Local organization provides support close to home

A Better World is well known for its work overseas in developing countries.

A Better World is well known for its work overseas in developing countries.

However, for the last two years, a new initiative from A Better World (ABW) has allowed the organization to help people closer to home as well.

Eric Rajah, founder of A Better World, said ‘Neighbours’ exists to meet the needs of people within the community, particularly those who have “Fallen between the cracks.”

By this, Rajah means people who have had misfortune befall them and landed in circumstances beyond their own control.

Such was the case with Alfred Metro, a farmer in Lacombe County near Bentley, who had his leg amputated due to diabetes.

Suddenly, Metro was not able to adequately get around his own home and had other needs he did not have the means to address as well.

Enter ABW Neighbours. Metro’s case came to the attention of the ABW Neighbours program through a nomination process.

Ronda Ziakris, project coordinator for ABW Neighbours, said that when she heard of Metro’ case she immediately thought that this was a situation in need of some outside help.

Ziakris said that most of the initial organization of the project was done with Metro’s wife, Darlene, as he himself was still in the hospital in critical condition.

The news that the couple would be getting some help from ABW Neighbours was “When (Darlene) found out they had been chosen, it was met with joyful tears,” said Ziakris.

“She told us it was the first night she would be able to sleep since this had all happened.”

When Ziakris eventually did get to speak to Metro himself, she said it seemed as if a huge burden had been lifted from the man’s shoulders.

Rajah said that he too was touched by emotion when he first met the Metros.

“It was emotional to see there were needs right in our own back yard,” said Rajah.

He added that he was taken aback by how grateful the Metros were.

“The gratitude that came from the family and from them was overwhelming to us.”

After Metro had his leg amputated, there were several modifications he needed to make to his own home.

Some improvements were needed to make the home a little more wheelchair accessible for Metro and he also needed a ‘dustproof’ room where he could have dialysis done in the home so he would not constantly need to visit a hospital.

Neighbours took care of everything.

They replaced the flooring throughout the entire home and added an extension onto the home that included a bedroom, bathroom and two large decks, all wheelchair accessible.

All of the work was handled by volunteer labour. Rajah said the Metros were incredibly accommodating of the volunteers, who visited the house at all hours of the day to work whenever they have time.

Both Rajah and Ziakris said the local business community has gotten on board with Neighbours in a huge way.

Nearly all of the materials needed for the refurbishments and additions to Metro’s home were provided by local businesses to the point where A Better World needed to contribute little to no money of its own to support the project.

Ziakris has been involved with ABW for several years and was astounded by the impact ABW was making globally with its myriad of different projects.

However, Ziakris and many in the same situation as her wanted to do more to help, but because of other commitments, like family, were unable to travel overseas.

So, Ziakris approached Rajah with the idea of start a sort of ‘local chapter’ for ABW, which Rajah embraced.

Rajah said that while ABW has been doing community projects for the past 10 years, they have always been small projects and had more of a behind-the-scenes feel to them.

Neighbours allows ABW to get involved on a larger scale and provides an opportunity for other volunteers in the community to get involved as well.

Rajah said that the neighbours program came about to meet a desire from some of the volunteers who wanted to get involved at a local level.

He added promoting volunteerism and a true feeling of neighbourhood seemed like a perfect way to do this.

“Not everybody can travel overseas,” said Rajah. “Not everybody wants to travel overseas.

“We wanted to give them an opportunity to make the world better.”