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Lacombe charity celebrates 20 years

Lisa Joy

Globe Editor

When Lacombe charity A Better World (ABW) started 20 years ago they struggled to rasie $5,000 a year. Now the group brings in about $7,000 in donations a day for its humanitarian projects around the world, said co-founder Eric Rajah at the group's 20th anniversary celebration.

Keynote speaker Dale Russell, owner of Reimax in Lacombe, Red Deer, Ponoka and Sylvan Lake-who travelled with ABW to Kenya, Africa-said the chairty is making a difference in people's lives.

"You folks here in Lacombe have done great things," Russell said April 17 at the College Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church.

He added ABW's focus (on education, infrastructure, income security, health and food generation) gives those it helps a hand up rather than a hand out.

Russell said Gord Bontje, owner of Laebon Homes in Red Deer-who is very involved with ABW- inspired him to work with the charity.

"Until you have been there (Africa) you don't grasp how poor they are. The squalor, the hopelessness, it just kind of hits you like a brick."

Many emotions ran through him while in Kenya, including anger and despair.

"I thought this is so big there's not enough money in Red Deer, Lacombe or central Alberta to fix this problem," he said.

But despite the suffering and poverty, Russell noticed Kenyans were happy.

"I saw more joy there than I see lots of places. That made the rest of it bearable."

He added ABW gives the people the missing ingredient of hope.

"Our job is to give them that hope," said Russell. "Hope is a great motivator. Together we can make a difference."

This year's receipient of ABW's citizen of the year went to Westwood Community High School of Fort McMurray, which raised more than $40,000 to help build a classroom for a school in Kenya. Now they are raising another $10,000 for a water system and planing a jail and bail fundraiser in FortMcMurray called "Get locked in for A Better World."

Westwood vice principal Serge Jette, said charity work has opened his eyes.

"I didn't get it until I went to Kenya and saw the people and the conditions and the difference A Better World makes there. My goal is to help students 'get it' at a much earlier age than I did."

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