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Iqalummiut raise funds for Malawi

Stephanie McDonald
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 13, 2007

IQALUIT - In less than a month, Claire Kennedy plans to board a plane, bound for Malawi in southern Africa, a country she has never been to, but one that she has already devoted a lot of time and talent towards.

Owner of DJ Sensations and DJ Specialties, Kennedy has spent months organizing fundraisers in Iqaluit and Ontario, raising money for the construction of drinking wells and to pay for orphans' school fees in Malawi.

So far she has collected between $11,000 to $12,000 within Iqaluit, and $22,000 altogether.

The trip was conceived this spring when Kennedy's mother called her to say she was thinking about travelling to Malawi.

"She was more or less asking if she could go," Kennedy said.

Her mom was planning on travelling with a friend and the friend's cousin, Louise Roy, a veteran traveller in the area who returns each year to do mission work.

"Since I was young, I always wanted to go to Africa," Kennedy said.

She said she has also been interested in doing overseas mission work for years, and saw this as her opportunity to get involved.

Over 17 days in Malawi, Kennedy will travel with her mother, Roy, and a Catholic priest in Malawi, scouting for locations for three wells, which will be built in the near future. Kennedy's travelling partners have already funded seven wells.

Each well costs approximately $5,000, and each will bear a plaque recognizing the generous donations from Iqaluit, the Ottawa Valley, and from Deep River, Ont., where Kennedy's mom lives.

The remainder of the money will go towards sponsoring orphan school children in primary and secondary schools.

Each student has different needs, and sponsorship ranges from $90 to over $800. The money will go towards tuition, books, uniforms, clothing, and personal needs.

"Education is the key out of poverty," Kennedy said. "You have to educate the people for them to go out and help their own people."

Kennedy's group will focus on the older students, enabling them to complete school and return to their communities with new skills.

Especially important is encouraging those who have an interest in working as a health professional, as it is estimated that nine per cent of the country's 10.6 million residents are infected with HIV, according to UNICEF.

Malawi is one of the countries most devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Kennedy's fundraising efforts have included a car wash, a bake sale, and sales of recipe books, chocolate and jewelry.

Donations have come in from Iqaluit schools and churches, the women's auxiliary at the Legion, the Catholic Women's Association, the Elks Lodge and individuals.

She has recently returned from a fundraising pig roast in Deep River, Ont., where she contributed Nunavut char and caribou.

Kennedy has got all her required shots, bought lightweight clothing, a hat, and a bug net. She now has a few final fundraisers to host before flying out of town on Sept. 10.