Carleton Place may be in Ontario but with Sister Cities (courtesy of the Sister Cities Twinning Program) in Comrie, Scotland and Franklin, Tennessee the town’s influence and impact is extending to countries fathoms beyond the Mississippi. Individuals and businesses have been working as ambassadors welcoming the world to not only “meet us on the Mississippi” but to bring that sense of community and hospitality with them abroad.
The parishioners of St James Anglican Church through their Hugs for Haiti program, currently sponsors 17 children at the Centre Vie orphanage in Haiti. Opened following the earthquake of 2010, the orphanage housed the many orphans left to fend for themselves in make shift tent cities. St. James church is one of 3 churches that sponsor the orphanage run by Dieudonne Batraville (“DD”) two hours north of Port a Prince. The church provides as much as they can annually financially and in requested supplies. Recent fundraisers allowed them to purchase a new diesel generator for the centre to combat frequent power outages.
Barbara Melson, her daughter Robyn and Donnie Portieous travelled to Haiti the first week of March to meet the foster daughter they have been sponsoring for several years. Of the trip Melson said, “We financed our own airfares, shots and meds to stay healthy down there but it was worth every penny [sic]. It is a Third world country with the worst poverty and living conditions in the western world. All we did was some painting and repair work at the orphanage but it was mainly to send a message to the children about how much they’re cared about and loved”
While in Haiti, the group also helped run an eye clinic in a nearby farming village in the Artibonite Valley distributing donated eyeglasses. Melson recalled that “This was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip although all of it was pretty much the most incredible experience of our lives. I’m already saving up money and buying eyeglasses on sale and rounding up other needs for our next trip…It has very much changed our thinking in a lot of ways.”
Diana Billings has had the opportunity to travel to Grenada five times with the Calvary Pentecostal Church in Carleton Place. “My son, who is only 6, has been able to join me on 4 of those trips! It’s been a great family opportunity”. Each year this local church sends a team under Seeds International to 37 schools to put on puppet shows, play games, sing songs and deliver medals to the 4th grade classes that have completed the Seeds International curriculum.
Billings also volunteered in 2014 with Samaritan’s Purse, travelling to Senegal, Africa where she helped distribute the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes seen in many local retailers, schools and churches during the Christmas season. These shoeboxes are packed with schools supplies, hygiene items and toys for children in many countries. “This could be the first real gift they have ever received, and some of the items in these boxes could allow children to attend school for the first time! It was a humbling experience to be on the end where the gifts are given out”.
Next on Billings’ list for her and her 6 year old son is volunteering with the Watoto Child Care Ministries, raising funds and planning a trip to Uganda, Africa. When asked why volunteer abroad she recounted, “I started volunteering abroad because I wanted to do something more beyond my own life, beyond my own country. I believe it’s important to volunteer where you live, but I also think there’s a different element added when you go abroad. There’s a new level of being stretched, a new level of trust, and a new level of your heart being broken for a world in need. Your life changes, and the way you view your world changes. I go now too because of my son. I want him to see there is a world beyond where he is, and that it is never ok to sit out, and not do anything for those in need. If we’re able to “go”, than we need to go.” She warned, “once you go, life is never the same. There’s this restlessness in your heart that you need to do more. Once you go, you can’t not go again”.
There are many opportunities for people of to volunteer abroad. Billings advice is to “find an organization that you believe in and then take [sic] the next step. She chose Samaritan’s Purse & Seeds International as they have annual opportunities to different countries and offers many different projects. “You can select where your best fit is and apply […] find the connection, ask yourself where do you and your abilities fit, be willing to be flexible at all times, and don’t be afraid to be stretched beyond what you think you can do.”
For more information on the programs mentioned above:
“Hugs For The Children of Haiti” – Jennie Blackburn or Ronette Vines 613-257-7143
Samaritan’s Purse – http://samaritanspurse.ca/
Seeds International – http://www.seeds.org/
Watoto Child Care Ministries – http://www.watoto.com/home