Inverness County Cares

Partners in Development

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Zambian Schools for Visually Impaired Children

Inverness County Cares (ICC), a local charitable society was formed in 2012 with the goal of providing for underprivileged children in the Third World. In their most recent project, ICC will continue to work with Chalice, an aid organization based in Bedford, Nova Scotia. (www.chalice.ca) This current project will provide support to the Kawambwa group of two schools, which are located in the Northern part of Zambia. The first school Saint Mary’s, located in Kawambwa, was opened in 1961 by Dutch sisters and partnered with Chalice in 1997. The second school Saint Odilia, located in Mporokoso, is 200 km away from the Saint Mary’s school. This school opened in 1962 and partnered with Chalice in 2012. These schools cater to a large number of children who are born with Albinism. In addition to this, many of the children have physical handicaps, HIV positive status, hearing disabilities, epilepsy, hydrocephalus and high rates of visual impairment.

The schools are home to a large number of children, often with parents living in distant communities of rural Zambia, Southern Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These children who have found refuge in the Kawambwa schools, are sent to the schools for protection from the dangers faced by persons with Albinism. They are in grave danger of kidnaping, mutilation and death from individuals who use the body parts of persons with Albinism for witchcraft rituals and other sorcery practices. This is common in parts of Zambia, Tanzania and some parts of the Congo and is one of the reasons many children escape their villages to find safety at the Kawambwa schools.  They cross dangerous rivers and walk through dense tropical forests to access the school’s protection. Sadly, many are lost on the journey, but those who succeed are finally in a place where they are protected and valued. The numbers grow every year because the persecution doesn’t end and is not likely to stop soon. The schools now have 420 children who are sponsored by Chalice.

For more information please contact ICC members at 902-782-3441, 902-787-2251 or 902-787-2475

Inverness County Cares Begins New Project

Inverness County Cares  (ICC) was founded in 2012 to address the wants of a disadvantaged school in Nairobi, Kenya. Throughout our journey with this school ICC has worked to help them acquire agricultural skills, with the aim of providing a means to develop sustainable garden practices and self-reliance. In 2015 ICC began a three-year partnership with Chalice, an aid organization based in Bedford Nova Scotia. Through the combined efforts of our two associations ICC was able to provide the school with a foundation on which the school is now able to continue to grow and move ahead independently. With the wrap up of this project in 2018, ICC has been researching to find a new project on which to focus our energies.

In July 2019 Inverness County Cares members met to choose a new Chalice partnership project. A consensus was reached to support the St. Odilia and St Mary Schools for Albino, blind and visually impaired children in Zambia.

Albinism is a genetic condition that results in the absence of melanin, a pigment that is responsible for giving color to the eyes, skin and hair. This lack of melanin means that people living with albinism are more susceptible to specific health conditions.

According to the Albino Foundation of Zambia, a great challenge facing more than 25,000 Zambians with albinism is over-exposure to sunlight, which has led to an increase in skin-cancer cases, especially in rural areas. Sunscreen, hats, corrective and dark glasses, long sleeved cotton shirts/dresses and umbrellas are desperately needed to protect them from the sun.

Persons with albinism also have personal safety concerns, stemming from social prejudice driven by harmful traditional beliefs, and connected to the trafficking of human body parts near the shared border with the Republic of Tanzania. Deprose Muchena, a spokesman for Amnesty International, said deep-seated cultural traditions persist, including a belief in mythical powers of people with albinism and a conviction that their body parts could change lives, bringing fabulous wealth, power or good fortune. Some believe that albinos are not human, and their only value is monetary and that they have gold in their bones.

These two schools are situated in Northern Zambia, an area bordering on Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania where these unsubstantiated cultural beliefs threaten the safety and well being of albinos.

The sisters of the Child Jesus, a local Zambian congregation, who are dedicated to protecting and educating these children, run the schools.

ICC looks forward to learning more abut the school and providing support to these needy children.

Completion of Kenya Project

In 2012 Inverness County Cares (ICC) came together with the purpose of providing for the daily needs and delivering education opportunities for children in the developing world. The St Charles Lwanga School in Nairobi, Kenya was the first beneficiary and a relationship was created, which helped the school get a good start and laid the foundation for sustainability. This happened in cooperation with other partners in Vermont, Puerto Rico and the Netherlands. 

