African experience spurs family to create charity

Lending a helping hand in an African country was a long-held dream Jocelyne Baker shared with her late husband, who was killed in an accident three years ago.

Helping Africa: The Bakers find the world at the River Nile.

Lending a helping hand in an African country was a long-held dream Jocelyne Baker shared with her late husband, who was killed in an accident three years ago.

To honour their dream, Baker visited Uganda and worked with women who were escaping poverty by making beads for a program called Bead For Life.

Spurred on by a desire to do more to help the people of Africa, Baker took her four children on a yearlong visit to Kansanga, a neighbourhood of the capital city of Kampala.

Her  children settled readily into the neighbourhood where mansions stand side-by-side with mud huts with no running water.

“They did great, I was so impressed,” says Baker, noting that being the centre of attention because of colour can be intimidating even for adults. But Baker says the people of Kansanga are incredibly friendly, will stop what they are doing to greet someone and make them feel like they are the only person in the world

“One Ugandan woman explained it by saying ‘when we greet someone, it’s like our soul comes out to greet you.’”

Baker says that while they lack many physical  things, Ugandans have an exceptionally strong sense of community and see affluence but a total poverty of relationships when they look to the West.

“We don’t have all the answers as much as we like to think we do, and when you come away you have the sense that you have received more than you have given,” Baker says, noting she and her children volunteered one day a week at a babies’ home, an orphanage for babies, many of whom have literally been thrown away by their mothers.

“There’s a lack of education about birth control and so much poverty, unwanted babies are dropped down latrines, left in parks, left in garbage bags.”

Baker and Kara Aylard have partnered with Kelowna-based charity Niteo, to start a community resource centre for impoverished children in Kampala. To raise support for the new initiative, which translates “Let Them Shine,” the two women will host a silent auction and wine and tapas fundraiser from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 5 at the Field of Dreams Clubhouse (250 30 St. SE).

Items for bid will include 12 original paintings by Kampala artists Jalia and Daniel Matovuz (on display until July 22 at the Mall at Piccadilly) along with handmade African crafts and items donated by local businesses and individuals.

The Let Them Shine event will feature live entertainment by local musicians Susan Aylard and Monika Wilson, as well as stories and videos from Uganda.

“Niteo strives to dignify the heart and mind of the African child and provide support and programming,” Baker says, noting the Kansanga Resource Centre (KRC) houses books, puzzles, building blocks and board games, and provides a safe place for children to read, study and participate in art and sports clubs. “Like children all over the world, the children of Uganda are bursting with potential. Niteo aims to partner with Ugandans to provide resources and a stimulating learning environment that will promote an active mind and a buoyant spirit in every child we meet,” Baker says.

As part of its holistic approach to education, which includes addressing the basic needs of the community, Niteo has also launched an income-generation project at the KRC for women living in extreme poverty. The embroidered greeting cards made by these women will be available for purchase at the Let Them Shine event.

All of the proceeds from the event will go to funding the centre and its programs. Tickets are $30 in advance, or $40 at the door and can be purchased by calling 250-838-0945. Donations of silent auction and door prize items are welcome. Tax receipts will be available in the value of the items donated.


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