To the editor;
Sometimes events take place which truly convince me of the overriding good of humanity. This weekend was one of those times. Over the past four years, I have been running a non-profit organization in Sierra Leone, West Africa, and I often do fundraisers within the community at the Clova Cinema where I work.
I have always been impressed with our customers’ generosity, but this weekend I was truly overwhelmed at the way our customers and the community at large responded to a greater need.
Last Tuesday, May 1, I was confronted with a huge need I could not meet on my own: the family I lived with in Sierra Leone over the past four years lost their roof due to a terrible windstorm, and were left without a home.
There were also three other families close to them who were affected by this storm and their roofs were damaged even more severely. My house dad in Sierra Leone emailed me a picture of the destruction, as he had no other place to turn; here in Canada, our house insurance would easily take care of this problem, but in Sierra Leone, that luxury does not exist.
In order to rebuild his roof, my house dad had to take three of his children out of school and take out a loan he could never dream of paying back – a loan for the seemingly small amount of $450, which would be over three months of his salary. The other families were even worse off, as they had no jobs and no way to get a loan to rebuild their roofs – so I was left with a very big problem, and only a few days to come up with a solution.
I could not raise enough for all four roofs on my own, so I appealed to the community – I sent out Facebook messages, emailed friends and family members, and emailed all our customers at the Clova asking them to bring in spare change.
I expected to get a few hundred dollars, maybe enough to build one roof if I added some of my own money, so I was totally unprepared for the whirlwind of love and care Cloverdale residents showed for families thousands of miles away, people they had never even met.
By Sunday night, we had over $1,900, which was even more than the $1,800 target we set to rebuild the roofs.
It was not just the big amount that touched my heart, but more so, people’s willingness to give combined with their genuine concern for a family they had never laid eyes on.
One elderly woman walked for 20 minutes just to pass by the Clova with $10 in change, and said, “It’s not much but I hope more people will do the same.”
And they did – from Thursday night to Sunday night the Clova saw regular customers, non-regular customers, and even people who didn’t come for the movies drop off spare change, buckets full of pennies, and even $20 and $50 bills. I received dozens of emails from people wanting to help, wondering how much more we needed, and even a larger donation from a customer who couldn’t come into the theatre but went out of his way to send the money via PayPal.
As I finished rolling pennies and sent the $1,900 to my family in Sierra Leone, I felt tears streaming down my face as I considered the love and compassion the people of this town felt for four families they don’t even know, and might never meet.
Acts of kindness, no matter how small, do make a huge difference. This community’s generosity has given four families in Sierra Leone their homes and their lives back, proving that we still do love our neighbours…even our neighbours halfway across the world.
To the caring and wonderful residents of Cloverdale, thank you from the bottom of my heart…I am now even more certain that when we work together, we can make a far-reaching difference.
Director, The People’s Foundation of Sierra Leone, www.tpfsl.org.