Categories: Volunteers

Family off to make a difference in Rwanda

The Doyon family is about to embark on a trip together to a far away country. They’ve been building up to this moment for a few years. It’s the culmination of a lot of work and preparation, but it’s not a vacation.

Linda Doyon and her husband Norm are off to Rwanda with their kids, Nicole, 20, and Steven, 19. They will be working as part of an Edmonton organization called Ubuntu that aids the widows of victims of the 1994 genocide that saw 800,000 people killed over the span of 100 days. Norm has been there before and will be staying for about two months this time while the others will fulfil their assignments, lasting for just a few weeks each.

The Doyons have been involved in the group for a few years now, helping to fundraise as part of the local committee that channels that money to the village of Kimironko and the Ubuntu founder and co-ordinator on site, Nicole Pageau. Linda explained that she was struck with the urge to help just as Pageau was at the very beginning.

“She went there about five years ago and just fell in love with the place. She thought she had to do something for these widows. She came back, sold everything she owned and she lives out there full time.”

Now Pageau stays in Kimironko to provide active support through various sewing and craft co-ops and even teaching some of them auto mechanics. A daycare is also available to enable people to have the free time to learn new skills and trades.

“Our mission is to help provide sustainability, teach them skills so they can run their own businesses and make a living.”

The rest of the small Edmonton committee helps support her through various special events and other fundraising efforts, with the next one coming up at the end of June. The Doyons have put in their time with that work and now they want to see it first-hand. Norm runs the program that helps to find sponsors to pay for school fees and supplies for all the children. Linda can’t wait to meet Emmanuel, the teenager that they sponsor.

“We’re very excited. I think that’s going to be the highlight for the family. We’ve been supporting him since he was 13 or 14.”

This is a major undertaking for the family that has taken much planning.

“We’ve been saving to go as a family for three years. It’s quite an undertaking.”

Once there, their duties will be to help out with the daycare and some administrative functions. The recent flight disturbances due to the volcano in Iceland have caused them to worry but as it stands now, everything seems to be in the clear for their departure.

“The ash cloud almost did us in,” she laughed. “That was a bit of a worry up until Friday.”

More information about the group and its work is available at www.ubuntuedmonton.org. Its main objectives are to relieve poverty through food bank operations and fund small businesses and micro co-ops, improve basic education for children and advanced education for adults to learn trades and generally improve the health and wellbeing of the population.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.