What would you do?

Peter Singer starts a recent TED talk with a dramatic video of a small child in China being knocked down by a car on the street. As she lies there, injured, three passers-by totally ignore her. The incident is reminiscent of the Good Samaritan story from the Bible, where a priest and a Levite ignore the plight of the injured traveler on the road before the Samaritan stops to help.

Singer asks the audience – “How many of you would have stopped to help?” Not surprisingly, most of the hands go up.

African Child - can you overlook her needs?

African Child – can you overlook her needs?

Singer then says something like “Well, there are children all around the world who live in poverty, vulnerable to preventable violence and disease – millions of them. Are you paying any attention to them?”

“Unicef reports that in 2011 over 6.5 million children under age 5 died of preventable poverty-related diseases.”

Singer is an Australian philosopher and humanist who writes and speaks out about many ethical issues including poverty and animal rights. In 2009, he wrote a book called “The Life You Can Save”. In the book he encourages readers to commit to helping developing communities with a small portion of their income. If you can afford to pay $2.00 for a bottle of water that is free from the tap, do you not have money to spare – to share, in fact, with others who are living without many of the necessities of life that we take for granted?

His message is not a guilt trip. He encourages us to enjoy the fruits of our labours and our good fortune at living in a community where there is law and order, fresh water, social responsibility and enough food but to share a portion of that with others who must live without those amenities.

We are constantly bombarded in the media with photos of children in North America who have perished in the natural (or unnatural) disasters like the recent tornado in Oklahoma City or the bombing at the Boston Marathon. Our hearts go out to the families of these children and we feel sad and that these deaths seem unfair. These are a very few children whose stories touch us because they are in communities like ours.

Nairobi slum

Nairobi slum

But what about the mothers of the 19,000 children who die in the developing world every day from preventable poverty-related problems? Do we give them much thought? Do we pour money into the developing world to help these 19,000 like we do to help families of the few North American families touched by tragedy?

Think about this for a minute. It is sobering. 19,000 per day.

The CanAssist African Relief Trust is attempting to so something, however small to help these families in East Africa. Rather than pick a few children for special attention, CanAssist funds community infrastructure projects like school classrooms, water and sanitation improvements, food security through local agriculture and health care facilities. We have funded around $300,000 in projects since 2008. Our Canadian community helping communities in Africa.

If you are interested in what we do, please look at our website http://canassistafrica.ca We are always happy to receive support, moral or financial, for the work we are committed to do to lessen the effects of poverty for vulnerable East African families.

(If you would like to participate in what CanAssist is doing to help communities in East Africa you can donate using the Canada Helps link below.)


Here is a link to the Peter Singer TED talk. If you have 15 minutes please listen to what he has to say.

Now look what you have done!

On July 1, I issued an appeal/challenge on behalf of the CanAssist African Relief Trust to raise money to build two classrooms at the Hope School in Mbita, Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria.

The Vancouver-based Sasamat Foundation had offered $10,000 and up to another $5000 to match 2:1 donations that were received from CanAssist supporters to build the school.

This is the schoolyard of Hope School in mid August 2012. The site of proposed CanAssist classrooms.

By the end of July we had reached our goal and in late August the money to start construction was sent to the Hope School.

The CanAssist Hope School Classrooms are coming along in leaps and bounds. I could not believe my eyes when I received photos today of the construction under way. The barren piece of ground in the schoolyard is quickly being converted into a learning setting for the children of this community who have previously been taught in a rudimentary building or under a tree. Most of the children in this neighbourhood are disadvantaged and some have simply not been able to attend school even up to age 9 or 10.

The CanAssist Hope School Classrooms are coming along in leaps and bounds.

This project will transform the community for these kids. And as I have mentioned previously, this not only provides the classrooms for the children, it gives some employment to local workmen who struggle to find employment.

Thanks to everyone who rose to the challenge. I hope you are gratified with the way that your gift to these children is working so quickly. I look forward to visiting this school in early February and participating in a Grand Opening celebration.

Read earlier blog posts about this project here:
A Canada Day Challenge
Canada Day Challenge Met.

My thanks, as well, to Kennedy Onyango for the photos and for the ongoing responsible supervision of this project.