Pa­cking it in to help Con­go­lese chil­dren

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

A fa­mi­ly in Pin­court is pa­cking up their lives and moving to Cen­tral Afri­ca so they can help poor and or­pha­ned chil­dren li­ving in cir­cum­stances they say most Ca­na­dians can not grasp. And a fun­drai­ser this Fri­day will help­with their goal.

Che­ryl Wal­ker and her Afri­can born husband, Lambert La­ki-La­ka, feel com­pel­led to give up their com­for­table lives in Ca­na­da to move to the Re­pu­blic of the Con­go, a smallCen­tral Afri­can coun­try.

The couple and their four chil­dren, Im­ma­nuel, 14, Jay­den, 10, Trey, 8, and Ch­loe, 4, are pa­cking up and sel­ling their Pin­court home.

They'll move in with friends while gathering funds to take their chil­dren and be­lon­gings to the other side of the world. Once there, they'll work with an es­ta­bli­shed or­ga­ni­za­tion to create a las­ting home for poor and or­pha­ned Con­go­lese chil­dren. Wal­ker says her dream has al­ways been to help kids.

And while li­ving in 2004 with her husband and th­ree ol­der chil­dren in Pointe-Noire, a ci­ty in the Re­pu­blic of the Con­go, she says she found plen­ty nee­ding aid.

"The condi­tions there are to­tal po­ver­ty, kids live among open gar­bage wi­thout food or fresh wa­ter," Wal­ker said, ad­ding, "They sleep in the streets wi­thout mos­qui­to nets. Ma­ny of them are or­phans whose pa­rents have died of aids."

Her husband, who mo­ved to Ca­na­da from Con­go in 1993 to get his MBA at Uni­ver­si­té du Québec àMon­tréal, says people here can not grasp such po­ver­ty.

"Chil­dren here open the fridge and even if it's full they com­plain there is no­thing to eat." He says he does not want his chil­dren to gro­wup fee­ling en­tit­led to eve­ry­thing.

Last spring, the fa­mi­ly and 20 board mem­bers and vo­lun­teers es­ta­bli­shed Mwa­na ("child in tow" in Con­go­leses) Vil­lages, a re­gis­te­red cha­ri­table non-pro­fit or­ga­ni­za­tion. The sale of their house will give them en­ough mo­ney to per­ma­nent­ly move to Pointe-Noire.

Once there, Lambert will work full time in bu­si­ness while Che­ryl runs the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

"Our vi­sion is to build mul­ti-func­tio­nal vil­lages where street or­phans will live in homes with a "re­scue­mom," a wo­man who will take care of them," Che­ryl ex­plai­ned.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion will pro­vide a "re­le­vant" edu­ca­tion by tea­ching kids sus­tai­nable skills such as agri­cul­ture, mo­ney ma­na­ge­ment, and other trades. "Things they need to be suc­cess­ful in their culture," Wal­ker said, ad­ding, "It's a huge en­dea­vour... we want to help­now."

Mwa­na Vil­lages hopes to raise en­ough mo­ney each year to keep the or­ga­ni­za­tion self-sus­tai­ning.

They say they can al­so ac­cept do­na­tions of unu­sed air miles, al­lo­wing them to bring tea­chers over from Ca­na­da to work with the or­phans.

This Fri­day, the group will host an Afri­can Culture and Hu­ma­ni­ta­rian fun­drai­ser from 6 to 9 p.m., at 5567, côte Saint-An­toine in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

The event will fea­ture cul­tu­ral kiosks, Afri­can food pre­pa­ra­tion tech­niques, an Afri­can ins­tru­ment table, hair brai­ding tech­niques and much more. A va­rie­ty concert will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Ti­ckets can be bought in ad­vance.

To pur­chase ti­ckets, call 514 377-0344 or go towww.mwa­na.ca.

The La­ki-La­ka'swant to clean up this or­pha­nage where chil­dren live among gar­bage.

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