Three years ago ICC and Chalice Canada developed a partnership working on a Community Partnership Project (CPP) with the St Charles Lwanga School. The three-year CPP with the St Charles Lwanga School is now complete. This project saw ICC provide the school with approximately $250,000 toward operating expenses and supplying the children with the necessities of life. Chalice in turn contributed more than $60,000 annually to this project, for each of the last three years. It was an honor, to be chosen to work with Chalice, and we want to express our sincere thanks. We are deeply grateful for their guidance, accounting expertise and presence on the ground in Kenya. 

 ICC has approximately 15 core members with many others who are always willing to provide assistance during fundraising projects.  ICC is forever grateful for the selfless people who have given so many hours of their time to ensure that the daily, weekly and yearly responsibilities of the organization were taken care of. 

ICC also wishes to thank those who supported our fundraising projects, donated to our fundraising, and to the corporate donations we received. A special thanks goes out to the students at Dalbrae, Bayview, Inverness and NSCC. We want to thank the Reporter for their continued support in sharing information concerning events at the school and keeping readers up to date on the activities of ICC.

We also wish to thank our Honorary Board members who lent their good name to our cause.

Although the project is over, individual relationships continue, as many of our ICC members had frequent contact with the school and actually spent time on location at the school in Kenya.  

ICC is presently contemplating our next steps and looking toward a similar project in the future…and will continue to collect recyclables in the truck trailers in Mabou and Port Hood.  Many thanks to the very generous people of Inverness County, and surrounding areas. You have made this project a resounding success. 

Betty Jane’s Report

Betty Jane Cameron, West Mabou, NS has just returned from her third consecutive trip to the St Charles Lwanga School (SCLS) in Nairobi, Kenya. This year she was there for three months and visited the SCLS as well as many other areas all over Kenya.

Betty Jane reports:

It is good to be back, but hard to leave the school, students and teaching staff. I also met many wonderful people in other parts of Kenya who welcomed me into their lives, their homes and their work.  Those I lived with are so caring for each other’s needs and supportive of all efforts to help their communities grow, their parishes flourish and support their children’s education opportunities. The students in turn strive their best and plan to help their families and communities to grow beyond poverty and live with peace, dignity and security.

There are often enormous obstacles to overcome. We try to help drug addicted students at St Charles Lwanga, but we have no medications and limited counselling. They tell us that most have been addicted since age 8 or 9 years old. I spent a little time in the large Mukuru slum visiting drug addicted primary students, mostly ages mostly ages 6-10. These children are in a program at school where they are housed and taught separately for one year with their own teachers, counsellors and social workers, with their families getting support and help. Talking with these children gave me new insight into the reality our students face in their struggle. With the dream of a new school getting closer we at St Charles Lwanga will be able to provide similar programs and perhaps use the current school as a rehab centre. It is so important that the new school will be in a small rural community away from the city, closer to the homes of many of our students in HomaBay County. It will be in the beautiful highlands of Western Kenya near Lake Victoria, with fertile land for agriculture, recreation/sports field and in every way a much healthier environment.

There are so many stories and memories that crowd my mind. Everywhere we visited there was laughter, tears, hugs and promises to return to try help and always remember. It is the friendships formed that keeps me returning to this special place – and I feel blessed, privileged and grateful to be a part of their lives.

I am lucky to have a young girl Tracey planning on coming to live with me and study engineering at STFX. She volunteered at our school after graduation in December. It is a good opportunity for all of us to meet and welcome her to our homes and share our culture as she and her family have welcomed me.

Working Toward Sustainability

This spring Inverness County Cares will revisit their long-range plan for their involvement with The St Charles Lwanga School. As all guardians we hope to see our project ‘grow up’ and become independent and self-sustainable. To realize this, the school needs to move to an area where there is ample space for the school compound and areas for gardens and fields for crops. The present day St Charles Lwanga School in Ruai, Nairobi had developed a reputation as an excellent educational institution. With this status they will be able to attract fee-paying students and continue to serve the students who cannot afford to pay fees.

The school administration has identified an area in Western Kenya in the Lake Victoria vicinity where the soil is fertile and rainfall abundant. Purchasing land in this area would take children from the influences of the city of Nairobi, and most importantly enable the students to concentrate on agriculture, which will supply the school with food and an income to support the needs of the school.

