This weekend, Penticton residents have a chance to spend a few shopping dollars, and help out children in Thailand at the same time.
Starting at 8 a.m. Saturday, the Penticton Rotary Club is taking over the Penticton Arena for a giant yard sale to help raise funds for their international projects.
Barb Hoolaeff came up with the idea as a way to help fund the building of a school for the children of the Akha Hill tribe, who live in a remote area of Thailand.
It’s a project she visited earlier this year along with a team of Rotarians.
“We were laying bricks to help build the school. That project is coming along, but there is a lot more work yet,” she said, explaining that education is key to the survival of the tribe’s children, about 250 of whom are attending the training centre.
About half of the tribe’s children, she said, don’t make it to adulthood because of various reasons.
“They die either from sexual exploitation or from starvation. They live up in the hills, they don’t have the access to anything,” said Hoolaeff.
“Parents are finding out more and more about the training centre and they are willingly bringing them down to live there and get an education.”
The concept is to build a school and a program that will also have a large agricultural component.
“If they wish to go back up into the hill tribe, they will learn how to make enough money growing rubber trees and coffee plants as part of their education that they will be able to support their families as well,” said Hoolaeff. “There are others that go on and go to university. It will be a good mix for everybody.”
Hoolaeff said they already have a big steel box — courtesy of BigSteelBox — filled and more goods to be put out on sale Saturday. Items for sale range from kitchen items to tools, clothes and furniture.
Along with the Akha Hill tribe project, money raised at the yard sale will go to support other Rotary International Projects, like their support of micro loans through Kiva International.
Brian Hughes, the current president of Penticton Rotary, said they are working hard on expanding the club’s membership in order to support projects like the yard sale.
Like many service clubs, the members of Penticton Rotary have been aging. But now, said Hughes, younger people are starting to sign up, helping to change the projects the club can attempt.
“We start looking at projects that take a bit of energy and fundraising. When you have a smaller, older club, you tend to be careful about how you expend your energies,” said Hughes.
“But suddenly, when you are bringing in 10 or 20 new members, you’ve got to keep everyone busy and be creative with your new projects and fundraising.”
Hughes said recruiting new members is becoming easier.
He has been a Rotarian for 17 years, and has found that people he talks to about joining are changing.
“I might have talked to people five years ago and they said, ‘Gee Brian, I’d like to join, but I have kids.’ Now those same people, the kids are grown. So here they are, in their 40s or 50s, saying, ‘What’s life all about, how do I give back to my community?’” said Hughes.
“I am finding so many people are interested that previously, it just wasn’t on their radar. Now they are now looking for a way to give back to their community.”
Along with international projects like the school in Thailand, Rotary has a long list of contributions to the community from eight decades of service, including projects like Rotary Park, the annual Pioneers Reception, the children’s playground at Skaha Lake Park and the Riverside Park Walkway.
And, with the help of Penticton’s other Rotary clubs, Penticton Rotary has supported the Rotary Okanagan International Children’s Festival, funded the Soupateria and built the Centennial Pavilion at Skaha Lake Park.