Earlier this year when the world was spinning properly, planes were flying and events were happening, Ian and I were invited to Texas to speak at a gathering of 15,000+ Keller Williams agents. It was one of the craziest experiences of my life as I had never been in one room with so many people in my life, and to have the honor to share our story with them was simply mind-blowing. It seems like YEARS ago that we were on those planes, and so much has changed in those few months.
When Ian and I travel we are always looking for fun, new and fresh ideas to bring back to Project Canaan. In a recent blog I shared with you a patio roof that we loved and will use a similar idea on our new dining hall. While in Texas we stumbled upon a giant Scrabble game board, that was attached to the wall and had magnetic letter pieces. What a brilliant idea! I quickly googled it and found the very same unit available at Restoration Hardware for only $1,800 US. YIKES! There had to be another way.
Our friends, Carol and Barry Hickman, were planning to come to Project Canaan for a month this summer. Carol is the Vice-Chairperson of the Heart for Africa Canadian Board of Directors and Barry is her jack-of-all-trades, and partner in crime ☺. Barry is always looking for a project that he can take on while here and he loves working with the guys in the Kufundza Carpentry center, so I thought this might be the perfect challenge! And he agreed.
Fast forward a few months, planes are grounded, borders are closed, and Carol, Barry and team are stuck in Canada, sad, but still wanting to help us in Eswatini. Then, out of nowhere an opportunity arose. Hannah Gaddis, our Hunger Initiative 2020 Manager in the US, has been searching for partners in Canada and US to provide dried food so that we can continue to feed our children in the communities who really need more help than ever. Canadian Board member, Cheri Peters, suggested that we reach out to the Okanagan Gleaners in Oliver, British Columbia, Canada, and within weeks we were accepted a food partner. Better yet, they said they could ship us a 40ft container of food in August/September.
That put a series of events in motion that ended up with Barry and the Kerr family MAKING the 5-foot square Scrabble board (complete with blackboard score area) from scratch! I’m not kidding. This could easily be added to the top of the dried food on the container. Score! The team painstakingly painted each board square and letter piece by hand, then added the magnetic connections so that the game can be played on the wall. They had to work through endless unexpected problems/challenges that goes with any DIY project. I laughed when I heard that and said that it made it a very authentic Swazi experience ☺.They even added Heart for Africa logos in each corner for an extra special touch, which were made by a couple in Kamloops, BC.
While Barry was busy doing that, Carol, Cheri and their friends were collecting gently used clothes from all over Canada (and Carol was doing her own famous bargain-hunter shopping game). The Hickman house and garage became a drop off center for literally 2,000+ pounds of clothing for our children, soccer gear (thanks to my cousin Carelle McKellan and her family!!), and bras from as far away as Prince Edward Island, Ottawa and Manitoba. Truth be told, it was actually Barry who did the driving all over the province picking up donations, and even WASHING some of the children’s clothes. A special thank you to Once Upon a Child, a children's clothing store that donated 20 large bags of children's clothes!
Then, the piece-de-resistance was an
unexpected gift of a $50,000 (if it were new) computerized feeding system for
our dairy cows, which will reduce the cost we spend on dairy meal, while
maximizing the milk production. This was
a timely donation as it could be shipped for “free” in this container and it was
exactly what we need as a part of our dairy expansion. Thank you Koopman family for the part you played in this gem!
If you don’t believe in a God who cares about the details, please go back and re-read this blog. I simply can’t make this up. We started by needing food to feed starving children, and He provided. The bonus gift (in my eyes) was a giant Scrabble board that will be fun in our new O2 building. Then 2,000 POUNDS of clothes are added, and then the Lord tops it all off with dairy equipment. HOW DOES HE DO ALL THIS?
Thank you Carol, Barry and your team of friends and family for giving 1,000+ hours of your time. You are such a great example of people using the extra (or unusual) time you have due to Covid-19 to do something great! Thank you Cheri for being instrumental in getting this food, and for helping pack it. We are so very thankful for our Canadian friends who worked tirelessly over the past few months to make this container be filled with life-saving food, along with some fun and games!
Live from Eswatini … enjoying a long weekend (Independence Day).
PS - don't forget to check out www.khutsala.com this weekend and do some shopping!