The University of Vermont and volunteers from GoGlobal have developed a program where students from St Charles Lwanga School will work cooperatively with the Perma-Culture Institute of Kenya and form alliances with the University of Nairobi. It is the intent of the Vermont delegation, to train students at SCL in organic farming practices, in order to provide the new school with guidance and expert help to develop their agricultural program. It is the expectation that this program will transition into a community agriculture college where the students from SCL will be able to acquire post secondary diplomas in agricultural practices. Following this trend it is the belief that this college and its graduates will be able to disseminate and share the agricultural expertise with the nearby communities. Sharing this knowledge of agricultural practices will enable residents to take part in community based initiatives to improve the agricultural knowledge and increase their standard of living.

Thanks to the generosity of their supporters Inverness County Cares has been able to reach their goal of $60,000 per year for the past three years. The new school land requires an additional $30,000 of which generous supporters have already donated $16,500. When the land is purchased, other funding partners (not ICC) will begin negotiations to determine the specifics of the new school and the funding particulars.

Betty Jane Cameron will return home on the 29th of April with many stories and new insights into the St Charles Lwanga School. We thank our supporters who make all this possible. For more information see our webpages.

Need for a New School

Inverness County Cares (ICC) is a community aid organization based in Inverness County, Nova Scotia. ICC has worked to provide for the educational and daily life needs of the 280 students at the St Charles Lwanga Secondary School (SCLSS) since 2012. The students of SCLSS are housed in dormitories on half acre on which the school and all buildings are situated. For many students this is their only chance to obtain a secondary education. Mostly all the students had a history of sporadic school attendance due to lack of money for school fees. Because of this they truly appreciate the opportunity to learn and are very serious about this opportunity to gain a secondary education.

The conditions at the school are crowded, with classrooms and living areas past the maximum occupancy. Their diet is simple and nutritious, mainly, beans, corn, Sukuma Wiki (collard greens), cabbage and occasionally tomatoes, with meat as a rare luxury.

The school is located close to the Nairobi International airport. This is an area that is rapidly being encroached on by the city of Nairobi and the influence of the Kibera Slums which are nearby.

The climate and growing conditions in this area are not suitable for farming or even small garden plots. The school grounds are very crowded and there are two seasons of very little rain, which turns the ground into a cement-like terrain with deep cracks. Water is supplied by a rainwater collection system (supplied by Living Water Africa), channeling rainwater from the roofs of all the school buildings into an 80,000 liter tank. Drinking water is supplied by Nairobi City Water, which is stored in a tank on the school grounds. There are no showers (bucket water bathing) and six, two-stall pit latrines provide the 280 students with toilet services.

Plans are in progress for a new school in the HomaBay area of South Western Kenya, near Lake Victoria. This new school will be located in an area with a climate much more favourable to sustainable farming on a 10 acre plot of land. Although the need is critical there are many obstacles that must be overcome before the new school is a reality. Anyone who wishes to financially support these student and school initiatives may do so by sending a cheque to Inverness County Cares, PO Box 99, Judique, NS, B0E 1P0.

Next month’s newspaper article: plans for a new school and the process of educating the students, teachers and communities near the school on farming methods that will work toward making the school self sustaining.

For more information please visit   http://lwangachildren.com/

 

1st- Betty Jane Cameron (second on right) with Dutch visitors. 2- Exam time in classroom, 3-Classes held outside, 4- Students, 5-Sustainable farming lessons.

Report From Betty Jane Cameron

On January 8, 2018, Betty Jane Cameron, Inverness County Cares member and extraordinary grandmother, nurse, midwife and music teacher departed on her 3rd trip to volunteer at the St Charles Lwanga Secondary School (SCLSS) in Ruai, Nairobi, Kenya. She checked in to Halifax airport with very minimum personal baggage but brought 9 bags of clothing, personal items and many musical instruments donated by the generous people of her surrounding communities. Betty Jane at 80 years, although very fit and energetic, finds it much more convenient to travel through the airport in a wheel chair. Imagine Br Kennedy’s dismay and surprise when on their first meeting three years ago, she arrived in a wheelchair. Much to his relief she proved herself exceptionally fit and is blessed with amazing stamina. This January her flight was diverted and Betty Jane and her 9 bags took separate flight paths. After several days of anxiety all nine bags arrived at the school.

Communications from Betty Jane.

