One child every three seconds. That’s the estimated number of deaths that occur around the world each day as a result of extreme poverty, hunger and preventable illness, according to UNICEF. The organization recently estimated that out of the 2.2 billion children worldwide, about half live in poverty. Thousands of Canadian aid workers worldwide devote their careers, and sometimes their vacations, to help alleviate this issue. ParentsCanada brings you a few of their stories.
The Stobbe Family, Saskatoon
For the past three spring breaks, the Stobbe family has ditched all-inclusive resorts in favour of all-encompassing volunteering. Mother Kim (at right), dad Nathan and sons Josh, 12, and Noah, 14, return each year to Peru with Global Volunteers because they believe their work at a local orphanage in Flores has made a huge difference to the children living there.
Close to 25 percent of Peruvians live in poverty, especially in rural areas.
“Peru wasn’t on our list of places that we wanted to go to, but when we read about the orphanage and what we could do there, it just seemed like the perfect fit, it was just meant to be,” says Kim.
From eight to five, the Stobbe family did crafts, read or played sports with orphans, aged nine to 18, who loved learning some of Josh’s best hip-hop dance moves.
“Even some of the people who work at the orphanage have kids who live there, because they can’t afford to have them at home,” says Kim. “They pay a small amount of their salary to the orphanage so their children have a warm place to sleep, have their meals and go to school.”
The Stobbes quickly realized that they could contribute by revamping the older girls’ side of the orphanage. “It looked like a rundown prison yard, with old buildings and no grass,” says Kim. “The boys’ side was pristine, because it was run by Catholic brothers who did a lot of fundraising. The discrepancy really made an impact on my boys.”
The Stobbes, who run Mary’s Hope, a family foundation in Saskatoon that supports local children’s charities, decided last year to sponsor trips to Peru for groups of their friends and neighbours. So far, their foundation has helped build a playground and computer lab at the orphanage. They’re currently finalizing plans for a new library and renovated eating area. The experiences in Peru have been priceless for Josh and Noah, says Kim.
“It’s one thing to tell your children that people actually live this way, but quite another for them to see it. The awareness, compassion and maturity that emerged was just amazing to me, and how they would interact with the kids, hold the babies and just play. They sobbed when we had to leave their friends there.”
The Stobbes learned there’s no language barrier when it comes to hugs, she adds. “Our ‘family’ has grown by 500 in the past two years. We don’t share the same name, speak the same language, or live in the same country, but when we are together we love and care about each other,” says Kim.
Learn what you can do: globalvolunteers.org
Wendy Helfenbaum is a Montreal writer and television producer and a frequent contributor to ParentsCanada. Read more about her at taketwoproductions.ca.
Originally published in ParentsCanada, April 2012