Scouting trio fundraise for charitable trip to Namibia

LAUREEN SWEENEY, Westmount Independent
Published: Thursday, March 26, 2008

Three members of Westmount Scouting know that after this summer their lives will be changed forever.

Rovers Brian Bevand and Kendra Girdwood, 20, and Venturer Nathan Butcher, 17, will forsake summer job opportunities to spend six weeks building ventilated pit latrines for pre-schools in Namibia, Africa, to improve sanitation and provide disease vector control.

“I think it will be an amazing development experience,” said Butcher, a student at Vanier College. “It will be good for the people there and lifechanging for us.”

“It will definitely change all of our lives,” Girdwood agreed.

The trio is part of a contingent of 28 Venturers, Rovers and trip leaders from Montreal who will take part in an international development project in cooperation with the Namibian Scouts Association. The group will work in the area around Okahandja, a town just north of Windhoek, the capital, where some 18 preschools are located.

Namibia, the former SouthWest Africa, is located on the Atlantic Ocean in what is considered to be a safe country. Its government does not provide financial assistance to pre-schools, however. As a result, many are located in shacks privately built and offering only bare essentials.

The group has also been asked to do repairs and other work such as the installation of windows. The design of Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) latrines consists of mesh-covered vent pipes that prevent flies and other disease- carriers from exiting the latrine. Scouts in Africa have been building these for many years.

“It’s going to feel real good to help in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Girdwood said. She’s taking a six-week leave of absence from a job in animal care.

While Westmount Rovers and Venturers have a history of participating in similar Scouting development projects, this is the first one in about five years. “I’ve heard a lot about them,” Bevand said, “and I’ve been keeping an eye out for one in which I could go over and make a difference.”

While Scouting’s World Brotherhood Fund will cover the cost of the building materials, he said, the Montreal contingent is currently fundraising to defray the costs of their transportation and food, budgeted at $3,500 each. Whatever they can’t raise will have to come from their own pockets. Along with the sale of T-shirts, hoodies, badges and other memorabilia, the three local Scouts will hold a Namibian dinner, April 25, at Espace DK, 4662 Notre Dame St. (514.484.6797 or 514.717.7248).

The project has also involved Beavers, Cubs and Scouts from the 2nd Westmount Scout Group at Mountainview United Church who have donated items to fill more than 20 shoeboxes as gifts.

“Our understanding is that our group will be able to stay in an old bunkhouse on
a farm,” Bevand said. While it will be winter there, temperatures will swing from hot days to zero-degree temperatures at night. Others participants include those from Scouting groups in Hudson, Laval and Dorval.