It began as a business venture for Katrine Palmer Winter and Ward Reddick when they went to Africa in 2008; but it was not long before they also became deeply involved in humanitarian work in that country.
This is not the first time for Katrine, who grew up in Little Fort, to be involved in this type of endeavor.
In 1993, after a trip to Nepal, which was part of a four month trip to Asia, Katrine started working with women cooperatives there. She imported their products for resale, which consisted of sweaters, handicrafts and textiles; a project that she continued for about five years.
Katrine’s passion for assisting woman in distant countries also took her to Sri Lanka where she spent approximately eight months. She started a small bakery business there; and hired local women who had been affected by the Tsunami in 2006.
In the North Thompson Valley Katrine is known for ’Decorative Animal Tracks’, a business that she eventually sold to people in Nova Scotia. But she was determined to fulfill a long standing dream, and decided to start the business again, this time in Africa.
“My Mom had that dream many years ago,” said Katrine, “She could not follow it, but in the fall of 2008 I decide to do it instead. My partner and I traveled to Africa and started our venture in that distant country.”
The business name is ‘Real Tracks’, and operates under the umbrella of ‘Nomadic Connections’, a Ugandan business that also manufactures portable solar lights, a great innovation for the indigenous people in the area who don’t have electricity and make do with coal oil lamps for light. Both businesses provide much needed employment for local people.
Then, about one year ago, Katrine and Ward moved to an eastern part of Uganda to the town of Tinja. During that time they have become part of the community, being touched by the terrible poverty suffered by the people who live in the slums there.
As a result the couple decided to help the children who have very little chance of getting an education, as well as helping those who live in an orphanage by sponsoring as many as they are able to.
Asked if they are connected to organizations that are involved in this type of humanitarian work Katrine said, “No, we like to keep it personable, we know each child that we have helped personally.”
During the interview with this reporter Katrine spoke about the terrible conditions she has witnessed in that area, but also how close the families are, and the unconditional love and care that they have for each other.
Very few children are able to go to school; there simply is no money for that; but everyone is closely connected and share what they have. Siblings often raise their brothers and sisters when they lose their parents, mostly to Aids.
Asked if it is depressing to be involved in these grim situations Katrine said, “No, it changes your whole value system. When you are with kids who have absolutely nothing, it is inspiring if you can make a difference in their lives.”
Katrine and Ward say they are hoping to attract more sponsors to broaden their outreach to children and their families who are unable to escape their crashing poverty.
On a return to Canada this winter “to recharge” Katrine talked with Little Fort resident and friend Kathy Karlstrom and her daughter Chloe, about the work they do that makes it possible for children to go to school in Africa.
The Karlstroms became enthusiastic and made the decision to become sponsors themselves. Kathy now supports two boys there, and 14-year-old Chloe proudly sponsors two girls. For one child the yearly cost is $150 and Chloe earns the money required to support both girls herself.
In Little Fort the Karlstrom family has a market garden, where drop-in customers come to purchase fresh produce during the summer. Chloe works in the garden, something she likes doing, but also to earn money for her cause. Her sponsorship provides the money the two girls need to attend school, and it goes directly to that institution.
Kathy says she strongly supports her daughter’s interest.
“It keeps her interested in other things, not concentrating on just her own wishes,” says Kathy, “She sees the value of sharing and knowing her money goes toward a good cause for others. It’s good for children to know that there is a world beyond cell phones and thinking about themselves; and that they can make a difference in the lives of children less fortunate.”
Katrine and Ward say they are committed to their humanitarian work, and they hope that more sponsors will join their work to improve the lives of the African children in the area where they live.
“Sometimes we feel like we are in such an isolated world, so different than in Canada. However, the more time we spend in Africa, the more it feels like a normal life to us.”
Anyone wishing more information about sponosring can contact Katrine at: firstname.lastname@example.org.