BY: ALYSSA MAHADEO
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a time of giving, of hope, happiness, and miracles.
However, amongst all of the advertisements for material things we are convinced we should have, there are campaigns centered around children in need. Their sad faces are heartbreaking to see and it reminds us of the harsh realities that many families and children face not only during the holidays but year-round.
Dean Sampano is a philanthropist, professional speaker, and anti-poverty advocate, and a self-made millionaire who believes in giving back. Dean has provided aid, and rolled up his sleeves, in some of the world’s poorest countries including, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, China, Indonesia and South America and he is also a proud Special Olympics Coach.
Through his company Mass Consultants Canada, he founded and sponsored the African Aid Project, with the direction and guidance of World Vision Canada. World Vision is a recognized global relief, development and advocacy organization. They partner with children, families and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.
Every year since 2007 Dean and his wife have traveled to various places across the world choosing a country to donate a percentage of their profits and invest in the communities that are living in extreme poverty. This is their 9th trip abroad, having lent their services in the Philippines, Asia, and India. They have chosen to focus on Africa this year because they are in dire need of aid.
“We try to choose communities that have been hit by drought, and famine,” Sampano explains. “We go to these places, three months at a time and live with the tribes to supply aid in the form of food, or supplies specifically helping the elderly and orphans to try and ease their burdens.”
Last year they traveled to Ethiopia in the Great Rift Valley, one of the poorest places in the world. They have nothing, no clothes, there’s no exchange money there and the people that live there still survive the same way they did years ago.
On January 7th, they will be embarking on the African Aid Project in South Africa starting down in Botswana and working their way up to Zimbabwe working their way up to spending quite a bit of time in Rwanda and Congo. Although it has a reputation for being especially dangerous this time of the year, there are many other places that too are considered to be very dangerous to travelers. Sampano says that they work diligently to ensure their own safety and welling being, mindful of the plague in Madagascar, current revolution happening in Zimbabwe and most importantly doing things responsibly.
“Many of the tribes that we visit, the children have never seen a white man before, and the stories they have heard about white men aren’t good,” he digresses.
Without disrupting their culture, they try to slowly improve their way of life, and ease some of their pain so that they can develop their own infrastructure, and potential economy. However, before that can happen there are so many things that need to be addressed.
“These tribes are living the same way they have been living 5,000 years ago and they don’t have the technology, they live hand to mouth and many children don’t eat for days many are orphans, a lot of death. The average man only lives to maybe fifty years of age so by the time a child reaches eight to ten years old they are fending for themselves,” Sampano explains.
“What we’re trying to do through the African Aid Project is to raise awareness, and to let them know that people do care to provide them with a sense of hope.”
The African Aid Project is not looking for monetary donations, but they are hoping to raise awareness of the immense need in these impoverished countries, and to do what they can to make it something personal and get involved sponsor a child and make a difference in a life.
“When you sponsor a child through any organization think about the vast need, and how grateful we are to be here in Canada and out of the loop with the challenges faced by these African countries,” Sampano says.
Sampano reminds potential sponsors to be mindful of the charities that they choose to support, now more than ever, the allocation of funds donated is being considered very carefully to prevent criminal activity.
World Vision has earned a reputation of being the organization that sends the highest percentage of sponsorship to directly help the child sponsored, with funding for books, basic clothing needs, writing supplies, education, things that will make a generational difference to the child, so they can go on and aspire to raise a well-balanced family themselves. World Vision goes beyond food distribution but also focuses on creating sustainable food supplies through agriculture programs and nutritional training.
Sampano says he hopes to continue this work in the future, spending more time in countries that require assistance.
“I went to Africa to sponsor an Aid project in Ethiopia, where millions are starving as they have been hit by the worst drought in fifty years. We want to raise awareness because the project is self-sponsored,” Sampano explains. “I hope that through the work we’ve done, and will potentially do in the future, it would be great for more people to get involved, and help in any way they can, sponsoring a child gives them and their families an opportunity to live without poverty.