Heath and Hope

You’re about to hear the most convincing argument that coffee, dessert, booze and shopping are good for human health.

Thanks to Fair Aid Society (FA), for one evening, you can eat, drink and buy useful items at its annual fundraiser in Whitehorse while directly supporting health care in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

This small society has been making big changes in the DRC by building health clinics, providing medical equipment and doing public education since 2007. The organization is currently in the process of replacing an existing rudimentary grass hut clinic in Nyankunde, DRC with a concrete structure. Funds raised at this year’s event will furnish the clinic with basic medical equipment.

“This is a functioning clinic that currently services a population of almost 5,000,” says FA director Joanne Leung. “Because the village is in a marginalized and hard-to-reach area, it’s been neglected over the years.”

At the clinic, there is one nurse on duty at a time. A doctor, who serves a population of 90,000, visits every few weeks. The main ailments include gastrointestinal conditions and malaria.

Leung explains the village is in the midst of hard times.

“It’s in a poor area in the northeast Congo,” she says. “There were a couple of massacres in the area and they’re having a really hard time bouncing back from that.”

Nonetheless, Leung says that the area has made significant improvements to its sanitation in recent months.

“The community now has latrines in place and a hand washing system outside each grass hut, so it’s a community that is learning and taking some initiatives towards sanitation and disease prevention,” she says.

FA has a modest goal of raising $1,500, but with this money it will provide four hospital beds, a maternity bed, sterilization equipment, mosquito nets, a stethoscope, a blood pressure cuff and gynaecology equipment. $3,000 more will buy solar panels and batteries to supply electricity.

Leung and her husband, co-director Jeff Spiers, travelled to DRC in December 2012 to check on the progress of the new clinic. The $10,000 required to construct the small structure was fundraised previously and construction is well underway.

In the five short years since the society was formed, it has set up two other clinics, which are now operating self-sufficiently.

“They run on a fee-for-service (basis),” Leung explains. “We had also bought them some equipment so that they can source out services like lab work to hospitals.”

Leung and Spiers visit the Congo every two years to check on progress. It is a long journey with an infant in tow and it is completely self-funded. With the exception of bank fees, website hosting and society fees, all money raised by Fair Aid Society goes directly to health care.

“A little bit of money goes a long way in the Congo,” Leung says. “If people feel like they don’t have a lot of disposable income, they can feel good that even a small amount of money goes a really long way. We can make a big difference in a small population.”

FA’s fundraiser will feature custom-order coffee, a dessert buffet, beer, wine, tea and hot chocolate, as well as a silent auction. The $10 admission will get your first drink and a ticket to the door prize — a night in the High Country’s Jacuzzi suite and $50 at the restaurant. The event is on Saturday, Feb. 9, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the CYO Hall, located at 406 Steele St.

Donations to Fair Aid Society can also be made through CanadaHelps.org

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