Powell River’s loss is another city’s gain as Dawn Ellwyn gears up to return to Mwanza, Tanzania for a volunteer position later this year.
After spending a year in the African country in 2010, and returning home last December feeling as though she had some unfinished business, Ellwyn decided to go back for longer. Returning is expensive, however, and the financial road ahead is not one she can walk alone. Ellwyn is hoping Powell River residents will offer support for her journey, one that will greatly impact the lives of the children she will meet.
Ellwyn’s world travels began in 2007 with extended trips to South Korea and China after finishing her bachelor of arts and bachelor of education degrees at Vancouver Island University in 2006. Upon returning home, she worked as a teacher on call, still suppressing an urge to see the world.
She set her sights on Africa, deciding to put her teaching skills to good use in an orphanage. “I don’t just like to tourist travel, I like to live travel,” she said. “I actually wanted to live there so I could really understand the culture more and really form relationships with people.”
Soon, Ellwyn was aboard a plane headed for Mwanza. She was greeted by a tornado, a fitting metaphor for the whirlwind of activity that followed over the coming year.
Ellwyn worked at an orphanage called Starehe Children’s Home. “At the time I went over, there was a lot of change going on,” she said. “The couple who were the directors of the orphanage had been there for 15 years and they were finally going home to retire back in Canada.” With various positions available, Ellwyn took over Starehe Direct, the sponsorship program for the entire orphanage, becoming the line of communication between sponsor and sponsor child.
Starehe Children’s Home also has its own school, called Starehe Nursery School, where Ellwyn worked as deputy of education for the entire duration of her stay. “I was basically responsible for the after-school program,” she said. Students from the orphanage attended offsite schools and would return mid-afternoon for one-on-one help with their assignments and projects.
“Our orphanage had about 130 children in it and about 90 of those kids went to school,” said Ellwyn. In order for the children to receive the individual attention they needed, the school was set up with small classes.
When she returns to Tanzania in several months, she will work at Starehe Nursery School once again, this time as its director of education. “[The current director] is leaving at the end of 2011,” said Ellwyn. “I’m hoping to get over there early enough so that she can train me in everything I need to know.”
This time, Ellwyn intends to stay for two years as a global worker under Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (PAOC). “In order to stay long-term at the orphanage, I have to be with PAOC,” she said. “They set a budget for me so before I can go back, I have to support-raise 75 per cent of my total budget.”
Donations she received from friends and family members, and after making a presentation at her church, have made up 11 per cent of her total so far, but Ellwyn is still thousands away from her target.
She has established a website with details on herself, her past experiences in Tanzania, and her future plans as a worker at Starehe Children’s Home in the hopes that others will read her story and be inspired to help. “I want to get back to the orphanage,” she said. “There’s nobody there to take over my position, so it’s just kind of floating right now.”
Ellwyn’s website offers a donation page with the option of one-time or monthly donations. “If people want to give me some support, that would be great,” she said. In return, Ellwyn said she would send letters and photos chronicling her experiences to those who donate.
“I’m hoping people will see their hands extending into this orphanage and making a difference too.”
Interested readers can visit Ellwyn’s website.