Updates: News & Announcements > No bridge too far for Hat humanitarians


No bridge too far for Hat humanitarians

by Tenille Tellman, ttellman@medicinehatnews.com

Following work on one humanitarian initiative in Africa, a local couple is spearheading a fundraising campaign to give more to a needy community than their visits ever could. Deanna Siemens and her husband Ken, a local dentist at River Centre Dental, want to raise $15,000 to build a bridge in Massinga, Mozambique, Africa so locals can safely cross a river.

In June 2009, the couple went to Mozambique with a medical and dental team from the University of Saskatchewan as part of work with the Training for Health Renewal Program, which trains local community workers to educate and treat the 250,000 locals regarding HIV/AIDS, malaria, malnutrition and other major diseases.

While there, they travelled to a remote area where 5,000 people have no access to medical care or services when a river swells twice a year. In the dry season, children and even pregnant women are forced to scale across a narrow log to access urgently needed health care.

Construction of a bridge has begun but it needs to be finished. Deanna wants to see it ready for the next rainy season, which is expected to occur in January.

"I just thought 'I am going to go home and I am going to get that bridge built'," said the retired nurse, who has re-trained as a dental assistant. "These people have zero means of raising their own money and if we can get the bridge built, that will save up to 5,000 people."

The Basso Bridge would not only help locals walk across the river year-round, but trucks could be used to transport individuals who are too ill to make it on their own, she added.

There have been a number of noted successes in the area - including big steps from their minister of health - but there is still a great deal of need in the country, said Deanna.

"They're going the right direction, they just need a little bit of help, I guess."

The couple have been trying to do more projects overseas, providing assistance with their medical and dental skills "but you only impact a few people," said Deanna.

Now she is working full-time and donating all of her wages until the bridge is built. A co-author of popular seller The Big Cook, she is also donating her personal proceeds from book sales to the project.

They are also reaching out possible donors in the community by email and Facebook. A secure server is in place for people to go online to www.canadahelps.org. Donors can type "Saskatchewan Council for International Co-operation" in the "I want to give to" box. When the prompts then ask for fund designations, donors can select Mozambique Building Fund and indicate in the message box that it is for the Basso Bridge Project.

All donations for the bridge are eligible for a Canadian Tax Receipt, she added, and they have been assured 100 per cent of their donations will go directly towards building the bridge.

© 2009 Medicine Hat News. All rights reserved.

Medicine Hat News Life-Friday, Friday, August 14, 2009, p. B2 .


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