Two Lacombe residents have been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Civil Division) by the Governor General of Canada for their charity work.
Eric Rajah and Brian Leavitt created A Better World, an agency that “invests in sustainable solutions to poverty in developing countries.”
The award recognizes individuals who have performed a deed or an activity in a highly professional manner, or at a very high standard that brings benefit or honour to Canada, according to a press release from the Governor General’s office.
“Such actions can range from advocacy initiatives and health care services to humanitarian efforts and contributions to the arts,” the press release reads.
In the past, recipients have been recognized for their work to reduced hunger and poverty or improved education, all of which are goals at the core of A Better World, Rajah and Leavitt says.
Rajah, who was also inducted to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2011, calls it a “special honour” to be included with other Meritorious Service Medal recipients.
“I share this with hundreds who have supported the initiatives of A Better World,” he says. “It is humbling to serve those in need.”
Leavitt is also grateful for the acknowledgement of the agency and its volunteers.
“It has been my privilege to provide humanitarian service to people in need over the last 30 years. To see the difference that a little organization like A Better World can make in a big world is overwhelming.”
A Better World was created in 1990 as a church program, specifically to pay for reconstructive surgery for children who suffering from polio in Kenya.
Over the last 31 years, the agency has become a registered charity that focuses on health, education and well-being of children in impoverished communities, primarily in Africa and Afghanistan.
More than 50,000 children attend schools built by A Better World, with clean water and toilets, each year, according the A Better World.
The charity has worked in 15 different countries and invested $35.7 million into communities in need.
A Better World works with a model of creating community development, establishing long-term partnerships with communities to ensure stable development through community investment and ownership.
More than 2600 volunteers have travelled overseas with A Better World to supervise and monitor project development and maintain community ties. Forty permanent volunteers manage ongoing programs and projects.
“Honourees announced [Feb. 25] have undertaken a variety of inspiring initiatives to support the most vulnerable in their communities, to ensure food security and to provide stable housing. They have also created programs that foster participation and reduce barriers for youth involvement in sport. Some recipients are being honoured for actions performed abroad, where they have provided clean water and sanitation, access to education through scholarships, and empowerment to individuals living in poverty.”
The Meritorious Service Decoration (Civil Division) is among the highest Canadian distinctions that can be awarded.