Lacombe residents Eric Rajah and Brian Leavitt have received one of the highest honours in Canada.
The two co-founders the charity A Better World have received Meritorious Service Medals from the Governor General for creating a non-profit that invests in sustainable solutions to fight poverty in developing countries.
These medals recognize “remarkable contributions” in numerous fields, according to the Governor General’s website.
Past recipients have reduced hunger and poverty, or improved education — both of which are goals of A Better World.
Rajah, who was also inducted to the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2011, calls it a “special honour” to be included with other Meritorious Service Medal recipients.
“I share this with hundreds who have supported the initiatives of A Better World,” said Rajah. “It is humbling to serve those in need.”
Leavitt is grateful for the acknowledgement of the agency and its volunteers. “It has been my privilege to provide humanitarian service to people in need over the last 30 years. To see the difference that a little organization like A Better World can make in a big world is overwhelming,” said Leavitt.
A Better World has worked in 15 countries on three continents, investing $35.7 million into communities in need.
It employs a unique model of community development in establishing long-term partnerships with groups that already have a successful record of working in those countries to ensure stable development through community investment and ownership.
More than 2,600 volunteers have travelled overseas with A Better World to supervise and monitor project development and maintain community ties. Forty permanent volunteers manage ongoing programs and projects.
Rajah and Leavitt created the charity in 1990 as a church program to pay for reconstructive surgery for children who were victimized by polio in Kenya.
Over three decades, the agency has evolved into an independent, registered charity that focuses on the health, education and well-being of children in impoverished communities, primarily in Africa and Afghanistan.
Each year, more than 50,000 children attend schools built by A Better World, with clean water and toilets.
Rajah is still the executive director, while Leavitt is the agency’s project director.