Gerlings volunteer at Kenyan School
A pair of Drumheller teachers are planning to lend their skills to help students in Kenya, volunteering at an orphanage and school.
Irv and Corrine Gerling are heading to the Our Lady of Grace Children’s Home and the Our Lady of Grace Academy in Marimba to volunteer. Corrine explains there is a local connection.
A few years ago, the Gerlings reconnected with Rita Balachandran, nee Rovere, formerly of Drumheller. In 2002, she initiated a trust fund called Action for God’s Love (AFGL) in memory of her husband, the late Professor Balachandran, a prominent orthopedic surgeon in Singapore.
AFGL is an all volunteer run organization, which aims to improve the material and spiritual lives of those trapped in poverty.
“We knew she had this project going and we said to her that when we retire, we would come and volunteer for a while,” she said. “This year we said we need to reconnect, get over there and help her in some way.”
Corrine explains the school and orphanage was built in 2006, and is built on land owned by the Catholic diocese. Over the years, Rita has taken in 175 orphaned girls. Many of these children have lost their parents due to AIDs and HIV related complications, and are living with grandparents. In Kenya, Rita has to legally adopt these girls in order to provide them shelter and education. She is affectionately known as Mama Rita.
The Gerlings are hoping to use their skills to support the school. This could
be through working with students, or sharing their skills and knowledge as educators with the teachers.
“We are a little nervous, because when you teach here, you have everything in that school. There, we are going to have a chalkboard. I am taking some resources and some print resources, and children’s books.”
The couple has had overseas experience. Irv taught in Tanzania in the 1970’s. The couple also taught in Columbia in the 1990’s and most recently, the couple spent three years in Montenegro teaching.
“It is very interesting to live and work in another culture,” said Corrine.
Irv agrees. “It will be an experience, we have enjoyed every place we have been. Between the geography, the people and food, it will be great. It is a completely different experience than when you are a tourist.”
This is not the only project for AFGL. It has completed projects in Mongolia, Myanmar Uganda and Kenya. It also supports student volunteers who lend a hand for the charity.
Corrine said Rita funds these other projects through the foundation, but the orphanage and school is the one project she is actively involved , spend ing nine months a year in Kenya.
It won’t be all work for the couple. During their three- month exc ur s i o n , they hope to take in some of the local sites while they are in East Africa.
To learn more about their excursion or about Action For God’s Love, contact the Gerlings at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are a little nervous. because when you teach here, you have
everything in that school. There, we are going to have
Corrine and Irv Gerling are planning a trip to Marimba Kenya to work at an orphanage and school founded by former Drumheller resident Rita Balachandran.