January 11/18. I got here about 4pm Wednesday and was royally welcomed by the entire School with cheers and hugs. It was worth the whole very long trip. There is no sign of any baggage but a tracer is hopefully working its magic. Today is day 4 in the same clothes, but I did wash in a bucket… I feel right at home both here and home in Mabou where (due to power outages) there was no water for three days.  I am doing more medical work this year. I also am sharing the small dorm with the assistant administrator who is a good friend and it feels like a palace! I am so pleased that I remembered almost all the student’s names when I arrived.

January 17/18. Hi everyone, I’m halfway through week 2, very busy and very happy to be here. I am constantly tuning string instruments. Today I did a wash to everyone’s surprise. The Form 1’s have arrived and I have taught them health, geography, and basic music beats with drums, percussion and dance. We had lots of fun. I also teach health and PE to all classes weekly. We have music after school daily – so far recorder and guitar. The choir director is going to live here and study, and we are working on theory and each instrument so he can carry on all year. This Friday I go to another parish to do pastoral visiting and counseling

with the sick and elderly, and will be there a week. I miss you all but really feel that I belong to this community too and love the people and the work.

January 24/18. I was away all week visiting a parish. The pictures give some idea of what we did. I taught young children, visited many elderly and sick folk, conducted a marriage encounter class, attended the anointing of a dying man, two baptisms followed by their wedding two days later and worked with the catechists They wanted me to stay, but back at SCLSS they greeted me like I was gone a year! Say hi to all. Love Betty Jane.”

2017 Accomplishments

St Charles Lwanga Secondary School is located in Nairobi, Kenya. Inverness County Cares (ICC) and Chalice Canada (chalice.ca) celebrate the many accomplishments made possible at St. Charles Lwanga School (SCLS) through our mutual partnership during the past year. ICC is proud to have reached its $60,000 fundraising goal, which was matched by Chalice Canada. Representatives of both organizations have met twice to plan and develop our partnership and provide maximum benefits for SCLS.

ICC continues to work co-cooperatively with students at Dalbrae Academy who have contributed to SCLS for the past five years. ICC member and native of West Mabou, NS, Betty Jane Cameron, a nurse/midwife and music teacher, spent six weeks at SCLS mentoring, teaching music and organizing ground work for a school safety policy. 
In addition ICC member, Rev. Duncan MacIsaac, then parish priest in Inverness and Broad Cove, NS, spent ten days at SCLS, celebrating Eucharist with staff and students as well as counseling and mentoring. 
While in Kenya, Betty Jane and Fr. Duncan participated in a school evaluation day with representatives of Chalice and SCLS with a vision of future development.

SCLS received a monthly budget from ICC and Chalice to cover simple and healthy food and nutrition for the students and provide much needed new toilets and wash areas and upgrade older ones. We are thankful to the Brothers of St. Charles Lwanga who constructed a new chapel for the SCL students on the school grounds.
This year SCLS mourned the death of student of Stanley Wanjala, who died in March 2017. His funeral expenses were taken care of by our two organizations. Forty-three students graduated from SCLS and three merited Kenyan government scholarships to continue with university studies. In addition to this ICC members and associates provided scholarships to some SCL graduates for further studies. 
A formal Child Protection Policy was created by the SCLS administration to ensure the safety of students.

ICC and Chalice budgeted $1,500 for preliminary architectural planning to develop a school in an area, which is much more suited to provide an agricultural program for the SCL students. In addition to our regular fundraising, sufficient funding was acquired to purchase five acres of land for this property. A proposed new school site of ten acres will cost of $30,000.

ICC has developed its own website (invernesscountycares.com) as well as the SCL website 
(lwangachildren.com), keeping both current on a monthly basis.

Thank you to all our generous supporters.

Kenyan Christmas

My name is Athman Shee a students at St. Charles Lwanga children Centre. Allow me to share how Christmas celebrations are conducted in Kenya and most especially in our school.

Our Christmas celebration is a time when people come together in remembrance of Christ’s birth, a day believed to be holy and full of a joy that lightens the whole world. The day is highly valued here in Kenya as Christians spend their nights in churches and worship places, waiting for this moment. People sing Christmas hymns such as Mary’s Boy child Jesus Christ was born on Christmas Day, Christmas, Christmas Everybody Sing” with a lot of dances and ululations (quickly repeated loud sounds, often to express joy and happiness or sorrow) especially at midnight welcoming the birth of Jesus. Christmas is very important day and people do a lot of decorations mostly in churches, but also in homes, shopping centres, supermarkets and some commodities have labels on them to wish people merry Christmas. About 70% of Kenya populations are Christians and this makes the Christians celebration lively and outstanding.

