Anne Kell has been a member of the Rotary Club of Innisfil for 12 years and a volunteer of a charity called Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) for the past two decades.
She recently told guests and members of the club about a trip to the central African country of Rwanda that she and her husband, Larry, took with SCAW last month.
Alongside three other volunteers, the Kells helped distribute 5,000 bed kits over two weeks. It was her fourth humanitarian trip with the organization and her first since the COVID-19 pandemic.
Each of the bed kits included a mattress, a treated mosquito net, shoes, a wool blanket, bed sheets and a tub that can be used by the child’s family. They cost $40 apiece and some people walked three to four miles to collect theirs.
SCAW was founded by Rotarian Murray Dryden and his wife, Margaret, in 1970. The need for such a charity became obvious to Murray when he tripped over a sleeping child on the streets in Pakistan. One of the charity’s guiding principles — as noted on its website — states, “We believe that it is the basic right of every child to have a comfortable night's sleep.”
Anne says that long before a distribution contingent arrives SCAW develops a relationship with an organization in the area where distribution is being planned. In conjunction with the charity, that organization procures a warehouse and the goods that will compile the bed kits.
“It was so rewarding to be part of a SCAW distribution team, with the goal of providing children with the good night’s sleep they need to learn and to thrive,” Anne said.
The differences between life in Rwanda and life in Canada are vast, Anne said. While some men had bicycles, most people walked. They saw children playing soccer with a ball made of plastic bags wrapped with twine and later met a local vendor who made them.
She noted both the beauty of the country and the difference in Rwanda’s infrastructure. Roads are paved in Kigali — the nation’s capital — but driving on dirt roads beyond that was a slow process; she said it took them an hour and 10 minutes to travel just 12 kilometres on one of their distribution trips.
Anne spoke about how the government has instituted changes and policies as people continue to heal from the 1994 genocide, and she called her time in Rwanda a “powerful trip.”
“This is such a good fit with the goals Rwanda has for its people," she said. "To recover from the genocide, Rwanda has become a country of hope, focusing on education and on improving living standards for its people, especially for the children, its next generation and future.”
The club regularly welcomes engaging and informative speakers. Members meet every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. at the Innisfil ideaLAB & Library Lakeshore branch (967 Innisfil Beach Rd.). Guests and prospective members are invited to contact the club via email, or visit its website for more information.