BY LAURA TESTER
Rick Wiebe has seen severe drought and dilapidated toilets, vegetable gardens and school improvements.
No matter the challenge or reward that awaits in rural Kenya, he’s keen to take part.
The longtime Central Alberta businessman is sharing his expertise with A Better World Canada, the volunteer-run organization created and governed by Lacombe’s College Heights Adventist Church.
Wiebe was introduced to Eric Rajah, co-founder of A Better World, many years ago when Rajah sold him some computers. Around 2007, Wiebe became a financial sponsor of ABW projects.
In October 2010, he travelled to Kenya for the first time and since then has visited twice a year. Wiebe oversees four projects, including one in the northwestern community of Lodwar where two water wells and part of a school have been built.
The region once had long grasses, but with such dryness, it’s hard for the herdspeople known as Turkana to have cattle, Wiebe said.
It’s tough for these men, without an education, to find jobs in Lodwar.
Wiebe knows that with schools, children will be able to grow up and sustain themselves better.
Self-sustainability is what A Better World wholeheartedly believes in. This philosophy has made Wiebe a strong supporter of the international development aid organization.
Wiebe recalls visiting the Segera Mission Foundation in North Central Kenya in May 2014
— another project where he’s overseeing three new classrooms and a computer room being built. He conducted leadership training and later on, four participants showed him the decrepit outhouse within the community itself.
Wiebe reminded one man that he had the financial means to partner with others on building new toilets. After all, he sold pop in the community, so he wasn’t poor.
“It was the highlight of my trip because a lightbulb went off,” said Wiebe. “All four of them said, ‘why can’t we help ourselves.'”
Kenyans in general can get stuck with their thinking because they’ve been used to people from the Western world coming over and bailing them out, Wiebe added.
“We partner with them, but the underlying message is that you have to learn how to do this on your own.”
In the case of Segera, a vegetable garden is being grown, thanks in part to a fellow Kenyan donating a tractor.
Wiebe sponsors a school project in Dabaa within the Shaba National Reserve in northeastern Kenya. Teachers’ housing and two classrooms were built at the school. Several partners, including World Vision, have helped expand the school over a three-year period.
Children used to learn under a tree and over a short time period, the school has become a real learning place. As the headmaster told Wiebe, “it’s a miracle.”
Wiebe has invested money into these three projects. He’s also overseeing a fourth project where three classrooms are being built at a primary school, plus a kitchen and dining hall at the girl’s secondary school. Both are in Male, a small community in Central Kenya.
Wiebe’s desire to help in Kenya comes from a long history of giving back. His parents come from a Christian Mennonite background and that society as a whole are generous givers.
“You look at the Mennonite relief fund and it’s probably one of the biggest in the world.”
Wiebe runs the Carpet Colour Centre Carpet One Floor and Home in Red Deer with his son Andrew, and together with other staff, are avid community supporters.
“We have this opportunity, when you do well in business, to help locally, in our country and in other countries,” said Wiebe. “And when you go on a trip with A Better World and your life will change.”