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Sharing the wealth

Local woman extends charitable heart to South Africa

A shirt or a week's worth of gas or a round of lattes at Starbucks - that's the extent of what $40 will buy you in Canada.

In South Africa, that $40 will net you a full month of food, clean drinking water, health care, access to education and a school uniform for a child in a country ravaged by poverty and an HIV/AIDS epidemic.

A Squamish woman took the better deal, three times over.

Marie Grindlay, owner of Mountain View Landscape Supplies, supports three South African children every month.

This March, she went there to plant trees in the province of KwaZulu-Natal under the aegis of World Vision, a Christian relief organization.

She was one among the nine volunteers who spent $5,500 to go to South Africa to plant 100 mango and lychee trees at four elementary schools.

About 40 per cent of the students in these schools suffer from AIDS.

The three-week trip, from one of the richest countries in the world to one of the poorest, was a shock and a lesson on wealth and privilege for Grindlay.

"It's comfy in Canada and we take everything for granted here. People born on this side of the world are rich beyond what people in South Africa can even imagine. I mean, we have it all here and still we bitch and complain all the time," she said.

Grindlay was never much of a traveller, making only two trips outside Canada, to Mexico and Hawaii, for holidays.

The trip to South Africa was not elaborately planned.

Last Christmas, browsing the World Vision website, she clicked on the travel link and found she could go there and plant trees that would provide food and shade for the kids.

Grindlay fundraised $3,000 from friends and family and flew to South Africa for a trip she remembers both sadly and fondly.

"When I'm holding a baby that I know is going to die of AIDS, it really breaks my heart," she said.

Before the trip, she had sponsored one child. After the trip, she sponsored two more.

One of them, Amahale Nosipho, immediately formed a strong attachment to her benefactor.

"She just looked at me with a beaming smile. She hopped on my knee and kind of curled on it. She had to pee and she wouldn't go because she thought I would go away and then she ended up peeing on me," Grindlay laughed.

The wall on Grindlay's office is festooned with pictures of children she has sponsored. With a kind of motherly pride, Grindlay showed the picture of four and a half-year-old Nosipho, a cute kid with big, expressive eyes.

Grindlay has helped sponsored 15 more children. Her uncle, mother and father now all pay to help support impoverished children. Grindlay said she hopes more people will do so.

"It's our responsibility to look after one another, and people here have all the means to do so."

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