Salmon Arm Businesses create unique charity partnership

Barry Siebenga, owner of Big Steel Box, and IC Urethane Products owner Guido Presch have offered support to the Watoto Children’s Choir.

Members of the Watoto Choir dropped by to perform an impromptu concert for the management and staff at Big Steel Box in Salmon Arm.

Members of the Watoto Choir dropped by to perform an impromptu concert for the management and staff at Big Steel Box in Salmon Arm.

Local businesses have put two and two together and come up with a way to help many more.

Barry Siebenga, owner of the Big Steel Box, and IC Urethane Products owner/president Guido Presch have both offered their  support to the Watoto Children’s Choir and to the people of Africa.

And current members of the choir, who have all suffered the loss of at least one parent and who sing in Salmon Arm every year, performed two mini concerts of thanks last week.

Barry Siebenga’s Big Steel Box on the Trans-Canada Highway was one of the stops, thanks to him and his staff for a large steel container that was used to transport rubber mats from IC Urethane to a baby’s home, along with donations of clothes and other items for Watoto’s Living Hope program in northern Africa.

Siebenga says a tour of relief projects with other businesspeople in North Vietnam and Thailand changed his views on life and business.

“The experience of seeing people suffer unnecessarily and seeing what people can do to help – even what one person can do, changed my attitude about business,” he says, noting he now uses business to help wherever he can. “We’re in the container business so quite often we find some way that we can help with our containers.”

Siebenga says helping out can be really pretty simple – thinking about what needs to be done and finding a solution, a solution that is often as simple as finding the right people.

“There is a vast unseen network of people in our community and far beyond who are doing things to help,” he says, noting sometimes there isn’t even a cost. “We know a fellow who was given a semi load of nails, and another fella that ships stuff all over the world knew someone overseas who needed them for a relief project. It was that simple, but it made a difference.”

IC Urethane employees in the industrial park were also treated to a concert.

Owner Guido Presch says his company’s contribution to Watoto followed a visit by Sid Bouma, who has driven the Watoto bus for the past seven years.

“He explained what he was doing with Watoto and the orphanages and we realized we had fair amount of mats and we didn’t have a lot of use for them,” says Presch of the factory seconds that had been piling up.

“Sid figured he could get some use of them in Uganda so I told him I’d be happy to give them to him.”

Presch says his staff helped him to load up the mats at night and on weekends, enough of them to fill two-thirds of Siebenga’s container.

“It’s a good feeling to know somebody could do something good with it,” he says, noting some of the mats were heading to orphanages where they would be cut to fit into cribs. “I don’t need the recognition myself but it meant a lot to the guys here.”

Meanwhile, Bouma has driven all over North America with the Watoto Children’s Choir and is always on the lookout for ways to help the program.

As he was driving into Salmon Arm last week, Bouma said the choir had performed eight and 10 shows per week for the last seven.

Bouma has also visited Watoto projects, first going to Africa in 2004 with Five Corners Church to help build a house in   Childcare Ministries’ Suubi Chldren’s Village.

On his last trip, Bouma returned with a team from Victoria to build a classroom.

“I went over there and saw that my dollar went so much farther, and actually went to where I sent it,” he says. “I saw the house I built and donations of other houses. The money goes to where they say it goes.”