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Founders of Central Alberta charity recognized

A Better World Canada invited to Governor General awards presentation
A Better World founders Brian Leavitt and Eric Rajah received the Meritorious Service Medal from Gov. Gen. Mary Simon at Rideau Hall in Ottawa last week. (Photo contributed by A Better World)

A Better World Canada founders Brian Leavitt and Eric Rajah were among 34 Canadians to receive the Meritorious Service Medal from Gov. Gen. Mary Simon at Rideau Hall in Ottawa last week.

The medals were established to recognize remarkable contributions in a variety of fields from advocacy initiatives, health care services, research and humanitarian efforts.

Leavitt and Rajah's award was originally announced in 2021, and they accepted their medals during last week's ceremony.

The pair founded the Lacombe-based charity that tackles poverty in some of the world's poorest regions and at home in Central Alberta. Leading by example, they have motivated many dedicated volunteers and encouraged young people to become engaged humanitarian leaders.

Rajah, the charity's executive director, said four university students interested in humanitarian work will accompany him to Kenya in June to visit some of the new and existing projects the charity has supported. So far none of the projects have been impacted by recent flooding in that country. 

Leavitt and Rajah created the charity in 1990 as a church program to pay for reconstructive surgery for children impacted by polio in Kenya. Since then, the charity has invested $35.7 million in quality education, essential healthcare, and clean water, with projects in over 15 countries.

During 2023, the charity built 51 classrooms, installed 68 toilets, built three school kitchens, a teachers' office, improved four health clinics, installed six community wells and 26 catchment water systems, and provided access to 46 surgeries and 55 rehabilitation services.

"All of this is made possible by generous donors in Central Alberta. We're grateful that they care about what happens beyond our borders," Rajah said.

A Better World actively has projects in Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Bolivia.

He said people in need at home are also a growing concern which is why the charity also supports a Red Deer soup kitchen and other local projects.

"Help where your heart is, overseas, at home. They are all important these days."

Since 1990, A Better World and its donors have supported the construction or renovation of 1,269 classrooms; upgraded, built or supported 29 health clinics; and made possible the installation of 585 toilets. More than 57,000 students have been enrolled at schools, and 40 communities have had access to clean water, thanks to the charity. 

Susan Zielinski

About the Author: Susan Zielinski

Susan has been with the Red Deer Advocate since 2001. Her reporting has focused on education, social and health issues.
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