Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett presents a new sink to three of the kids at the Divine Hands Orphanage in Port au Prince

Reporters’ notebooks: dateline 2014 Angela Cowan

Meeting inspiring and dedicated people on the West Shore

When I first joined the ranks of the News Gazette in the summer as a temp, I was excited to broaden my writing experience and gain some stability after freelancing for several years.

When that temporary position swiftly turned permanent, I began to realize the opportunity I had been given to help spread awareness about some wonderful initiatives in the community, and meet the inspiring people leading the way.

One of my very first assignments was talking to Susan Kerr of the B.C. Children’s Cancer Parents’ Association, as she and Dave Saunders accepted a $5,000 donation from Coast Capital Savings.

Susan’s own son had gone through cancer at a young age, and talking to her about her countless hours of work left me emotional and speechless.

I’ve since had the good fortune to speak to other moms and families who have benefitted from Susan’s impassioned efforts, and every one of them have said, in one form or another, “She’s an angel.” From my experiences with her, I wholeheartedly agree.

Several months later, as the weather turned and the cold started to creep in, I wanted to do a story on the local animal shelters and the challenges they face.

Pam Saddler co-founded Broken Promises Rescue three years ago with a focus on helping animals that had been abandoned, were difficult to adopt or had medical issues. Broken Promises quickly became known as the “last chance” for animals from all over B.C.

Pam spends nearly every waking hour fundraising, arranging veterinary care, flying animals in from high-kill shelters around the province and finding foster and “forever homes” for her charges.

The time and effort Pam puts in to help these creatures who have no voice of their own is amazing. People like her who dedicate their lives to helping our less fortunate furry friends deserve much more recognition than they receive.

One of the most recent impactful meetings I had was when Bruce Brown, a retired staff sergeant with West Shore RCMP, came into the office to share dozens of photos from a recent humanitarian trip to Haiti.

He, along with Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett and several other West Shore residents, have started a years-long process to overhaul the Divine Hands Orphanage in Port au Prince.

As picture after picture flashed by, Bruce told me how these kids had no electricity, no security and practically no food when the group arrived. With thousands of dollars donated from West Shore communities, the volunteers were able to bring in power, buy and install a fridge and stove, build a dining room, construct dorms for the teenage boys and replenish the larders with hundreds of pounds of flour, sugar, beans, rice and other staples.

The pictures were both heartbreaking and uplifting. I lingered on one photo longer than the others: a smiling little boy on crutches. Not only did he lose both parents in the 2010 earthquake, Bruce tells me in his soft-spoken voice, he lost his left leg just above the knee and most of his right foot.

It’s impossible for five people to fix the whole country, but there are 53 kids who now have refrigeration, an actual roof over their heads when they study and a safe place to call home.

I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to hear these stories and do my small part to help several very worthwhile projects. This job often drives home the awareness that there is nothing too small or ordinary to be grateful for, and I’m looking forward to the new year and its promise of more inspiration to come.

acowan@goldstreamgazette.com