These are the children who have been rescued and now live at Victory County School in Suswa. Recently some facebook friends and ourselves were able to send money for uniforms for all 14 children, it is a requirement in Kenya to wear school uniforms. (Elaine Pederson photo)

Sarah Simpson column: Ditching the kids for a good cause this Christmas

One couple’s holiday plans include relief trip to Suswa, Kenya

A friend of mine posted on Facebook the other day that she had a two-year-old available for free to a good home.

Calm down. Of course we all know she was joking, but what parent hasn’t dreamed of taking off at least once or twice?

Duncan residents Elaine and Peter Pederson are all in, however. They’re committed to ditching their kids this Christmas. Don’t panic, their kids totally know. In fact, Elaine told me her kids actually gave them their blessing. The perks of having older children, I guess? I wouldn’t know. I’ve still got one in diapers.

The irony, if you can call it that, is that where they’re going is full of children.

The Pedersons are headed to Suswa, Kenya to help create a better life for roughly a dozen or so kids in the short-term and hopefully many more in the long-term, and a handful of adults that desperately need their help.

“Years ago we had on our hearts that we should go to Africa one day and help,” Elaine explained. “We’d been on a mission trip to Mexico and that kind of opened our hearts up to the plight of children in other parts of the world. Not until recently, until our last child turned 18, were we able to go.”

Twice in the last year-and-a-half the psychiatric nurse and Peter, her counsellor husband, have visited Suswa.

“What we saw really convinced us that we needed to be helping more in third world countries. We believe God wanted us to go.”

The duo isn’t going as part of a larger church mission, however. They are doing it on their own.

In January, they visited a Suswa village at the top of an active volcano in the Great Rift Valley in Kenya.

“We met a couple that have been working on their own helping children that are orphans or destitute and taking care of them and trying to educate them,” Elaine said.

HIV/AIDS is prolific in the area and has left many children to fend for themselves due to resulting deaths or poverty.

Years ago, a North American team built a school there but abandoned it when the locals wouldn’t hand over control.

At one time the school provided for upwards of 200 children. Only 14 remain, as many had to be sent away due to lack of vital resources, after the relief team pulled out.

“There’s no water, you have to have it trucked in,” Elaine said.

With the blessing of their now-grown children, the Pedersons are headed to Suswa on Christmas Day with 14 backpacks full of clothing, shoes and school supplies for the youth that need them now.

The trip will last a month, but the long-term goal is to spend half of every year there.

“We are going to invest some of our own money to begin building a dormitory,” Elaine said. “This is to help the school become self sufficient.”

A cistern is definitely on the couple’s to-do list. A registered nurse, Pederson hopes to open a clinic there as well and Peter hopes to counsel some of the children who’ve been traumatized.

Elaine said her family has done a lot to try to help those in need closer to home but believes they can make a bigger impact overseas.

“We just feel compared to Canada, there are places that have nothing. Even the poorest people among us [in Canada] are still very rich compared to there,” she explained.

“Sometimes people come from the other side of the world to help us here, and some people go from this side of the world to the other side to help and it just depends on what the burden is on your heart.”

Their current hope is to raise awareness of the need of the children in Suswa. Email suswas.diamonds@gmail.com to learn more. To see the Pederson’s blog, click here.



sarah.simpson@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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These children are drinking from an animal watering hole. There is no water in Suswa as it is on an active volcanoe and when you drill down into the earth there is only fire. Water has to be trucked in and stored in containers, if people have the money to pay for water, most do not. (Elaine Pederson photo)

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