In The Community
MHI encourages employees to become stewards within the environments in which they work and live. As MHI’s operations are global, and often within developing countries, employees find opportunity to contribute to community development or enhance the day-to-day lives of select individuals. Below are examples of how MHI’s home-office and field employees work together to develop relationships and support worthwhile community programs.
MHI is currently providing consulting services for a loss reduction audit for the Energy, Water, and Sanitation Authority (EWSA) in Rwanda. In continuing MHI’s effort to support the local communities in which we work, an orphanage in Kigali was identified by MHI’s fundraising committee as the destination for this year’s humanitarian effort.
The Sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta is both an orphanage and a seniors residence in Kigali, Rwanda. The facility serves the needs of homeless children and elderly citizens by providing them with shelter, food, and other necessities. In respect to Mother Teresa’s vision, the center’s purpose is to serve the poorest of the poor.
MHI Contractors Raymond Noel and Rick Horocholyn, along with other members of the project team, acted on behalf of both MHI and Manitoba Hydro’s Transmission System Operations Division in supporting this initiative.
Raymond describes the facility as having a room with about 20 cribs for babies, space for children and older youth, a senior ladies dormitory, and a senior mens dormitory. During MHI’s visit the facility was operating at about 50% of its total capacity, which is around 125 people.
In appreciation of the fast-approaching Christmas season, gifts and hampers full of trucks, dolls, books, candy, and other toys were distributed to the children. Raymond recalls the receipt of gifts to be “greatly appreciated by the children”.
Moreover, during MHI’s humanitarian efforts, focus is split between novelty gifts for children and items of practical use. It was made known to MHI that the orphanage was in essential need of wheelchairs; as a result MHI purchased and delivered two wheelchairs to the center for immediate use.
Every year MHI contributes to the livelihood of the surrounding community in which we work, and every year members of that community are thankful for our support. Through each act, and every kindness, we birth our future.
Every year, MHI strives to contribute to the lives of the developing communities in which we work while abroad on projects. MHI is currently working in Monrovia, Liberia on a 5-year management contract with Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC) and as such it seemed a perfect choice for this year’s hamper donation; a donation that is fundraised through all MHI staff both abroad and at home in Manitoba.
On December 17th, equipped with bags of rice, a fresh bale of children’s clothing, soccer balls, and food, Kelly Smith and Bill Jasura, both MHI contractors, set off on their journey to a local orphanage. “When we arrived the children all lined up and sang a traditional song as an expression of their gratitude for our gifts. After visiting with them for a while, we thanked the orphanage for their hospitality and headed back to the truck. As Bill and I were leaving, swarms of children came to wave and say goodbye,” Kelly recalls.
In the week prior to Dec 24, Kelly spoke to some of the ladies from LEC, asking them what the food essentials required to run a household were. Armed with a new shopping list, her and Bill scoured the local markets to find bags of rice (800 lbs), salt, sugar, powered soup mixes, soap, spoons, cooking oil, cups, bowls, and over 100 pieces of every size of pail, bucket and tub. This allowed them to put together 30 or so gift packages that were to be distributed between two small communities outside of the city of Monrovia. The communities were traditional, consisting of huts formed from mud; the locals earned a living off of selling fish caught from a nearby river and selling them to passing cars.
It was on Christmas Eve that they decided to distribute the final hampers to the community. The surprise of these gifts to each household was accepted with great joy and gratitude. “I believe every lady came to me to express their thanks. I knew that we had met the task given to me by Manitoba Hydro International to spread some goodwill and charity to people in need,” commented Kelly.
In lieu of sending out traditional holiday cards, a donation was made to the Mama Makeka House of Hope in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a non-profit organization that aims to support initiatives related to health, education, and community empowerment for underserved communities. The donation will go towards MMH Hope’s “Kajiji Entrepreneurship Development Program”, which includes creating a local microfinance institution, teaching local men and women entrepreneurial skills, developing clean water projects, equipping seven health care centres, and starting a small farming project. MHI is proud to be able to support this initiative. For more information on MMH Hope, please visit www.mmhhope.org
This past January, a member of the MHI team travelled to Thailand to work with local orphanages. Sharon Klassen, along with five other individuals including her husband, spent three weeks in Chonburi, Thailand as part of a Mennonite Brethren Mission and Service International program.
During the mission, Klassen was able to take part in a “Kids Club” program as well as a “Teen English Camp”. The programs focused on teaching English to local youth through activities such as song and story translation and language games. The programs were offered to children at an HIV/AIDS orphanage, students from a local school, and low income neighbourhood youth. Members of the mission also participated in service days which included painting, floor finishing, awning repairs, and even hair styling.
