A non-profit agency striving to help orphaned children in southern Sudan has officially set up shop in Red Deer.
The Sudanese-Canadians who spearheaded Life at Zero Development Inc. welcomed a couple of local residents, including Mayor Morris Flewwelling, into their new office earlier this week to share with the community their ultimate goal.
And while their space may be modest, their vision is anything but.
“The orphans are our aim,” explained Bako Dabi, executive director.
“They’re the future not only for southern Sudan but for the future of Africa and for the future of world. We don’t want to let them down.”
With a small office now set up in a back room of CanWest Travel Company on Ross Street, Dabi said the group can start focusing its efforts on raising funds for its first development.
The group — six who live in Canada and three who live in Sudan — are hoping to raise at least $200,000 to construct an orphanage in Yambio by July 2012 to help anywhere from 500 to 1,000 children left orphaned by HIV/AIDS or war.
Dabi insisted, however, they will be grateful for and utilize whatever sum of money they can raise in their effort to help out citizens of their homeland.
Dabi, who lives in Calgary, said they decided to house their main office in Red Deer because of the various organizations and resources that may be able to lend a hand and help support their vision.
“Maybe they started working here because of the size of our community and the record that we have of support and generosity,” said Flewwelling, who first met with Dabi about a month ago to discuss this venture and applauded the group for their vision.
“I’m far more interested in seeing the work bloom and flourish and if Red Deer’s name is attached to it, that’s great. If Red Deer’s name isn’t attached to it, we will always have the satisfaction of knowing that it started here in Red Deer.”
Flewwelling added that city has a fairly significant Sudanese population, with a Statistics Canada census finding that citizens from the northeastern African country made up the 15th largest immigrant population grouping in Red Deer as of 2006.
The formation of the foundation got underway two years ago but has long been something Dabi has aspired to establish.
Growing up in middle class Sudan (he moved to Canada in 1997) and raised by a single mother inspired Dabi to lend a helping hand to children left without parents.
James Yangata, project manager for the foundation, will run the Red Deer office.
For more information about Life at Zero Development Inc., visit www.lazfoundation.org.