When Liz Barrett emigrated from South Africa to Canada 10 years ago, she still had a strong desire to help in that country through small community outreach projects.
It was through her connections in that country that she discovered efforts of the Bulungula Incubator project in 2007 and as a result has brought the Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium on board with her more recent outreach efforts in the area.
Now Barrett is raising funds for a program called Wellies From Whistler, which provides waterproof Wellington footwear to children in several villages of the Bulungula area.
She noted it is a small endeavour, but one that means so much to the children there.
“It is such a simple project, but it has such an impact on a community for little children,” she said.
Barrett explained that children in the area walk to school; however, when it rains in the summer they won’t attend. Educators were challenged by the absence of the students in the program and the idea of providing rain gear was born.
“This is a great gift because their feet don’t get wet,” she said, adding even at the age of three some children walk up to four kilometres to school each day. “One of the biggest needs it to keep the little kids dry because they weren’t coming to the preschool when it was raining, they were staying home.”
Barrett came to learn about the work in Bulungula through the program’s founder Réjane Woodroffe. In 2007, Barrett provided $500 to support a kids’ farming competition. Children under the age of 13 were given 70 vegetable seedlings and challenged to plant and nurture their own small gardens with prizes for those who had the most successful results.
The results were amazing, Barrett said, with the children becoming enthusiastic about gardening, something that wasn’t that cool before.
“That project has spread out all over the community,” she said, adding some of the gardens now supply the local backpacker’s lodge. “It has been really powerful to see how a little investment goes a long way in the community.”
A friend of hers, Annette Champion, retired three years ago to the area. After the local school collapsed, Champion worked with the community to build a new preschool in Jujurha, find supplies and train mothers and others to be teachers.
That was when Barrett and the Rotary Club of Whistler Millennium started supplying Wellington boots and raincoats. The project outfitted 60 children between the ages of three and six with rain gear.
This time around the local Rotary Club has donated $250 and Barrett is hoping others in the community will also be inspired to support the project. Each pair of boots costs $10 and are bought locally in the community of Bulungula from a business there that orders the boots.
Some of the boots are in need of replacement and another three preschools have been built in surrounding communities. In total that means 120 pairs of Wellies, or $1,200 for Barrett to fundraise.