Entering a log house south of Whitehorse, I’m confronted by a large box filled with little dolls,
knitted in all the colours of the rainbow.
I walk past them and Liesel Briggs welcomes me with a cup of tea and a seat in the comfy living room. There is warmth in this house, and it isn’t just coming from the woodstove.
I’m here to talk about Hands of Hope, a not-for profit organization she started with her daughter Rosemarie, with projects supporting refugees and children in Nepal and India.
Briggs is putting on a slideshow and information session at the Yukon College on Thursday, January 23 for those interested in learning about Hands of Hope, and volunteering in general.
A long-time volunteer and literacy advocate in the Yukon, Briggs explains her philosophy on volunteering: “When you help in one place, you are helping the world,” she says.
Their volunteer work in Nepal and India started when Rosemarie learned the plight of people escaping oppressive military forces in China.
Fleeing with no food and no place to stay, the refugees were desperate. Seeing the need and wanting to help, Rosemarie called her mother and they worked out a plan. Hands of Hope was born.
This was back in 2006. Today, 43 refugees are receiving assistance.
By paying their own airfare and expenses, 100 per cent of the donations to Hands of Hope go directly to the projects. The women identify the needs and allocate the money as required.
It is a small-scale charity, but it’s personal and efficient.
“I’m happiest when working with a person – when it is a big organization things get lost,” Briggs says.
The mother-daughter team listens to the refugees and figures out the best way to help.
“You have someone who’s sitting in front of you weeping, you develop a feeling for who needs things,” says Briggs. “One person needed a stove and was digging a hole in the ground with twigs and that’s fine in the dry season but not when it rains.”
They’ve also started initiatives to better the education and literacy in the area. With money raised, they built two classrooms and plans are in the works for two more.
They sponsor the post secondary education of seven orphans, who study fields including medicine, nursing, business, and computers.
Seeking out suitable structures to house books, they’ve established libraries in nine communities.
“If it’s a concrete box we’ll clean it up, get glass on the windows, and get steel shelving so termites don’t get to them,” Briggs says.
Many of the children have never had access to books before and are very excited to have a library.
“One little kid piled a bunch of books on his lap and said ‘I’m going to read these all tonight,'” Briggs says.
The aforementioned dolls are knitted and donated by a woman in Vancouver. I’m told the children love their dolls, even the 18 year olds, because the dolls prove that someone loves and cares for them.
Listening to Briggs talk about the children who refer to her as “Grandma,” it is clear someone cares for them very much.
The Whitehorse-based not-for-profit organization Hands of Hope is presenting a slide show and information on the projects and people they support in India and Nepal on Jan. 23 from noon to 1 p.m. at the Yukon College.
For more information contact Liesel Briggs at 668-7082 or go to www.hands-of-hope.ca