Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

ERIC WALTERS' CREATION OF HOPE PROJECT

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I can see the Quillblog headline now. Last week it read "Kidlit goes better with Coke". This week it will likely read "Kidlit goes better with crow". I was...ahem...something of a royal turd last week posting an idiotic rant questioning the appearance Coke in Eric Walters' YA novel Black & White. (Don’t bother looking for it; it’s gone.) Eric, an astoundingly magnanimous person, gracefully corrected me on the subject by telephone this week, and now I must set things right. I'm a critic, in part, by occupation and sometimes we critics lead with our claws. Silly habit. Eric, of course, and for the record, does not receive anything at all from Coke. The young character in his novel simply likes to drink the stuff. So apologies to Eric, who was charitable enough to use the words “water under the bridge”, though I’m sure I didn’t deserve it.

But then, that’s the kind of person Eric is, so while I have your attention, I want to tell you about another charitable thing he is doing.

Perhaps that Quillblog headline should read "Kidlit goes better with hope." During our phone conversation Eric told me about an amazing new initiative he has launched called The Creation of Hope Project. With the help of the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and a slew of writers and other talented people, much-needed money is being raised to help children in the impoverished town of Kikima, Kenya.

The project, which is a private endeavor, not affiliated with any church or government, is creating a support system in the town to provide care for orphans, money for families to help them start businesses, as well as all manner of necessities people in more privileged parts of the world often take for granted, such as education, medicine, food, clothing and bedding. The big goal right now is to build a children’s residence to help some 500 orphans in and around Kikima. (Yes, 500. That’s not a typo.)

To help raise funds, on March 9, 10 & 12 three Hamilton-Wentworth schools will host Creation of Hope literacy events with a veritable who’s who of children's authors and other entertainers (full list below). I sent Eric a few questions about Kikima, The Creation of Hope Project and the literacy events. You can read his answers below and you can learn more about the program and its amazing successes so far on The Creation of Hope website: http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/communi...

And btw, that's Eric in the video above with a boy named Muinde that the program is helping. You can see more videos and learn about other children on the Creation of Hope website.


To make a donation to The Creation of Hope contact Eric Walters at ewalters@interlog.com

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INTERVIEW WITH ERIC WALTERS ABOUT THE CREATION OF HOPE PROJECT

Shaun: Where exactly is Kikima and what is life like for people who live there?

Eric: Kikima is in the Mbooni district of Kenya. It is a rural, mountainous area which is highly agricultural and very dependent upon weather/rain. The pace is relaxed, the people are kind and generous and very welcoming of strangers - although very, very few come to this area because it is so isolated and transportation is difficult.

Shaun: Why are there so many impoverished children in Kikima?

Eric: You can almost pick your spot anywhere in Africa. There's a combination of drought, disease, AIDS, family breakdown, migration to larger cities all imposed on an already fragile economy. When you live so close to the edge it doesn't take much of a push to send the whole thing over the edge.

Shaun: How are you raising funds and how can other people help?

Eric: Private donations, corporate donations, specific fundraisers and school involvement. Private donations are directed through the Africa Inland Mission and individuals receive tax donations while 92% of the money goes directly to our people on the ground in Kikima. School money is sent, 100%, with no admin or other costs ever taken from student/child generated funds.

Shaun: What will be happening at the Creation of Hope literacy events in Hamilton next month?

Eric: We have three literacy days coming up in Hamilton - March 9 will feature Barbara Reid, Jo Ellen Bogart, Sharon Jennings and Eddie Douglas talking to 750 grades 1, 2 and 3. March 10 is Ken Oppel, Deb Ellis and myself talking to 850 grade 4-8, and on March 12 it will be William Bell, myself, Ben Guyatt (my buddy who's a stand-up comedian who has his first young adult book coming out this year), and Belladonna (my street rapper/flow friend) will speak to 700 high school students. All of these people have generously given their time and all of the $7.00 per seat will go directly to the program - generating about $16,000. Hamilton is donating the spaces, printing the tickets, organizing, sorting and basically filling all the seats - it was sold out within three days of the event being announced and the tickets released.

We have also built in a local and national focus to the ideas behind global citizenship. One day the children are bringing in mittens and gloves, the second day a well loved book (new or used) and the third day a non-perishable food items. The food items are going to the local food bank and the mittens/gloves and books are going up North - I'm going with Susan Aglukark to bring them to a reserve.

All of the people I approached instantly said yes, generously giving of their time and talent. These wonderful writers/musicians who have donated their time are going to be a significant part of raising funds that will allow our program in Kenya to continue to provide for orphans - moving from charity to opportunity. Anybody interested in finding out more about the children's program can go to the Creation of Hope website - http://www.hwdsb.on.ca/communi... - which was created and is being hosted by the Hamilton Board. There are some great video clips where you can meet some of the kids who are being helped.

Shaun: How will money raised be used on the ground in Kikima?

Eric: Food, clothes, school uniforms, medicine, shoes, blankets, mattresses, education, advocacy, micro-grants and loans, community projects, supporting an orphanage, chickens and goats.

Shaun: What compelled you to launch this initiative?

Eric: I've spent time in Kenya the past number of summers and connected with the people there, but also saw the raw needs. My mother died when I was four and my father had difficulties providing for us - maybe I know what it's like to be an orphan.

2 comments

He didn't mention it. I can ask him if you like.

Did I miss this, or does Eric mention how much funding is needed to school 500 orphans? I hope the program is successful. :)