It’s common for towns and cities to partner with similar communities elsewhere in Canada, North America and around the world.
Markham, for example, is twinned with Laval, Quebec; Cary, North Carolina; Wuhan, China and Haidian District, also in China. Richmond Hill is twinned with Lakeland, Florida.
Numerous factors go into these twinning agreements, the most important being economic development and trade.
Often, a sister city will be chosen because many residents came from the area. For example, Vaughan has twinning agreements with cities in Italy, Israel, Japan and The Philippines. This makes for politically popular, as well as economically beneficial, partnerships.
A cynic might add a third criterion: it sure helps if the twin city is a pleasant place for politicians and bureaucrats to visit.
Then you have the case that breaks the mold: Stouffville’s partnership with Igoma, Tanzania. There is little economic advantage to be gained in an impoverished African community; few folks in Stouffville claim Tanzanian heritage and while many locals visit there, it’s hardly a holiday.
The Stouffville Igoma Project has furnished a doctor, medicine and equipment to the only medical clinic in the town of $40,000.
It sent Markham nurse Glenna Cummins-Peterson over to help people in Igoma and the surrounding area and it has provided 500 mosquito nets to help prevent malaria, with 1,500 more to come. It helps nurses and vocational students pay their tuition and is working on providing a clean water supply.
Stouffville is calling on other communities to take on similar partnerships.
Now, if one of the smallest (population-wise) communities in York Region can make this kind of difference to so many people, surely bigger, wealthy communities such as Markham, Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Newmarket can do likewise.
OK, admittedly, Stouffville’s partnership is led more by the community’s churches than its politicians and that may, in fact, be easier to do in a smaller, more homogenous community such as Stouffville. But every religion endorses charity – and Thornhill, at the very least, already has an interfaith organization called Mosaic that helps people in need.
We don’t have to look very far this week to see an example of how an individual can have a global impact.
Const. Davis Ahlowalia spent his vacations helping orphans in India and Jamaica. He convinced York Regional Police to sponsor the Jamaican orphanage. Closer to home, he supported the York South Association for Community Living, Friends of the Poor, ViCARS York Region and the Toronto AIDS walk.
And, in the meantime, he earned his living keeping us all safe.
We lost this hero in a horrific crash on the weekend, as well as two young men – Sulman Yusef and Waleed Shaukat – who, by all accounts, were also examples of what a character community is supposed to be.
York police are hoping to continue supporting the orphanage to honour Const. Ahlowalia’s memory. Residents who want to make a memorial contribution can bring donations to Friends of the Poor Canada Inc. to any York police station.
But while someone as selfless as Const. Ahlowalia might seem intimidating to us average slobs, I believe we all have the ability to be heroes.
Whitchurch-Stouffville has grabbed hold of this.
I know every town in York Region has the resources to do what Stouffville has done. I believe every town in York Region has the people who want to do what Stouffville has done. I think it’s high time we stopped entrusting the developing world to governments and rock stars and took action ourselves.
The Stouffville Igoma Project is willing to mentor other communities. For more information, call the Stouffville chamber at 905-642-4227 or EastRidge Evangelical Missionary Church at 905-640-3911, ext. 42.
By David Teetzel
The Liberal (Richmond Hill)
The Stouffville Igoma Project is looking for other communities to twin with an African village to support residents there.
The Stouffville organization would act as a mentor.
Two weeks after returning from a fact-finding trip to Igoma in Tanzania, Pastor Lou Geense told the Stouffville Sun-Tribune, “We want to find other communities that would do the same thing that Stouffville is doing.”
The pastor of EastRidge Evangelical Missionary Church was among people from 13 churches who built Igoma’s first medical clinic in 1998.
In the summer of 2003, the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville adopted Igoma as a partnership town. A doctor was hired for the clinic shortly after. Medicines and equipment have been sent, along with volunteers from Stouffville on subsequent trips. It is the only medical clinic for Igoma’s 40,000 inhabitants.
The clinic has now developed to the point where it is run by people in the village.
That means Markham nurse Glenna Cummins-Peterson, who went to Igoma in 2003, will be able to devote time to giving basic health instruction to people in neighbouring villages. She returned to Markham in June 2006 to marry fellow missionary John Peterson, whom she met in Africa. The couple is planning to return to Tanzania sometime in February.
During the most recent fact-finding trip earlier this month, committee chairperson Peter Neufeld and Pastor Geense were assessing how best to bring clean water to the village. They were accompanied on the trip by nine others, eight from Stouffville and one from Winnipeg. Pastor Geense was accompanied by wife Naomi and son Chad, who is 26.
Municipal water will eventually reach the village with water piped in from Lake Victoria, but that may be several years away and would cost three times as much as water does now, Pastor Geense said. The lake water, however, harbours parasites and water-borne diseases.
The alternative is to drill a deep well for the village.
Renovations are also required at the clinic to improve the ventilation system in the laboratory area.
The partnership purchased 500 mosquito nets for the villagers and put up 100 wile the team was in Igoma. The rest will be distributed by the locals.
Another 1,500 nets were to be distributed early in the new year.
The funds for the nets, which drastically reduce malaria, were raised through this year’s Stouffville Igoma Project banquet. Malaria is the No. 1 killer in Tanzania, with AIDS/HIV close behind.
The project also supports a tuition aid program for nurses and vocational students.
The Stouffville Igoma Project is looking for support from residents, since it needs to raise more funds for the clinic renovation and to support the clean water initiative.
To donate or for more information, call the Whitchurch-Stouffville Chamber of Commerce at 905-642-4227 or EastRidge Evangelical Missionary Church at 905-640-3911, ext 42.
By Hannelore Volpe
Staff Writer, Stouffville Sun-Tribune