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A gift for Kivumu
Saturday, 05 June 2010 Written by Valerie Kae Ken

Just a few members of our group of volunteers who helped to make a dream come true!

Almost a year ago, there was a dream…. a dream to fill a forty-foot sea container with goods and to send it to Kivumu, Rwanda.  It seems a long time ago... a long time and many hours of volunteers working hard to make the dream happen. It all began in September, 2009.

The first thing we needed was a container – An appeal was made to the congregation at the Croatian Catholic Community Church in the city of Edmonton, Alberta and an amazing thing happened... Ivan Vukovic, who owns NAMCO company offered us an almost brand new container for our venture!  What a gift! As well, the fund-raising at the church was met with a wonderful response and we felt so much support for our project.

Getting the container down to Olds, a town between Edmonton and Calgary, was another story, but again, we were so very fortunate. A young man, Steve who has his own trucking company, Pacific West, offered to go up to get it for us (Sadly, the volunteer spirit did not extend to Cliff’s Towing Company from Edmonton who did the lifting of the container onto the flatbed of the truck... they charged us to do it.)

But it was through the efforts of a wonderful group of people from the Secular Franciscan Order of the Catholic church in Olds, that money was raised for the transport of the container from Canada to Rwanda. They did this by a lot of hard work, putting on an evening of a “Gourmet meal”... all spear-headed by one of their members, Cindy Boffey who owns a local café known as “Grannie Jacks”.  As well, a number of individuals were most generous and gave personal donations to the container effort which became known as the “Stone by Stone” project.

storage buildingSo much work to do with so little time

So, now we had the container and the funds - now what????  Well, as luck would have it (or blessings, as some might say...) we were offered a chance to collect some academic texts that were destined for the shredder... can you believe that... that perfectly good books are being shredded several times a year?? But this was our good fortune! And then we received a generous offer from a gentleman pastor, Tim Kirby who connected us to a warehouse for Samaritan’s Purse where we were given a great number of items like medical supplies, clothing and even boxes of back-packs. I also received a phone call from Pastor Tim telling me where I might get a huge number of wheel chairs, crutches, walkers and other medical equipment.

We had also “put out the word” for donation of goods and so our supplies began to “pile up”... literally! All these goods were finally transported from several locations in Calgary to Olds by a trucking company owned by Cindy Boffey’s husband who was an enormous help in all this.

And further good news! A very enterprising and energetic gentleman, Robin Knudson, who is director of a micro-credit organization known as MEDIC  Canada, managed to secure a building for us - space generously donated by Paul Gustavson who owns the Shopper’s Drug Mart in Olds. Later we had use of a “quanset” storage building, donated by Paul’s father, Joe.

So now we had a place to work in - and the work began!!!! Everything had to be sorted and itemized and re-packed and listed and stacked in the hundreds of boxes which had been donated to us by a group called Red Hat Cooperative in southern Alberta – they even delivered them to us free of charge! And we received some larger boxes from a great company in Calgary called Instabox.

And all this was being done in the ‘dead of winter’... and if you come from Canada, you would know that this means... minus twenty degrees below zero on many days!!!! And the warehouse was unheated. So there we were, with mittens, and hats and boots and winter clothing – packing boxes daily for many, many weeks!

But it was all great fun. The people that came out to work did it with enthusiasm and love. And at lunch-time we were all warmed by hot food sent over by Cindy from her kitchen at the café, or by huge pizzas donated by one of the workers, or by hot drinks and donuts donated by another of the core group of people who showed up daily to help. These and so many other people who heard about our project came to the warehouse and put in hours and hours to get things sorted, packed and ready for the journey to Rwanda.

storage buildingInside the container

And finally the day arrived to begin loading the boxes and goods into the container!

It was a great adventure of optimism, spirit and generosity – Every day, Robin, who wears “many hats” for the great number of organizations that he works and volunteers for, would meet me at the door of the storage building and we would begin. I was the official “organizer” and Robin did everything from sorting and packing boxes to running errands, providing encouragement, and even sweeping the floor! There were many of us who had other responsibilities, like jobs, families and obligations, but we still managed to get together at every spare moment to continue with the work for the project.

We had a great group of workers – members from the secular Franciscan group put in tremendous effort and other people also came to do some “last minute” packing of boxes while even more volunteers loaded the container. Two men who recently arrived to Canada as “refugee seekers” and who were my ESL students at a Resettlement Center in Calgary where I volunteer teach came to help. And another friend whom I had met while taking a Travel Writing course came out.

The last box!On January 23rd we shut the door and snapped the seal into place

Everyone simply wanted to give their time and effort in some way. And so everything got done! The boxes of books, clothing, fabric, school supplies, desks, filing cabinets, medical supplies and equipment all made it into the container and on January 23rd we shut the door and snapped the seal into place.

Off it went to Edmonton where it was loaded onto the CN railway destined for the port in Vancouver.

Goodbye Canada, hello Rwanda!

It left Vancouver, Canada on February 3rd and arrived to Hong Kong and then on to Salalah, Oman, where it continued its journey to arrive in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on April 19th. From there it was transported overland – finally reaching it’s destination in Kigali, Rwanda.

Now the customs had a never-ending list of required paperwork and all sorts of hoops that we had to jump through in order to get the items “cleared”... What a lot of work that was!! It was only through the patience and hard work of some diligent people from Kivumu that this was finally completed.

So, finally the container began the last of its life’s journey to find its resting place at CFJ Padri Vjeko Vocational School.

What a wonderful story of hope, dreams, patience, hard work, perseverance, and ultimately success!!!

Father Vjeko Center

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