiking, bonfire, etc. ) produced that will generate revenue for CEF and our wonderful projects around the world.  I get to experience a world I’ve come to know only through CEF and hang out with some really fun, talented people. Thanks all.   

Photo by Amy Jones

Project Update: Feeding Dreams School in Cambodia

By: Jaishree Narsih

 

IMG_0595CEF has funded multiple projects in Cambodia that have had a lasting, meaningful, positive impact on the people and their communities. We are pleased to announce the completion of yet another successful project!

Partnering with Kids International Development Society (K.I.D.S.), CEF is proud to have funded a project to provide sanitary washrooms to the Feeding Dreams Cambodia School.

Feeding Dreams is a grass roots organization that provides free English and computer classes along with a Vocational Hospitality Training program to children and youth who live in the slum areas of Siem Reap city in Cambodia. This organization works closely with K.I.D.S. and helps over 800 children and youth and their families.

IMG_0516The school has been quite successful, with many of the students gaining invaluable skills and going on to find secure employment. The one issue was a lack of washrooms. The washrooms were located right beside the drinking water system, causing many hygiene and health issues. Often times the washrooms were not even usable due to water problems. Setting their sights on building four new washrooms with more privacy, further away from the drinking water system, K.I.D.S. approached CEF.

Now completed, we are happy to report that the school has 4 new sanitary, hygienic washrooms! Utilizing the skills of a local carpenter and his team, this project also helped create more employment opportunities for local residents. Clean, sanitary washrooms are something we can take for granted here, but in small rural places such as Siem Reap, it is highly valued. The children are so happy to have this new facility, as can be seen by their smiling faces! K.I.D.S. opened the new washrooms just last week and here is an excerpt from their experience:

“It was a very happy group that we met with today and it was wonderful to see the kids having a clean, private and decent washroom area. As we said before the Cambodian’s often laugh and call the bathroom the Happy Room, hence the happy faces in the pictures.”

CEF is happy to support such amazing grass root causes. Through this project we are able to help support the successful delivery of educational programs for children and youth in Cambodia and lead to a sustainable cycle of education and employment. A big shout out to K.I.D.S. and Feeding Dreams for helping to make this project a reality!

Celebrating the life of John Baigent, one of CEF’s amazing partners!

 

 

John Baigent, Founder of Partners in the Horn of Africa died at the beginning of December 2016 in Enderby, B.C. JB

For many years before I was involved in Compassionate Eye Foundation, I was a labour lawyer in both Alberta and British Columbia. Starting in 1980, I worked in this profession and got to know many other lawyers doing similar work. One name I learned early in my work life was John Baigent. John was a renowned figure in the labour law field and in the labour movement, creating an impressive reputation as the leading practitioner in Western Canada.

I never ran across John on a case, however, as shortly after I moved to Vancouver in 1990, John moved to Enderby B.C. to carry on his practice and to fly fish. He moved there because he could—his clients would seek him out.

Eventually, John stopped practicing and returned to his true love—Africa and community development in Ethiopia. John had a vision of building schools, footbridges, and wells and generally helping people in rural Ethiopia improve their lives. John started Partners in the Horn of Africa and, through his sheer force of nature and persistence, turned it into a $1 million per year organization that changed the lives of Ethiopians, particularly young girls and young women.

John cajoled and persuaded dozens of his former compatriots and adversaries to donate thousands and thousands of dollars to his cause and John was the volunteer Executive Director for the first 12 years at Partners in the Horn of Africa. He travelled to Ethiopia at least once a year to meet communities and oversee operations, then would come home and personally raise the funds for the projects he had promised to the locals.

I got to know John when I became a monthly donor to Partners in the Horn, and was inspired by his energy and passion. He was clearly my inspiration to get involved in the Compassionate Eye Foundation. I could see through his example that my skill set could be useful in helping others in faraway places.

After I joined the Board of CEF, I introduced Partners in the Horn to CEF and, after the Board vetted the organization, we commenced to fund projects with them starting with a school in 2011. It has been a truly wonderful partnership as we have funded for a number of years a program that allows AIDS orphans to go to school. One of the great weeks of my life was spent with other Directors of CEF travelling in Ethiopia with John and Yehalem (the country director for Partners at the time). We saw the change work close up. It was amazing.

John announced a couple of years ago he was going to step aside as Executive Director. That was a difficult transition for the organization. Partners announced last year it was going to stop operating. I remember when John phoned me to tell me. I was very sad but he was clear eyed that it was time—Partners had run its course. I saw John at the 2016 AGM and he was comfortable with the decision. I didn’t know then that he would die 6 months later after a lengthy illness.

