Lacombe’s A Better World celebrates 30th anniversary

The charity gives back to children both locally and internationally

Students in one of the brand-new classrooms in Afghanistan, part of ABW’s 100 Classrooms Project started by Azalea Lehndorff in 2010. (Photo contributed)

Students in one of the brand-new classrooms in Afghanistan, part of ABW’s 100 Classrooms Project started by Azalea Lehndorff in 2010. (Photo contributed)

A Better World (ABW) is a Lacombe based non-profit organization that works to help children in developing countries through access to education, healthcare and clean drinking water.

Two friends Eric Rajah and Brian Leavitt, who wanted to make a difference in the lives of young children, founded the organization in 1990.

Since then, $35 million has been donated to the cause, and they have completed projects in 15 different countries.

In 2005 ABW travelled to the United States to help out with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation. They specifically helped a town in Louisiana called Lacombe.

“Volunteers actually went from here and rebuilt homes for people who were affected by the storm,” said Rajah.

That trip resulted in ABW and the City of Lacombe winning an award for their charitable contributions, according to Rajah.

Beyond responding to national disasters, ABW has many ongoing projects such as building schools, hospitals and clean water facilities. The main goal of the organization is to give people in these locations a chance at a quality life.

In 2020, ABW has completed many projects despite the global pandemic. One of these projects is maintaining a community garden in Ndanai, Kenya. This garden allows children to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables and any excess vegetables are sold at the market for some extra funding.

There are many more ongoing projects such as this one and all are listed on ABW’s website.

Though Rajah and his team haven’t been able to travel abroad since January they have still been able to complete 10 projects this year and have 18 listed as ongoing. With the help of donors, they have been able to raise $1.4 million in 2020 to go towards these programs.

“Our local people overseas have been trained to carry out our projects, so all our projects have been able to remain moving,” said Rajah when talking about how the organization has continued despite COVID-19.

The organization set a goal to have 75,000 children enrolled in schools by 2030. They are on track to achieve that goal on time with 49,570 children currently attending their schools in 1105 different classrooms. This is a goal that is accomplished by not only building the schools but also providing access to other necessities.

ABW only has one paid employee at their office in Lacombe with everyone else including the founders contributing on a volunteer basis. Over the past 30 years, the charity has seen 2600 volunteers mainly from central Alberta travel and assist on projects.

Not only do volunteers help to build homes, schools and food kitchens but they also have a volunteer dentist and physiotherapist. These two medical professionals will help children to overcome obstacles that may be preventing them from getting an education.

In addition to all of the international work ABW completes, they also try to give back locally. This year they have donated to the Lacombe and District FCSS as well as the Red Deer Alternate School.

Rajah said the nonprofit wouldn’t have been able to continue for the past 30 years without the continued support from the Lacombe and central Alberta community.

“The neat thing is that the people from Lacombe and central Alberta had the vision to start [A Better World] and they have remained very generous,” said Rajah.

 

Karen Leung a Lacombe-based Physiotherapist is ABW’s Rehab Service Director. Here she works with a young patient on one of her rehab trips to Kenya. Karen is also the daughter of Professor Ken Hill who worked with ABW on its very first project. (Photo contributed)

Karen Leung a Lacombe-based Physiotherapist is ABW’s Rehab Service Director. Here she works with a young patient on one of her rehab trips to Kenya. Karen is also the daughter of Professor Ken Hill who worked with ABW on its very first project. (Photo contributed)

A new Professor Hill Rehab Centre at Kendu Adventist Hospital in Kenya. Before this centre was built the hospital’s rehab and physiotherapy services ran out of two small rooms. (Photo contributed)

A new Professor Hill Rehab Centre at Kendu Adventist Hospital in Kenya. Before this centre was built the hospital’s rehab and physiotherapy services ran out of two small rooms. (Photo contributed)