It all began with a dream whose meaning Clara Loweth Reeves, then eight years old, could not fathom.
In Clara’s dream more than a year ago, all of her home town Aurora, Ont., had a “market day” where they gave away food, medicines and books in Africa.
Her mother, Jennifer Reeves, put the dream down on paper and gave the letter to their priest, Canon Philip Poole of Trinity church, who shared it with a regional committee, which is raising $1 million for the Stephen Lewis Foundation and HIV/AIDS-related projects in Africa.
The committee invited Clara and her family to attend a Breakfast of Champions, where she met Mr. Lewis, the United Nations Secretary General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and heard him speak about the millions of children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
“We explained to her the situation in Africa and to her it was simple. We have the medicines, they don’t. Why the heck can’t we help give it to them?” said Ms. Reeves.
The epiphany came when Clara was eating an apple. “I’m going to eat so many apples and I’ll take the seeds and sell them or take them to Africa where they can grow and sell them,” she announced.
Instead, a local Canadian Tire store gave her 500 seed packets and a family friend later donated 500 packets more.
Each weekend last April and May, Clara brought her seeds and a poster requesting donations. She campaigned outside her church, a supermarket, a liquor store, on the streets and even during her ninth birthday party.
To date she has raised $1,455 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation.
Giving to the less fortunate has been a family tradition, said Ms. Reeves, adding that each year Clara helps prepare a charity shoebox and other donations.
“It makes me feel proud of myself that I can do something to help other people who are not as fortunate as me,” said Clara when asked about the effect of her campaign. Her work has not gone unnoticed. She has been recognized by the mayor’s office and has been honoured with a Living With Character award by local groups.
Clara is thinking of selling hot chocolate in her neighborhood this winter to raise more money but her mother is suggesting that she take a break. “At one point she got overwhelmed — that if she stops selling, kids in Africa will die. We’re trying to make her feel empowered but we don’t want her to be overwhelmed,” she said.
When asked why people should care about Africa, Clara’s answer is quick: “Because a lot of them are dying and if more and more of them die no one will take care of the crops and Africa will become a sand dune.”