I was meeting the week before he died with a former member of the Partners’ Board. We were talking about John and this fellow said “no one I know has done more for poor people than John Baigent.” I totally agree.

A Celebration of John’s life will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 4, 2017 at the Riverside Community Hall on Trinity Valley Road, 10 km east of Enderby.

Partners in the Horn of Africa celebrated John’s achievements in its December 17 blog, and included John’s obituary.

–Dan Rogers, Chair, Compassionate Eye Foundation Board of Directors

Building Schools & Hope in Nepal

 

Jaishree Narsih

The 2015 earthquake in Nepal affected so many lives and left so much damage. A year later, the people of Nepal are still rebuilding. One of the many affected areas of infrastructure were the schools. CEF is proud to partner with Kina Social Ventures to support the rebuilding of some of the schools so the kids of Nepal can continue to get a good education.

For 13 years Kina, a registered Canadian charity, has been helping at-risk girls in rural Nepal by providing them with educational support and healthcare services. These girls are supported throughout their entire education, with the ultimate goal to empower them with this education and become more productive members of society and contribute to the development of their community.

Because the earthquakes in 2015 damaged many schools, Kina is working to rebuild these schools so they can continue to support girls with their education. CEF is funding the reconstruction of one of the schools in the Rocham Village area of Nepal. This is a very remote area of the country that houses approximately 150 families and there is currently no electrical power. It is quite a trek to get there from the capital city of Kathmandu with a lot of heavily terraced, steep, and corrugated mountains along the way.

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Base, one of the remote communities in Nepal where Kina is helping rebuild schools.

David Wood, Founder and Director of Kina, was in Nepal in May and provided us with an update on the school construction. The foundation has been dug out and a lot of the materials are being transported to the Rocham Village site. The goal is to have an earthquake resistant school up and running as soon as possible.

The school in Rocham Waku currently under construction.

Kina is working with a local in-country partner, The Small World (TSW), to help with the construction of the schools. There is a School Management Committee and a School Construction Management Committee – all made up of local residents who are learning and developing reusable skills.

Currently, in Rocham Village, there are three schools, all of which have extensive damage, overcrowding, and extremely tiny classrooms. Classes grades  1 – 8 are taught in these schools. One of the schools is extremely damaged due to the earthquake and is quite dangerous, but still being used on a temporary basis until the new building is up and running. The other two schools are comparatively safer and slightly bigger. More than 230 students attend these schools, so if you do the math, that is approximately 76 students per school in some very small classrooms, as can be seen in the picture below!

Nepal class
A very cozy classroom in Nepal.

While on this trip, David was also able to interview new students for the Kina scholarship program. So many of these girls come from poor families, live in very remote areas, and some have no parents. With the continuation of Kina’s program and the building of this new school, the hope is to equip these girls with an education that will serve them well into the future.

Nepal kids

 

 

Project Update: 8 Smart Kids Students Supported by Giving Tuesday

Adrianne & Rick, Kids International Development Society

The 8 students that CEF is supporting through the "Giving Tuesday" fundraising event, their parents and mentor Hak.
The 8 students that CEF is supporting through the “Giving Tuesday” fundraising event, their parents and mentor Hak.

On Sunday March 6, 2016 Adrianne and Rick of the Kids International Development Society went out to see the Smart Kids and have a meeting with with the eight students that will be moving to Siem Reap in August to attend grade 12. Their parents attended to discuss any concerns and to go over what the students would be provided with while boarding at Hak’s (Smart Kids Manager) home in Siem Reap.

The parents were happy that their children were being given this opportunity and although they would miss them they are hopeful that this will lead to a better future for them. For many of these families they have sacrificed to send at least one of their kids to school. The parents had a few concerns about registration fees and transportation fees. We were able to reassure them that these costs will be covered. The students all realize that this is a huge opportunity for them and they are excited and committed to do really well.

Thanks to the support of the Compassionate Eye Foundation all room and board, Khmer school fees, English school fees and bicycles will be provided for the students. Hak is also going to give extra computer and English lesson at his home during the week. KIDS will provide the computers for the students. The students will be expected to assist with household chores and cooking. The parents agreed to try and provide some pocket money for the kids however some cannot so we will ensure that the kids get some funds while in Siem Reap.

It was a rather moving meeting as the parents deeply thanked CEF, KIDS and Hak for this amazing opportunity.