By LeRae Haynes –

Williams Lake volunteers with Canadian Food for Children have taken recycling to a humanitarian level, turning pillow cases and T-shirts into dresses; discarded yarn into pneumonia vests for infants and into leprosy bandages; and tuna cans into candles for light and warmth.

Volunteers with Canadian Food for Children working to improve the lives of children and communities around the world. Photo: Claire Shephard

Canadian Food for Children works to relieve the suffering of the poor in over two dozen developing countries around the world, including Angola, Columbia, Dominica, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malawi, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Sierra Leone, St. Lucia, Tanzania, Trinidad, and Zambia.

This goes beyond food. They provide things like midwife kits, orphanage boxes, sewing boxes, cleaning kits, leprosy hospital kits, shoe kits, school boxes and backpacks, hospital boxes, hydration kits, baby newborn kits, carpentry kits, as well as gardening and sports equipment.

Williams Lake volunteers from a wide range of organizations collect items, donate items, sew, knit, and package items and get them delivered to the Canadian Food for Children regional depot in Penticton. This help is sent to the neediest countries in the world, where there are disasters and where the need is most dire.

“This is taking recycling to a new level,” said Canadian Food for Children volunteer Bel Hume.“Instead of sending things to recycling bins, some things can be sent to countries where they can improve lives, where they are loved, appreciated, and used. Nothing is wasted. This is giving things to people who have absolutely nothing, and it fills my heart with joy.”

Canadian Food for Children was started by Dr. Andrew Simone and his wife Joan in the 1980s and began with five containers shipped the first year. Last year 225 containers were shipped worldwide.

No one, top to bottom, gets paid. No money is spent on administration or advertising; it’s run strictly on donations and by volunteers.

“I see the simple joy it gives us as humans,” explained Laura Zimmerman from the Recycle Bin. “It ignites humanity in us, creates fellowship among us, and makes us brothers with people we’ve never met.”

Jane Cameron, volunteer for Canadian Food for Children, said it’s contagious.

“We keep our tuna cans, and people melt wax into them to ship as candles to use for light and heat,” she said.

“It costs too much to send the empty shipping containers back, so they are left behind and used as homes. For people who live in a cardboard shack, an iron shipping container heated by tuna tin candles is a mansion.”

Andre Bisson from Merritt provides transportation to Penticton once a year to deliver leftovers from the Williams Lake Old Age Pension Organization bi-annual clothing sale at the Seniors Activity Centre. His wife Joan volunteers almost full time. They store and collect items and when the trailer is full, they deliver the load to Penticton.

They are truly dedicated to Canadian Food for Children. While they watch TV, Andre knits toques to send, and Joan knits cotton tensor bandages for leprosy patients.

Hume explained that items they look for include big coffee cans, clean tuna and salmon cans (not pet food tins), used candle wax, pillow cases, cotton sheets, bed skirts, window toppers, flannel sheets, towels, new toothbrushes, backpacks, wool and yarn, suitcases, pots, pans, household items, cotton fabric, school and office supplies, baby items, sewing supplies, match box toys, toy stuffies, paper, sturdy sandals, and gardening supplies.

“When you give these people a pencil, they break it into four pieces and share it,” Hume said. “In some places they trace their foot on a car tire, cut it out, and tie it on their feet. We pray for fresh drinking water for them,” she added. “The water causes so many problems and diseases.”

The individuals in Williams Lake who contribute to Canadian Food for Children come from a wide range of organizations and perspectives.

“I think what we all appreciate is that this is interdenominational and non-government,” Hume said.

“It’s all volunteers caring and coming together because it’s the right thing to do.”

For more information about Canadian Food for Children, visit For local information in Williams Lake or the surrounding region about how to donate or how to volunteer, phone Bel Hume at (250) 398-8740. If you are interested in doing some simple sewing, making pillow case dresses, or making baby blankets, she would really like to hear from you.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, and instigator of lots of music with people of all ages in the community. She fearlessly owns 10 ukuleles, clinging to the belief that you’re not a hoarder if you play them all.


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