Okanagan College event focuses on local community impact on global change

Kelowna resident Janine Roth was raised to recognize that not everyone in the world is as fortunate as most Canadians, and that time truly is the most valuable thing we can all give.

The 29-year-old Okanagan College International Development diploma student has travelled and contributed to international development aid efforts in Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, Israel, Venezuela, Mexico, and China.

“I wanted to go to these countries to hear and see for myself what those communities needed,” says Roth. “It’s important to focus our development efforts on what the people in those countries tell us they need, versus us going in with our own ideas of what we think they need.”

On April 8 the public is invited to explore the issues developing countries face, and hear from the individuals and organizations in our Okanagan community who are helping transform the lives of those in need.

The inaugural International Development Night will be hosted at Okanagan College’s Kelowna Campus in the Student Services Building from 4 to 6 p.m.

Roth travelled to Haiti when she was 19 to volunteer with school children in the community and orphanages, and returned there in 2011 with a group from her Kelowna church to provide further aid and support. It comes as no surprise that prior to pursuing post-secondary education, Roth was named “2010 Volunteer of the Year” by her then-employer, Kelowna-based Disney Interactive Studios Canada.

“When I worked at Disney, they genuinely fostered my interest in international aid,” adds Roth. “I had the chance to learn from their Corporate Citizenship Program Director, whom I still consider a mentor, and I realized I could turn my love of volunteering into a meaningful career by honing in my skills with some education.”

In winning the volunteerism award through the company, she was awarded a humanitarian aid trip to Kenya affording her the chance to tour and contribute to the various projects with Free the Children that Disney supports. Then, while she was in Haiti, Disney offered her the opportunity to contribute to their ongoing support projects by reviewing and reporting on how the monies were being spent, their impact, and discussing future aid in the community.

“Many of us travel and like to think we are internationally oriented,” says Dr. Rosalind Warner, Chair of Okanagan College’s Political Science Department. “Yet few of us think beyond our day-to-day about how our actions can aid sustainability and development.

“We wanted to create this forum for the community to connect with students, and also to help the general public see all the exciting goodwill projects initiated here that make a real impact in the world.”

The interactive community focused event includes information booths, mini guest lectures (room A125), networking, live music, and light refreshments. It is an opportunity to speak directly with local non-profit organizations about their aid efforts and expand the awareness of the need for individuals to contribute to developing countries beyond our everyday.

A dozen local non-profit organizations will be in attendance: Hope for the Nations, Partners in the Horn of Africa, Kelowna Zambia Partnership, Developing World Connections, Global Citizen Kelowna, Amnesty International Group 161 Kelowna, Gifts to Grandmothers, World Neighbours Canada, Inter-cultural Women’s Educational Network, Bicycles for Humanity, Potters Without Borders, Little Women for Little Women in Afghanistan.

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