Helping Cope Through Hope directors Tom and Cheryl Martin have seen firsthand the difference access to education can make in a developing nation.
The couple recently returned to Napanee after an extended stay in Africa, where they go once a year to make sure the money raised through their outreach foundation is put to good use.
“It was a very successful trip,” said Tom.
During their visit they took time to check up on some of the people they’ve helped out over the years, including those they’ve helped put through college and university. Without their help, they’d never be able to achieve a higher education and likely never escape the cycle of poverty.
“We get asked quite a bit, what about the kids you help through university, do they get jobs, do they work?,” said Tom. “That’s a good question. We’ve got quite a few now that have finished college and university. Every single one is working.”
That’s no small accomplishment given the state of the workforce in countries such as Peru, Uganda and Zambia. Still the foundation has seen students they’ve helped go on to start their own business, become teachers, construction workers, accountants, nurses, carpenters, physiotherapists or get jobs in government.
“You’re not going to change the culture, the men who have maybe four wives and producing many children they don’t look after,” said Tom. “Through education, the younger generation, especially the girls that go to school, they say ‘I’m not going to have children until I finish university. I’m only going to have three or four (kids)’. It’s that next generation you try to help.”
“We can see the lives of the children that we work with improving each year we go back,” added Cheryl. “They’re living better, eating healthier, living in a better house. They’re much better off.”
For the Martins, who have about 160 sponsored children in their care, they’re not just numbers. Because they travel to see them in person, they become like family to them. Though back in Canada until August, the work never stops. They’ll now be busy raising funds in the community to help fund their mission work.
“We have zero overhead,” said Tom of any money they raise. “We pay our own airfare, we pay our own food, our own accommodation. Zero of what we’re given is for us.”
That means they also count on the help of several volunteers to assist them when they travel overseas. Anyone who travels with them is also responsible for paying their own travel costs.
Money that they do raise is used for funding education, building houses, providing food and establishing working farms.
They count on support from people like Barry Lovegrove, who through the Newburgh United Church, is aiming to raise $3,000 to build a home for a young mother and father, who have four kids and live in small eight by 10 foot room. They’ve acquired some land, now they just need money to fund the construction of a home. Lovegrove is reaching out to the community and is hoping to organize a concert to help fund the cost. Anyone interested in helping can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meanwhile the Martins are planning their annual fundraising auction for Sept. 22 at the Strathcona Paper Centre, starting at 6 p.m.
More on their foundation and how to help out can be found at www.helpingcopethroughhope.org/.