by Jo Salilba de Chery
Susan Tomovcik has convinced her community to dig deep. Deep enough to build a well or two. She has been raising funds to help people in East Africa suffering from drought and famine.
“I was just very moved by the whole situation as I watched it unfolding on television,” she said in a message to Oxfam Canada. “I am in the water treatment business and to put it briefly: we have water, they don’t, so we need to do something about it!”
Mrs. Tomovcik, a Culligan dealership general manager in Simcoe Ont., started by designating a portion of sales to her campaign, which she dubbed Water for Africa.
“I contacted Oxfam in Ottawa and got some information about what various water-related items and projects cost and decided it was time to ramp up the effort. I chose the biggest item on the list, a borehole [a water well], which costs about $5,000 to drill, and decided to aim for half the cost. Since the government will match the donation, if I raise half and the government pays half, one borehole!”
She spent another week in a creative mode, coming up with ideas to involve the community in her initiative – among them a yard sale, donation jars and working with the local recreation department, which allocated all proceeds from their swim programs for a day.
She enlisted eight local restaurants to participate in a “Water for Africa” day to donate proceeds from the sales of selected menu items. “In between all of this, I was still working on ideas, asking for free advertising and free signage wherever I could.”
A local furniture store invited her to do a “Water for Africa” barbeque and by this time, the campaign was taking on a life of its own. “People were coming just to donate!”
Mrs. Tomovcik realized she knew other local businesses and merchants likely willing to donate items or gift certificates for an auction. She contacted a local radio station, CD98.9. “They liked the idea and as soon as they said “yes” I hit the ground running.” She collected more than $3,000 worth of merchandise and gift certificates for the radio auction, being held on Tuesday’s morning program.
“In the last couple of weeks, the campaign has really taken off,” she says. “We have already surpassed the “half” goal and now I am aiming to raise the whole $5,000 – enough for two boreholes by the time the government match kicks in. I am pretty sure we will make it and if we are still short, I will find a way to get us over the top!”
Mrs. Tomovcik says the community has been very supportive. “I have received cash donations and cheques to Oxfam Canada; people who have read about it in the paper have come to our office to donate! It’s been great! I am thrilled to have met and surpassed my goal. I truly believe that people are happy to participate; they just need somebody to give them a way to do so, so that’s what I have tried to do.”
“There are a lot of people in the world trying to do their part and I am happy to have had the opportunity to make a difference.”
Individuals can donate online — donations before September 16 will be matched by the Government of Canada.