By Pat KRAMER
Helping the less fortunate comes naturally to Sunland resident Michelle Ramage. Last year, she was involved in a campaign that raised money for a battered women’s shelter in Guatemala. Now, with the help of Tujunga’s Foothill Dental Group, the Sunland/Tujunga/Shadow Hills Rotary Club and others in the community, she is part of a delegation in Africa that is distributing school supplies to children in dirt floor schools in remote villages.
Accompanying Ramage is her husband Kelly, her mother Katherine Nevin, her sister Allison and brother-in-law Greg, and friend Tujunga resident Abby Diamond. Each is paying for their own expenses for the six-week trip to South Africa, Botswana and Namibia, one of the poorest countries of Africa. The group left Los Angeles on April 14 and is expected back on May 27. Prior to leaving, Ramage talked about the purpose of her trip. “It is to distribute school supplies to 250 children,” Ramage said. “In Namibia, 80% of the children work as day laborers on farms or peddle odds and ends in the street to help their families survive. One of the most frequent requests they make to travelers they meet is for pens or pencils because they have nothing to write with. Overall, only 12% graduate from high school.”
With the monies they raised in the Sunland-Tujunga community, the delegation was able to purchase pens, pencils, crayons, individual chalkboards, paper and coloring books. By distributing these school supplies to children in the bush, Ramage hopes to empower children to stay in school and build their future through education and job opportunities. In addition to visiting children in the villages, Ramage’s group met with women from an anti-poaching organization primarily composed of women in South Africa known as the “Black Mambas” to whom they gave gifts of scarves. In addition to their work in reducing illegal wildlife trade, the Black Mambas do outreach in the schools to teach children the importance of conservation and protecting endangered species as a way of preserving the heritage of their country.