Rossland teen pays prize forward

A Rossland teen gave a little bit of Canadian hospitality to Burmese refugees when she won a local fundraiser.

It’s better to give than to receive.

A Rossland teen gave a little bit of Canadian hospitality to Burmese refugees when she won a local fundraiser.

When Nemaiah Shaw, 19, won the West Kootenay Friends of Refugee (WKFR) recently—a quilt from its raffle fundraiser—the teenager swiftly decided to pay it forward.

Shaw’s mother has been working with the local NGO to raise $20,000 to aid two Burmese families through the immigration process.  Nemaiah was tickled pink by the idea of offering hospitality to the community’s newest residents by donating the quilt to them upon arrival.

“I’m really excited for the families to come here and I’m glad that I can give them a gift when they get here,” Shaw gushed. “They’re from Burma originally, but right now they’re in a refugee camp in Malaysia so they’ve had a tough go of it.”

She hopes the quilt will offer the family of four a warm hug during their first Canadian winter. The refugees are expected to arrive as early as November.

“We’ve been fundraising for about a year now and our goal is $20,000,” explained Rachael Roussin, spokesperson for the WKFR. “We’ve raised close to $10,000 so we’re almost halfway to our goal and we’re planning a couple of events this fall.”

According to the East Kootenay Friends of Burma (EKFB), a constituent of the WKFR, $20,000 is enough to help eight Burmese immigrants relocate.  In addition the mechanical department at AMEC donated over $1,800 to support this initiative.

“It helps them with rent, clothing, food, utility bills, recreation—basically anything for the cost of living,” Roussin said. “But we’re still trying to get creative to raise the remaining $10,000.”

But Shaw’s goals for international development don’t end there.

She’s currently packing her bags to attend Rossland Secondary School’s Interact club for a volunteer project in Honduras.

“Interact is like a junior rotary and we have it at our school for youth,” she explained. “We do an international project every other year and community projects during the years in between. I’ve been a part of it for about three years.”

Previously Shaw completed a one-year study abroad program in Mexico during Grade 11, so she graduated one year later than some of her peers. But she expects the upcoming trip will be an even bigger eye-opener. The Interact club will be working in an aids clinic, working with children and building a house.

“The trip that I’m going on in about four days will probably have an impact,” she said.

“The other traveling that I’ve done hasn’t been volunteer-work so I think that this (trip) will be really cool and it probably will change me, but I’m not sure how yet.”

For more information visit www.friendsofrefugees.ca.