The Santa Claus tradition is not common in Kenya, instead people concentrate on family gatherings and celebration the birth of Christ. A typical Kenyan family celebrates the Christmas day, by going to mass. Some people will go for the midnight mass especially the young people while other attend the morning mass. People invite friends especially all their family members, they make a Christmas tree in their homes and then a lot of cooking takes place of chapattis, stews amongst other meals. During this festive season there are so many people in the villages.

Christmas at St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School and Children’s Centre is celebrated in a very special way and touching way. Brother Kennedy organizes a great celebration for the students in which he also invites other children outside the school who can barely afford their daily bread to celebrate together. Prior before the day the students organize songs and dances to grace the occasion. During this day a lot of cooking takes places where a special diet is prepared of chapattis, rice, green peas, roasted potatoes, beef, vegetables, juices and people eat to their fullest.

Our most sincere gratitude goes to Brother Kennedy, Inverness County Cares, Chalice and all our benefactors for their generous sacrifice in putting a smile in every child at St. Charles Lwanga.

Thank you

Betty Jane- Cape Breton Post Article December 2017

Mabou grandmother traveling to Kenya for third year

Betty Jane Cameron of Mabou is seen at St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya, last year, teaching a student guitar.
Betty Jane Cameron of Mabou is seen at St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya, last year, teaching a student guitar.

Betty Jane Cameron, 80, teaches music to students at St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya

INVERNESS COUNTY — A woman who has had a passion for teaching for most of her life is traveling to Kenya to teach children for a third consecutive year.

Betty Jane Cameron, 80, who lives in Mabou, is heading to St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School in Nairobi, Kenya on January 8 for three months to teach music, be a spiritual guide for the children and work in the school’s infirmary, as part of the Inverness County Cares organization’s efforts to help underprivileged children in the area.

Cameron, has had an extensive career looking after and teaching others in many fields, including caregiving and music. She continues to teach music in Mabou to children as well as Kenya.

She has continued her journeys to the school because of the personal connections she has made with the children, who think of her as a grandmother figure.

“Everyone was really nice to me the first year – but last year I became their grandmother. That seemed to be the biggest thing I could do.” she said, and then added that her personal connection with the students had resonated with them and made her beloved by the children.

“Some of the children wrote me letters while I was there and one of them said he wanted to be my son because when I first met him, I said his name as I looked at him directly in the eyes. I think to get to know the children by name and know their interests was by far the best part of my trips.”

On her first trip, Cameron brought the children several instruments. On her second, she purchased instruments in Nairobi with donated money from Cape Bretoners: including a piano. This year, she already has various instruments donated by community members to take with her for her third trip to the school.

She said music matters to the children because of its inclusiveness and that it’s enjoyed without a large cost.

“It’s something that has no strings attached. They don’t have to be good or rich. They can just enjoy it and they love music – it’s a very big part of Kenyan culture,” said Cameron who added a lot of the children already had natural talent.

“I didn’t know what I could do because they were already very good at singing and dancing, they were eager to learn and they learned really fast.”

Colleen MacDonald MacLeod, a member of Inverness County Cares, said Cameron has made a big impact on the children at the school because she has made a long lasting bond with them through her personality and caregiving ways.

“Teachers come and go, because it’s hard to pay them enough and they get experience and get a better job – you need continuity and Betty Jane is there and she’s the grandmother figure. She talks to them and they love her so much ” said MacDonald MacLeod.

Brother John Kennedy Oronjo, a member of the St. Charles Lwanga Brothers of Kenya, started the St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School in 2012. The group is comprised of religious brothers, dedicated to the care of youth, traditionally through education.

Inverness County Cares has been involved with the school since 2012, after Oronjo contacted a member of the group.

They have since partnered with the charity, Chalice Canada in Bedford. The partnership enabled the Inverness group make contributions to the school of $60,000 a year with a matching $60,000 a year from Chalice.

For more information on the children of St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School and Inverness County Cares, visit invernesscountycares.com or lwangachildren.com.

 

Christian.roach@cbpost.com.

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