Leo’s first idea was that the town of Westlock, a successful farming community, could send some grain cars to feed the starving. After learning that the Canadian Foodgrains Bank was already doing this, Leo began working with them and the town started organizing grain drives—The Westlock Growing Project—to contribute.
Leo made his first trip to Ethiopia in 1996, where he witnessed the absolute deprivation that the people endured. It’s one thing to read accounts of the horror stories, but quite another to witness hopelessness in another person’s eyes. The effects of the famine were still very much a part of their lives. It was then that he was told that Canada was the first country to come to the aid of the Ethiopian people. The people believed that Canada was truly their saviour. Leo heard them joke, “God, let it rain in Ethiopia. But if it can’t, let it rain in Canada!”
On this visit, Leo saw the construction of a microdam, overseen by Canadian Lutheran World Relief, and other projects that were being developed. He also witnessed the remarkable generosity and love of Ethiopians, and was even offered a meal by an impoverished woman whose entire fortune consisted of a two-week supply of grain.
Over the years, the Westlock Growing Project, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and Canadian Lutheran World Relief have partnered to feed over 400,000 people. Those people require no more food aid.
We have partnered to feed over 400,000 people.
Although the work was very rewarding, Leo felt he wanted to undertake more grassroots initiatives to provide help on a more personal level—one person, one village, one community at a time. His vision was to improve local accessibility to water, help build schools and other facilities, and implement programs for specific communities, and the only way to accomplish that was by starting a new charity. Rainbow for the Future was born in 2005.
Rainbow for the Future is another tool in the toolbox of humanitarian aid. It allows us to have the flexibility, if we so desire, to build schools (we built eight by early 2016), purchase medical equipment and supplies for clinics and hospitals (which we have done several times), or drill needed water wells for deserving women, alleviating a tremendous burden for thousands of families. To date, we have completed 10 water-well projects, helping around 100,000 people.
Rainbow for the Future continues to work with other organizations, which generously help fund the projects and serve as liaisons to the federal government’s 4:1 matching programs.