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By Daniele Alcinii, Sherwood Park News
Monday, April 28, 2014 2:50:04 MDT PM
One eight-year-old Sherwood Park product is looking to make a difference in the lives of less fortunate children across a small landlocked country in South East Asia known as the most bombed country on Earth.
Carson MacMillan, a Grade 2 student at École Père Kenneth Kearns Catholic School (EPK), first learned about the less fortunate and bereaved children of Laos when a friend ventured last year to the Third World country during a supply mission to donate clothing to orphanages.
Upon the friend’s return, Carson began learning about the children at these orphanages, many of whom have little to no possessions and one pair of clothing, surviving on one meal of rice and very little protein per day and often sharing one bathtub between 300 kids.
“Carson wanted to go over there and initially go on the mission to distribute the clothes,” said Carson’s father, Scott MacMillan. “At the same time, he wanted to start getting his school involved to see how much clothing and fundraising he could put together for the cause.
“He’s passionate about it, and you can really feel the sense of how proud he is in what he’s trying to do.”
Starting merely two weeks ago and having spoken in front of more than 350 EPK students, Carson has collected and filled 45 boxes of clothing and blankets, or more than 5,600 items, to donate to GiveAShirt.ca, an organization aimed at improving the quality of the lives of Lao children while providing hope for a different future.
Accepting clothing donations until the end of July, Carson will throw the EPK classroom that receives the most amount of clothing a pizza party using his own allowance money.
With the help of his parents, Scott and Stacey, Carson has since spoken to six schools throughout the Sherwood Park area in the hopes that each will get on board with the supply mission.
“Five did (say yes), but we’re still waiting on dates. Three are for sure,” Carson said. “I’m looking to fill 300 boxes to fill one sea can (a container with an estimated value of $7,000), with 30,000 items in those boxes.”
While the MacMillans await Bev Facey Community High School to accept and confirm the family’s invitation, Holy Spirit Catholic School and Ardrossan Junior and Senior High will begin their fundraising campaigns in the coming weeks. Additionally, Carson is hoping to do a presentation at Archbishop Jordan Catholic High School during one of its next assemblies, his father said.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the situation,” Scott explained of his son’s charitable efforts. “Carson’s trying to not only develop his leadership, but also learn about the power of giving back, paying it forward and just seeing how fortunate we are here in Sherwood Park and in Canada.”
Scott continued: “Unprovoked, last week halfway through a clothing drive at his school, he literally got up in front of the entire school and said he was very proud of how everybody is doing and thanked them for their support — it’s just cool to see his leadership skills and ability just growing.”
While speaking in front of large gatherings would make most adults nervous, Carson explained that he’s able to remain calm while presenting due to his enthusiasm and passion for his humanitarian efforts.
“I started talking to my friends and realized I liked doing this (presenting). Then my mom and dad the night before, they got me really ready and I was just excited to present in front of EPK,” Carson explained.
Along with his ambitions of filling one sea can with 30,000 items of clothing — shipping in August — Carson and his mother will be travelling to the country of Laos on a nine-day mission to volunteer within these orphanages and help distribute these donations.
“I think it’s going to make them really happy,” Carson stated.
American troops heavily bombed the South East Asian country with an estimated 260 million bombs into Laos during the 19-year Vietnam War when operations crossed international boarders in 1968. Many of these munitions failed to detonate upon impact and remain armed until this day, often maiming and killing hundreds throughout the countryside.
These active cluster bombs with an average life expectancy of 47 years often leave many children orphaned.
Family members then take these children, often with only the clothes on their backs, to orphanages in an effort to obtain food and shelter.
On top of this, it remains one of the poorest nations in the world, ranking 44th, with an average income of $900 per year and Laos’ economy continues to decline each year. The government of Laos contributes only $20 per month per child to the orphanages, leaving many of their basic needs unmet, according to GiveAShirt.ca.
Clothing and monetary donations to assist orphaned children in Laos can be made through GiveAShirt.ca, by dropping items in a donation bin at the MacMillan Business Centre, 104- 150 Chippewa Rd. or at a hotdog and hamburger fundraiser at Salisbury Greenhouse, 52337- Range Rd. 232 in Sherwood Park, on May 31.
“Thank you to everyone who has participated already and who is going to participate,” Carson added.
Daniele Alcinii, Sherwood Park News