Klassen says she took part in the program because of the opportunity for international travel it provided. However, she got much more out of the trip than just a vacation. Klassen describes it as a life-changing experience that made her truly appreciate the opportunities that we as Canadians have been given. She notes her favourite part of the trip as the Thai people, who were genuinely happy and grateful regardless of their situation. When asked if she has any words of wisdom for others considering embarking on a similar endeavour, Klassen replied “I encourage people to take advantage of volunteer opportunities, whether they are international or right at home, because they provide amazing experiences and a sense of self accomplishment”. She looks forward to someday returning to Thailand.
For the third consecutive year, employees decided to donate hampers to families in need. On behalf of employees, MHI collected donations to put towards hampers containing household essentials and toys. Hampers were delivered to 40 impoverished individuals in the Songo region of Mozambique.
MHI has been involved in a Technical Assistance and Monitoring Systems project with Hidroeléctrica de Cahora Bassa (HCB) in Mozambique since 2007. MHI’s resident project manager, Robert Dandenault, and family coordinated the effort within the local community.
“The first thing I did was ask HCB for some help. The HCB Department of Image and Communication contacted the local government social services representative on our behalf to ask for a listing of the most impoverished individuals living near Songo. We ended up with a list that included 13 men and 27 women. One woman is caring for 3 orphaned children and one man is disabled and gets around on a platform made of sticks with wheels,” said Robert.
Based on discussions with the locals, Robert and his family spent numerous hours coordinating, assembling, and distributing the hampers which included items such as sugar, maize flour, salt, cooking oil, rice, juice powder, cookies, t-shirts, hats, capulanas, pots, soap, plastic tubs, and toys for children. As an added Canadian touch, Robert’s 14-year old daughter Natalie made paper snowflakes for each hamper recipient.
On December 21, 2010, the trucks were loaded and the hampers were delivered to the village of Maroeira.
“We were told how much they appreciated being chosen and we expressed how happy we were to meet them and to be able to give the gifts on behalf of Manitoba Hydro International and its employees. For us, one of the most touching things was when a man came to the truck to get a snowflake from Natalie that had been missed in his hamper. Natalie had been concerned while making the snowflakes that the villagers may find these small gifts useless or meaningless but this was not the case and they truly appreciated it,” Robert recalls.
Every year this project continues to grow with more interest and donations from generous employees. This will certainly be a holiday tradition to uphold for many years to come.
In lieu of sending traditional holiday cards, MHI donated to the Benin Orphanage Foundation for construction of a new facility for over 60 children. The new orphanage is on a desirable parcel of land providing protection from flooding. The new orphanage will have electricity, running water, bunk beds, mosquito nets, cement walls, a tin roof, windows, doors, and a garden to grow vegetables. MHI is proud to be part of this worthwhile cause. For more information on the Benin Orphanage Foundation, please visit www.beninorphanage.com.
In lieu of an office gift exchange, MHI, W.I.R.E. Services, Manitoba Hydro Telecom Services and the Manitoba HVDC Research Centre donated monies to fund hampers to be delivered to impoverished families in southern Tanzania.
“In the end we made 75 hampers which contained rice, sugar, tea, cooking oil, cookies, candy, mosquito nets (for the prevention of malaria), pillows, blankets, soap, skipping ropes, and 5000 shillings (Tanzania’s local currency). Soccer balls were also given to each school village” says Marcie Lariviere.
“This is our third Christmas in Tanzania, and we are very pleased to be able to spread some holiday joy to the local community.” notes Dwight Ullberg.
After a week of gathering the items, the hampers were ready to be delivered to the chosen three villages.
“The first village was quite close to Mtwara” said Gladys Ullberg, “I was choking down the tears; these women were so grateful and they had not even looked into the hamper yet. After each hamper was passed out the women would give Marcie and I a traditional handshake with a heart throbbing thank you (Asante Sana), followed by singing and dancing. One woman tapped her heart many times to show the group how happy they had made her heart.”
In lieu of sending traditional Holiday cards, MHI donated mosquito nets to be distributed within Sub-Saharan Africa for the prevention of malaria - one of the largest killers of children in Africa.
Using the monetary donations received from the MHI family, Don Rochon purchased food to make hampers for three families and purchased gifts for 15 children in these three families. Wearing jolly red hats, a group of team members and their wives went to distribute these hampers and gifts on December 19, 2008.
Lloyd Hickling (Director of Commercial Operations, EdTL) had this to share in regards to the experience: "Santa Don did all the planning and shopping himself. This was a really fantastic experience to be involved with. My wife Linda and I were pleased to be a small part of the event."
MHI would like to express thanks to those who helped in contributing to this and other great causes.