It is an amazing experience to see the good you are doing in the world.
Lacombe Rotarians recently made a trip to Africa where they visited two new schools constructed through A Better World and funded largely through the Lacombe Rotary Club.
Jyl Talsma was one of the Lacombe Rotarians on the trip. She said the trip was life-changing.
“You know, you hear about it your whole life and you see the pictures and really I never thought I would be able to get there.”
The Lacombe Rotary Club visited two schools while in Africa. First, they visited the Turkana Education Centre in the remote village of Lodwar in northern Kenya.
Talsma said Lodwar was in a desert part of Kenya and it was very hot while they were there visiting. She said that she kept thinking how it was possible people lived in such a hot, arid climate.
However, the children seemed unbothered by the heat. Talsma said they were eager to interact with the Rotarians. She added many hugs were exchanged and the children loved having their pictures taken.
After Kenya, A Better World and the Lacombe Rotary Club traveled to Rwanda to visit the Umutara Deaf School.
Talsma said it was a happy time to visit the school as they were celebrating the graduation of its first ever Grade 6 class and she was glad to be a part of it.
“That was just so gratifying to watch,” said Talsma.
As part of the celebration, the students performed dances for the Rotarians as a way to say thank you. Talsma said that although the students are deaf, they still feel a rhythm.
“They love, love to dance,” said Talsma.
Talsma said she was incredibly touched when she saw the signage recognizing the Lacombe Rotary Club on the schools and was humbled by the gratitude of the students and their families.
“I realized that our small part in a bigger collaborative effort actually made such a positive difference in the lives of those families.”
One of the things Talsma found interesting about the trip was how quickly the people in the communities A Better World is working in have realized the value of education.
Talsma said that while most of the parents of the students at both Turkana and Umutara schools did not have the opportunity to receive a formal education, but it hasn’t taken them long to learn how much it can improve the lives of their children.
Talsma added this was particularly true in the Umutara Deaf School because, before that school existed, there were no venues for deaf students to pursue an education.
Parents of those students didn’t even know the opportunities for their students to go to school would ever exist, said Talsma.
“Those kids before had been hidden away and those parents did not know they were capable of learning,” said Talsma.
“They were just so grateful that their children had been exposed to education.”
Part of the Rotarians’ mandate is to support local charities and projects but also international ones.
Through A Better World, the Lacombe Rotary Club was able to support a local charity that works internationally and accomplish two goals in one.
Talsma said she thought it was fitting to visit the schools in Africa after being part of the process in the Rotary Club meetings that decided where funds would go.
She said she didn’t think the Rotarians’ contributions to the projects would have been as significant had she and the other Rotarians not visited the locations in person.
“How else can you show that you care so much?”
Talsma went on to say that she was extremely glad to be able to go on the trip through Eric Rajah and A Better World. She said she has incredible respect for Rajah and the work A Better World has done. It was also interesting to see the relationships A Better World has formed in the communities where it works, said Talsma.