Stratford and Area World Aid has found a partner to continue its humanitarian work in Third World countries.
The local charity put out a call for new members last year, when it looked like the group would have to disband due to an aging and declining leadership base.
That changed, however, in January, when SAWA members unanimously voted to amalgamate with the Ethiopian well project being spearheaded by Sue Orr, Ellen Sparling, and Gezahgn Wordofa.
The three Stratford residents visited the village of Dukam – Wordofa’s home village – in the region of Dalota earlier this year to observe the living conditions first-hand.
The people there, despite a complete lack of clean water for drinking and bathing, were warm, welcoming, spiritual, and resilient, the group reported, and did not complain or ask for charity.
Dukam is a village of 3,000 that sits atop rocky terrain. Reports show tapping into a sustainable source of water will require drilling 300 meters deep.
Despite the daunting prospect, “We are going to continue to do fundraisers here in Stratford,” Orr says. “We promised these people water and we are not going to give up.”
Stratford and Area World Aid began in 1974 as an outgrowth of the Miles for Millions walkathons first held in Stratford in the late 1960s to raise money to fight Third World hunger and poverty.
For the next 39 years, SAWA members met monthly to hear presentations from volunteers working on aid projects and to organize fundraisers like the peat moss sales, starvation dinners, and the ongoing pop can and scrap metal collection.
The group’s two largest money makers were its old-fashioned Christmas concert and spring rummage sale, the last of which was held this past February.
SAWA is estimated to have raised over $500,000 throughout the years for various projects., often supporting children. For many years, the group directed funds to an organization called Pueblito Canada, which helped establish a children’s village in Central America. One of the dwellings in the village was even named Casa Stratford to recognize the contributions the local community had made over the years.
Most recently, SAWA has supported Families for Children and Doctors Without Borders.
Under its new leadership structure, SAWA is governed by a seven-person board of directors consisting of both new and previous SAWA members.