Ger­lings vol­un­teer at Kenyan School

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Pa­trick Ko­lafa The Drumheller Mail mailphoto by Pa­trick Ko­lafa

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 iger­ling@telus­planet.net.

We are a lit­tle ner­vous. be­cause when you teach here, you have

ev­ery­thing in that school. There, we are go­ing to have

a chalk­board.”

Cor­rine Ger­ling

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.

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