Blessed to Be a Blessing - George in Lloydminster (CAN)

On Tuesday, Jan 17, Hands at Work Africa founder George Snyman commended the students of Lloydminster Comprehensive High School, on the border of Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada, on their commitment to adopt 50 children in Malawi.

Katie Ryan Photo
By Katie Ryan
Lloydminster Comprehensive High School students are giving children in Africa the gift of choice, according to the founder of Hands at Work Africa.
For two years, LCHS students have fundraised $9,000 to adopt 50 children in Malawi, in conjunction with the non-profit organization Hands at Work Africa, which works in vulnerable communities across sub-Saharan Africa.
And to commend their ongoing efforts and long-distance relationship with the African children, Hands at Work Africa founder George Snyman spoke with students Tuesday morning.
“When a school connects like this, they provide education, they provide basic health and they provide food security, and that allows the children to have choices in life. That’s so huge, it’s hard for us to even grasp the impact that a school like this can have on a whole community,” said Snyman, prior to his presentation to the student body.
In Canada for only three weeks, Snyman’s schedule includes a number of speaking engagements in Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Lloydminster. He said he chose to visit the school, as it’s produced four Hands at Work volunteers to date, including former LCHS student and teacher, Kristal Hoff, who spent two years in Africa with Hands at Work following her university graduation.
During the semester Hoff taught in 2010 at LCHS, she inspired students to think globally and support the international project. Though Hoff no longer teaches at LCHS, the Hands at Work project has evolved into an extracurricular project spearheaded by 15 to 20 students, who organize various fundraising events to continue to support the African children.
“It’s really neat to see that kids just want to do it on their own time. They’ve been flying with it, it’s pretty incredible,” said Hoff, who along with Snyman visited the school and later spoke with the Hands at Work club.
“I think in this city there is a lot going on – there’s a lot of bustling, there’s a lot of oil – I think it’s really important for our kids here to see beyond that and this is a great opportunity for them to do that.”
During his presentation, Snyman held the students’ attention with stories from his own personal experiences working with children in Africa, including the relationship he developed with a nine-year-old boy before the boy succumbed to AIDS. Snyman said he’s excited to see the connection the school has developed with the community in Malawi – “One of the most devastated communities by the HIV AIDS pandemic, where there is a high percentage of orphans in that village,” he said – and commended the example LCHS is setting with its commitment to help.
“We are very passionate about meeting with schools because we are trying to influence, especially the senior students, to say to them, ‘The fact that you have so many opportunities is amazing. Seize those opportunities and use them, but it’s really because you were born in the right country at the right time and you had the right parents – you had nothing to do with that, and that is putting the obligation on you,’” Snyman said. “Never become numb to the needs outside, you have been blessed so use that blessing to help others.
 “I would love to see that as they’ve adopted this community in Malawi, that it becomes a proud, rich history in the school and in 10 years time you know you are coming to a school that’s got a living, strong relationship with a community in Malawi,” he added.
In April, Hoff spent a week in the community LCHS is supporting and she said while the children know very little about North America, they know there’s a place called Lloydminster that actually cares about them.
“The hope that you are giving, just by raising this $9,000 a year, is huge,” she said during her presentation. “They can go to school, they can have a meal at that school and have adults that actually care about them, adults that aren’t saying ‘You don’t matter.’ You guys are doing that.
“You’re saying, ‘It’s not about me, it’s about a community in Malawi of extremely vulnerable kids,’ and you guys have done a huge thing already,” she added.
LCHS mathematics teacher and Hands at Work in Africa project advisor Crystal Scutt said she hopes Snyman’s visit will inspire more students to become involved.
“To be able to talk to someone who has personal experience, who has been there – it can be so detached and so far away to hear about another country – but to talk to someone who lives there, who lives it every day, just to get an idea of what that would be like is great,” she said.
“(Snyman’s) extremely inspirational and for our small group of kids that will be meeting with him at lunch, as well as our student body, it’s just an excellent experience.”
Fundraising efforts have been strong this school year, as LCHS students have raised close to their fundraising target of $9,000 already. Scutt said that when the club meets on Monday, upcoming projects will be discussed, with the hope of raising funds for next year and even for a future trip to Africa for a small, local team.