March 4, 2015

Granum Beekeper Travels to Africa to Help Build a School

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Article written by Ryan Dahlman for The Prairie Post
February 24, 2015 

During the latter portion of November, Alberta was  gripped in a cold snap. Adam Ovinge, who owns and operates a successful beekeeping business near Granum, was headed to a hot destination where the temperatures are regularly above 30-40C.

However, the hard-working Ovinge was doing anything but relaxing at a tropical destination — he was doing something far better.

Ovinge, went on a philanthropy trip where he and a group of 10 Canadians — the majority of them from Alberta — travelled to Zambia in order to work on building a school as well as do some ministerial work. 

“(I) haven’t had a lot (of time) to process it yet, but you sure re-order your priorities ... I was amazed by their attitude. We have so much and we’re never content,” explained Ovinge. “Because they have so little, they appreciate (things) more and they have a much greater dependence on God. Here we see religion as something philosophical. There they live everything through Him. They live day-to-day and are just trying to sustain themselves. Their dreams don’t reach much beyond basic living. It’s very eye opening. Intellectually I can understand it or see it, but to actually see it and feel and smell ...”

The trip to Lundazi, Zambia, organized through EduDeo Ministries, had the Canadian contingent led by Jerry Poelman, president and co-owner of Poelman Apiaries Ltd. in Fort Macleod. Ovinge has known Poelman for a long time. He worked for Poelman, who mentored him in his own beekeeping business near Granum. Poelman has been a member of the Alberta Beekeepers Commission since 1983. Ovinge is currently the south region director of Alberta Beekeepers. Poelman started travelling to Zambia a number of years ago, but it took special significance in 2013. That year, his trip to Zambia was in honour of his daughter Kyndra ReAnn who unexpectedly passed away in February 2013. He organized a similar journey to Lundazi, Zambia which officially took off Nov. 22, 2014. He called it Team Hope 2: Kyndra’s Hearts for Zambia HANDS team. The idea was to help the staff build a school in nearby Hoya for the Central Church of Africa Presbyteria (CCAP) which works with EduDeo Ministries. EduDeo is a Canadian, Christian, mission organization serving children in developing countries with quality education rooted in a Biblical worldview.

The building of the school was a laborious process, continuing work on a school which had already been started. Last year, Poelman’s group had worked on a different school. Ovinge noted the people were thrilled with both the sweat equity the group put in as well as the monetary donations. 

“We were laying bricks, mortar (blocks),” explains Ovinge of the work being done. “There’s nothing there, no infrastructure. There’s no money and there’s nothing to spend it on anyway. They’re absolute geniuses to do what they do though. They make it work because they use what they’ve got, which isn’t a lot.

“A village there is like extended family. Lots of them don’t have water. They’re hauling water for everything. The country consists of scrub and red dirt. There are few trees other than mango and guava trees ... No empty spaces, there are little villages everywhere, people everywhere. It blew me away.”

Poelman’s group included brick layers and mixers. Some of them were laying foundations of small clay bricks while others carried water to mix mortar for other parts of the foundation. A handful of the group had to devote time to carrying water for mixing material in clay pails. Women carried them on their heads while men were not allowed to because of customs. He said women walk for miles carrying these heavy water containers on their heads, sometimes even carrying a child with the other hand.

It was an eye-opening trip for Ovinge. 

Like many in North America, going to an area where there is little water or food, and accommodations which would be considered poor by most people’s standards, Ovinge was amazed and impressed at how well the young people acted and how much education is appreciated and revered in Zambia. 

For example, in Grade 7, students will take entry exams to get into Grade 8 which seems to be the turning point for students in that area. “It’s public education to Grade 7, very limited access to education though. You write an exam (in Grade 7),” explains Ovinge who adds the children will walk five miles one way just to get to school. “If you don’t do well, you’re turning dirt for the rest of your life. The secondary education is almost like a competition. It’s pretty tough. The one school we saw, there were 45 kids and a teacher in a school the size of my silo.”

It was a long journey for the group. It included a flight from Calgary to Amsterdam, then Kenya, and then Malawi. Then they drove all day to the eastern-most portion of Zambia. All told with layovers and transfers, travelling was over a couple of days. Ovinge estimated it took about 23 hours to get there, not to mention the additional time on the understandably bumpy and rough terrain in vehicles which were not exactly built for comfort. He figured it took about six hours on the ground to get to their destination. They left for Canada on Dec. 2. “The travel is not fun,” stated Ovinge. 

They also toured other areas including a school in need of repair that houses 1,000 students, and at the end of the trip drove to the Luangwa wildlife park as well.

It wasn’t a pleasure trip, but Ovinge was still satisfied. Poelman had asked Ovinge to go in previous years. Poelman had the foundation in the name of his deceased daughter and was searching for where the need was greatest. When he decided it was Africa and Zambia in particular, he went full steam ahead and Ovinge was more than happy to join.
“The need is great there. It worked out in my life. Before, I had small children, and really didn’t have the money financially to go. Africa is much more interesting to me. It was enriching and fulfilling to me to see what it really was like.”

We thank the Praire Post for permission to reprint this article. Original article can be found here.

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