This November, Marion Fahlborg will return to Pietermaritzburg, South Africa to pick up where she left off three years ago.
The Chemainus resident is currently trying to raise more than $5,000 to help both the young and the disabled.
Fahlborg said she is hoping to accomplish much with what we, in Canada, feel is so little.
“People in Canada just don’t understand how lucky we are to live here,” she said. “The people [in Africa] are so wonderful, but there’s no middle ground. You have your absolutely poor and then the rich. The rich are totally blind to the poor.”
“It’s difficult to come home because the first thing you want to do is get rid of all the things you have because you feel really greedy and possessive.”
Fahlborg’s first trip to Africa took place in 2005, after being asked if she would like to take a trip there at a Lay Witness Canada annual picnic.
“The word ‘Africa’ had kept going through my mind and I didn’t know why,” she recalled. “I didn’t know what I was going to do there, I didn’t know where I was going to stay. I just knew that I had to do it.”
While in Africa, Fahlborg partnered with Sheena Gaston of African Enterprise and helped establish Zanini Bantwana, a ministry for children in hospitals.
“We worked primarily in the children’s wards where many of the children have no one, nothing and are palliative. Many are abandoned by their families and are left to die all alone,” she said. “Every morning we would go in and take these big hockey bags of toys into the kids and we’d sing and dance and play with the kids, and they were so happy because they never have visitors.”
By the time she returned in 2008, Zanini Bantwana had grown to include three hospitals and volunteers were asked to assist with physical therapy for the children. Using funds raised in Chemainus, Fahlborg and a number of other volunteers also installed a safe portable playground.
It was during this trip that Fahlborg began work with disAbility Connexion, an advocacy group for the disabled.
“If these people can’t work they have to beg for their food, they live in condemned garages and under bridges,” Fahlborg said.
Because the Canadian dollar goes so far in Africa (approximately eight rand per dollar), volunteers have the purchasing power to provide supplies like warm clothing or repair equipment.
“I can go in there with $10 or $15 and take a wheelchair that is absolutely useless and have it repaired so that it’s in perfect condition,” Fahlborg said.
Fahlborg, 62, said she is planning to be in Pietermaritzburg by November 1 and has already saved up the funds for her flight and accommodations. While there, she will focus on education within the disAbility Connexion organization and continue her work with Zanini Bantwana.
“I’m not afraid, I really believe that this is what I’m supposed to do, and I’ll be safe as long as I’m careful,” she said.
Fahlborg is looking for donations of clean, quality used items for a fundraising garage sale October 1 at the Calvary Baptist Church from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Items which are not sold at the sale will be donated to charity.
As well, she is looking for businesses to donate small items for a chilli dinner and silent auction on October 15.
Donations are being accepted at the church on 3318 River Road, from Monday to Thursday. Please call ahead at 250-246-9121. To donate an item for the silent auction or purchase a dinner for the event ($15 per person), contact Marion at 250-246-3924.