Child Haven fundraising dinner Thursday in Courtenay

The annual Child Haven fundraising dinner in Courtenay is now in its ninth year.

Since 1985, Child Haven International has been breaking the cycle of poverty in India, Bangladesh, Tibet and Nepal.

Inspired by the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino founded nine homes to provide food, education, health care, shelter and clothing to destitute women and children.

Since then, they’ve been awarded the Order of Canada, the UNESCO Prize for Teaching of Human Rights, and the Canada Volunteer Award. Supporters include Margaret Atwood, Dr. Gary Geddes, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, and even V. Kalyanam, former Secretary to Mahatma Gandhi.

“I loved the personal nature of Child Haven and the Cappuccinos,” says Heather Holm, who has been involved with the organization since 2001.

On Oct. 25, she and a team of volunteers will host a Child Haven fundraising dinner in Courtenay. “The dedication to their cause is inspiring, and all the money raised by Child Haven dinners, all across Canada, goes to the children.”

Holm, who lives in the Comox Valley, was so impressed by the work of Child Haven International that, in 2003, she went to Nepal for three months and volunteered in one of the homes. The facilities were clean, basic and small, and the organization fostered a respect for all people, regardless of caste, gender, or religion. There, she forged friendships that have lasted to this day.

“The people I met were amazing,” says Holm, “When I went, I took a shipment of eye mediations, and I visited an eye clinic in Nepal to deliver the medicine.

“While I was there, I saw a young man walking over the hills, carrying his grandmother on his back so that she could get surgery for her cataracts.”

Holm still keeps in touch with the optometrist at the clinic, as well as the matron of the house.

“They don’t call them ‘orphanages’,” she says. “These are homes, where children find love and respect. They hire local people and give them a decent wage.”

Building non-exploitative careers is an incredibly important facet of Child Haven International’s work, nurturing financial independence through education. Donors can even choose to sponsor a child’s education, so that as they grow, they are prepared for a self-sustaining career.

The annual Child Haven fundraising dinner in Courtenay is now in its ninth year. Guests enjoy a vegetarian Indian meal, speakers and entertainment, a silent auction, and a bazaar of exotic goods perfect for Christmas gifts.

“Plus, Bonnie and Fred Cappuccino attend the dinner,” she adds. “And it’s a great opportunity for people to learn how they, too, can get involved.”

The dinner will take place Oct. 25 in the upper level of the Florence Filberg Centre. Doors open at 5 p.m., and dinner begins at 6. Tickets can be purchased at Laughing Oyster Books or Blue Heron Books. For more information, visit www.childhaven.ca or call Heather at 250-338-2181.

— Child Haven International