Just when you think Stouffville’s sense of community may be lost in the subdivisions and plazas rising up at all corners, your faith can be renewed.
Trust me. It happened in a church gymnasium Friday night.
What appeared to be another invite to the rubber-chicken circuit was much more. If not life-altering, definitely spiritually uplifting.
The Stouffville Igoma Partnership is that spirit.
Since 2003, teams of local volunteers have raised money and even travelled to Igoma, in the African nation of Tanzania, to work on health care and school projects. They’ve put up buildings, renovated others and installed new hope in residents.
Kids are going to school. Lives are being extended. People are smiling who otherwise wouldn’t, on both continents. All because of this partnership out of some place called Stouffville.
“Stouffville is better known over there than it is to some people in Markham,” SIP chairperson Peter Neufeld told the 300 people at the charity’s annual fundraising dinner at EastRidge Evangelical Missionary Church on Tenth Line Friday.
The affable Ballantrae man, in his African togs, received a standing ovation.
The dinner raised an astounding $40,000, enough to cover much of the charity’s budget for the next year. That’s big money to an organization that spends only five per cent of what it takes in on administration costs.
The crowd covered several walks of Whitchurch-Stouffville life and beyond. Churches, the chamber of commerce, businesses, town council and service clubs were all represented.
So were the folks who sponsor children or pay their own way to travel to Igoma to work under the African sun every February.
More SIPs could be on deck. Other communities are interested in the template created by the partnership.
All from a place called Stouffville.
By Jim Mason
Editor, Stouffville Sun-Tribune
A small-town charity is looking for big-time support from residents.
The Stouffville Igoma Partnership is holding its fourth annual dinner and auction Oct. 17 and is looking for donations of items for the silent auction. Cash donations are also welcome.
The charity has provided funding for several facilities in Igoma, Tanzania, including the community’s first medical clinic. The clinic’s staff of 20 serves the 40,000 residents.
“This is a huge accomplishment there,” SIP chairperson Peter Neufeld said. “The Urafiki Health Clinic is now a central part of the village of Igoma.”
Most recently, a mother-child infant care facility was completed earlier this year, which provide infant vaccinations, and boasts a modern lab for treatment. The facility’s first public nurse is currently being trained.
SIP has also created a tuition aid program, which allows 10 students annual to attend a vocational school, and 20 students annually to attend secondary school to further their education.
Local residents pay their own way to travel to Igoma to work on the facilities annually.
“We have found that what we need to do, more than anything else, is first meet the health care needs of these people. Secondly, they need education,” Mr. Neufeld said. “Their lack of education is slowing the growth there.”
SIP has also distributed more than 3,000 mosquito nets to residents since its inception, and plans to distribute 1,500 more in 2009, all in hopes of combating Malaria.
The dinner and auction have helped fund many of the projects SIP has taken on in the past, and Mr. Neufeld said residents should be proud of themselves.
This year, they’re looking to match last year’s monies raised of $50,000.
“We have come a long way in five short years, but there is still much more that needs to be done,” he said.
The registered charity does not pay its volunteers and administrative costs are less than five per cent, so “basically every cent gets there,” he said.
Tickets for the dinner and auction are $50.
The event begins at 6 p.m. at EastRidge church, 12485 Tenth Line.
For tickets, all the Whitchurch-Stouffville Chamber of Commerce at 905-642-4227. For silent auction items and monetary donations, call Mr. Neufeld at 905-640-1771.
By Alyshia Higgins