January 27, 2010

Ken Graham honoured for humanitarian dedication

As published in The Erin Advocate

When Ken Graham distributes bedkits for Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW), he is bringing more than useful necessities to kids in developing countries. He is delivering a message from caring Canadians.

"It's a gift of love," he said, after receiving a Paul Harris Award from the Erin Rotary Club last Wednesday. "It is important that they realize that someone cares about them."

A farmer from the Coningsby area west of Erin village, Graham has made 16 trips abroad for SCAW. He has helped deliver 78,000 kits that include a mat or mattress, pillow, sheet, blanket, towel, mosquito net where needed, school supplies and clothes.

Each donation of $35 provides one kit, with 100 per cent going to benefit the child (not to administration). That direct link was one of the things that inspired Graham and his late wife Ann to get involved, after hearing the founder of SCAW, Murray Dryden, speak at the Hillsburgh Christian Church (now the Century Church Theatre).

Since 1970, the Toronto-based group has raised more than $20 million, and recently provided its one-millionth bed kit. Countries benefiting include Bangladesh, India, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Togo, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Philippines. Find out more at www.scaw.org.

Graham was at the Rotary Club's annual Charter Night dinner meeting to accept a $1,000 donation from Rotary to SCAW. He was surprised to see his children and grandchildren arriving for the event, and when President Jim Miller announced the award he seemed quite overwhelmed.

"I feel like I'm doing what God wants me to do," he said. "It is an honour – thanks so much."

In a SCAW newsletter, Graham wrote about meeting parents in the Philippines in 2007: "Most parents hope their child will be fortunate enough to go to college. This is a good indication that providing a bedkit that contains things for a good night’s sleep, suitable clothing for school, and school supplies is helping not only the child but the whole family."

Graham is also known for his work with the Erin Agricultural Society, and as a deacon at Ospringe Presbyterian Church.

The certificate for the Harris award (named for a founder of Rotary) cites Graham's promotion of "better understanding and friendly relations between peoples of the world." The award recognizes a shared purpose with the humanitarian mission of the Rotary Foundation. Mayor Rod Finnie was on hand for the presentation at David's Restaurant, and there were letters of congratulation from MPP Ted Arnott and MP Mike Chong.

Rotary Clubs often support Sleeping Children, since both organizations share a dedication to helping people in need, regardless of race or religion. The Erin club is celebrating its 12th year of service, and is looking for new members. Like many groups, Rotary International has established a Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund. For more details: www.rotary.org.

As a footnote to my recent column about the Lacan Kwite bead makers of Northern Uganda, I got a message from Mike Simons of Orton, whose wife Miyeko supports similar enterprises in Africa. Her clothing and gift store Noinkee's, at 168B Broadway in Orangeville, carries Mined ReCreations handbags made from recycled fabrics, which provides education funding for young women in South Africa. They also sell woolen animal toy creations from the Kenana Knitters, a women's co-op in Kenya. For more details: www.noinkees.com.