Another team of volunteers led by Langford firefighters is off to Haiti to give assistance to the struggling Caribbean nation.
Not only is Haiti still recovering from the devastating 2010, a recent blast from Hurricane Sandy brought further hardship. The six Canadians, who leave today from Seattle, will be continuing earlier groups' work rebuilding an orphanage providing a safe, stable home for 38 children.
Joining the weeklong stay is Savory Elementary School principal Jane Penn, who will work on strengthening ties between the orphanage and a neighbouring school and look at developing joint educational initiatives. She has collected supplies and basic necessities for the Haitian school, and hopes to develop a "twinning" arrangement linking it with Savory.
Penn said she became interested in going to Haiti after talking with Pacific Secondary's Heather Ratcliffe-Hood, who has part of an earlier trip. Penn said she has spent time abroad in places like Belize and the Philippines, where she taught at an international school.
"I just think it's made me a better person all through the years of going to different places, being able to have a much more empathic view of the world and to bring that into my profession."
She said she is looking forward to being part of local efforts in Haiti.
"I thought it would be a great thing for Savory school to have that connection and learn a bit more about the global community."
Penn is eager to hold an assembly when she returns, and let the students know what she was doing. The idea is to take sustainable steps to help the Haitians, she said.
"I really want to maintain the relationships there." Penn also hopes to fundraise and eventually put together a shipping container full of school supplies for the Haitians.
Also travelling to Haiti is irrigation specialist Eric Carlson, who will be creating a system for rainwater retention at the school. His aim is to increase water-storage capacity for the school's 400-plus students.
One of the key tasks for the local group will be addressing the problem of intermittent power at the orphanage, which affects refrigerators and freezers - supplied by the Canadians - and leads to food spoilage. The plan is to install a battery system that has proven effective in maintaining power in local homes.
Langford fire Chief Bob Beckett will be making his ninth visit to Haiti, along with the fire department's Lt. Steve Adams. Another veteran of the Haiti efforts, Glenwood Meats owner Rick Fisher, is taking his sixth trip.
"His business has donated thousands of dollars toward this project," Beckett said of Fisher. "I shop at Glenwood Meats and he would ask me every time I went in there how things were down in Haiti."
Beckett ended up inviting Fisher along, and he has become a big part of the local contribution being made.
Fundraising for Haitian relief is ongoing through Langford's Children of Haiti Project. Donations can be dropped off at Langford's fire hall or municipal hall, or call 250-478-9555.
SANTA CHECKING UP ON UVIC COMMUNITY
Santa makes his way to the University of Victoria on Thursday to give out cookies and hot chocolate outside the William C. Mearns Centre for Learning.
He will start his three-hour visit by circling Ring Road in a horse-drawn carriage, setting out from the campus bookstore at 11: 30 p.m. His elves will be handing out candy canes en route.
After that, Santa will set up near the entrance to the library's BiblioCafÃ© from 11: 45 a.m. to 2: 30 p.m. The event is organized by University Food Services.
"It's not the just for the campus, it's open to anyone," said food services' Sarah Dusterbeck. "The more the merrier."
Another Christmas initiative at the university comes courtesy of Campus Security Services and UVic Libraries. As has become their custom, both are taking part in the UVic Food for Fines program.
For Campus Security Services, that means offering a $5 reduction on each parking ticket through Dec. 17 in exchange for a donation of a food item. From Monday until Dec. 7, UVic Libraries will discount fines by $2 for each food item donated, up to a maximum of $20. The offer applies at the McPherson Library and the Curriculum Library.
Donated items will go to the Mustard Seed Food Bank and the UVic Student Society Food Bank.
CONTEST SHOWCASES GINGERBREAD ART
The Inn at Laurel Point has launched its fourth annual festival of gingerbread creations.
This year's event has been dubbed Canada's National Gingerbread Showcase and features 27 gingerbread structures made by professionals and amateurs.
All of the entries will be on display in the front lobby until Jan. 1. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Members of the public are invited to vote for their favourites in exchange for a donation to Habitat for Humanity Victoria. Close to $5,000 was raised last year.
Winners in judging conducted last week included Home in an Oak by Wendy Okopski of the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe, which topped the professional category. Clare by Sarah Jones of Love One Hair Studio was the amateur winner, and The Nightmare Before Christmas by Nikolai Miller of the Blue Crab Bar & Grill earned children's choice.
DOGS ON THE CATWALK FOR CANINE CAUSE
Dogs and dudes share the spotlight Dec. 5 at Outlooks for Men, 534 Yates St.
The occasion is the fifth annual Man and His Dog Fashion Show, a fundraiser to benefit a pair of animal-rescue groups: Turtle Gardens and Broken Promises. Outlooks owner Dale Olsen owns a dog from Turtle Gardens and has fostered a number of others.
Dogs from Broken Promises in need of homes and Turtle Island adoptees will be among the canine models.
The show begins at 7: 30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the store or online at outlooksformen.com. Call 250-3842848 for more information.