In the last issue of the Nation, we included two pages of events and dinners and donation points and the like, telling you who was doing what for whom and where. While fishing for all that information, we learned of one woman who was away on a mission in a developing country. Jane Longchap was one of the contact people for Christmas baskets in OJ. The Women’s Ministry she belongs to has been collecting donations for some of the littlest ones in Pikogan, Quebec.

However, the desire to give goes beyond that. “Everything we have (here in OJ) is new and it’s beautiful and we started saying that its time for us to get other people involved,” Longchap says. ‘We thought we should bless other people since God blessed us so much, so then other people can bless other people and so on and so on.”

She recently returned from three weeks in the African countries of Uganda, Malawi and Kenya, where she visited orphanages, raised spirits and left gifts. Longchap, her husband, and 11 others traveled to Africa with the goal of supporting the “housemothers.” These are the women who take care of the many children who have lost their parents to famine, disease and war. Each woman has four boys and four girls under her care.

The group of 13 from Canada brought 33 hockey bags weighing 70 pounds each. They were full of “blessing bags” containing toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, facecloths, underwear, shampoo, lotions and so on. They also brought material, needles and thread, quilts and blankets, towels, new and used clothing.

The women arranged for a retreat where they held a fashion show. After which all the outfits were given to the housemothers. The men kept themselves busy by helping to build the orphanages with the tools they had brought as gifts.

When asked how the gifts were received, Longchap sighs, gushes and struggles to hold back tears. “It was amazing,” she recounts. “It makes me want to cry when I talk about it because whatever we gave them, even if it was something small, even a candy, they were all excited and speechless. It meant a lot to them.”

Longchap funded her trip thanks to OJ’s Eenou Development Corporation, which has a budget for overseas travel like this. Her husband Gilles St. Gelais received funding from the Eenuch Association and they paid for the rest. Money donations came from the communities of Mistissini, Waskaganish, Waswanipi, and Ouje-Bougoumou. In Malawi, part of the funding went towards providing transportation and meals for the women’s retreat, as it’s usually a two-day’s walk away. In Kenya, the money went to the teachers’ salaries for the orphanages. And in Uganda it helped fund new uniforms for the children.

Of her overall experience, Longchap says, “I was sad to see the poverty, shocked and speechless. It’s so sad. I used to see Africans on TV and it would make me cry. It’s shocking to go there and actually see it. But being there and seeing what the others have done already, there’s been a lot of progress. They have more food and are healthier.”

Their first stop was Malawi, where they are building an orphanage and school. They are going to dedicate the first orphanage to the memory of Longchap’s son, Clint St-Gelais. He passed away last Sept. 25 at the age of 26 from a rare form of leukemia.

Says Longchap: “I was speechless when they said that. So our goal is to help them build the orphanage, to look for the donations to help them build it. It’s going to cost $35,000 (US) so we are doing our part there. I’m planning to go back again. It’s something to see. It’s a dream come true for me.”