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Reflections on Ontario Baling Days by Karin Achtelstetter, CLWR’s Executive Director

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“Don’t be alarmed, if you feel that you are driving out to the middle of nowhere according to a GPS,” my CLWR colleague Cody warned me in advance. Cody could not have given me a better description of how and where to find the warehouse near Wallenstein, ON.

The many cars in front of a warehouse building were a good indication that I had reached my destination. Inside, more than 40 volunteers from congregations in the Kitchener/Waterloo area, but also as far as from Barrie, were busy preparing a shipment for Mauritania.

I cannot think of a better expression of CLWR’s slogan We Care than seeing the commitment of all these volunteers. They come together for one of CLWR’s baling days to support CLWR’s worldwide humanitarian work and its commitment to helping refugees.

Quilts, Learning & Living Kits for school children, Baby Bundles, Hygiene Kits: I was surrounded by experienced teachers. “Eight items go into the Learning & Living Kit,” Pauline explained to me. “The toy goes into another box and so does the toothpaste.” In the next few hours, I learned to count to eight and later to nine for the Hygiene Kits.

Anna on my left is working on Baby Bundles. And while everybody is concentrating on the kits, the conversations are about those who will receive these kits. Isn’t this nice for a baby? Is this blanket big enough? What will the mother do with it? Perhaps I should find another blanket?

I am still working on my Learning & Living Kits: and I get drawn into these thoughts. I try to imagine how the school children will react to these kits. Will they show each other what crayons they got, what kind of eraser or sharpener? Will they be jealous of each other, bargain and trade?

I am listening to the conversations and to my own thoughts. I realize that We really Care: these kits and bundles are put together with an immense love and care for those who will receive them in the M’bera refugee camp in Western Mauritania.

Some of the children who will receive the Learning & Living Kits were born in the M’bera camp, they have never lived outside this refugee camp, which was set up in 2011 for refugees from Mali who fled the violent conflicts in the country.

Ontario Baling Days

“I want to give back,” says Anna – and her mind shifts from the future to the past; and Anna starts telling me her own refugee story. We are all connected, I am thinking; and, how wonderful that CLWR is organizing these baling days, where three, four generations are coming together “to give back.”

I can’t wait for the next baling days.

Karin Achtelstetter is the Executive Director for Canadian Lutheran World Relief


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