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E.K. woman honoured for work in Kenya

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Cat Ross’ dedication to charity just keeps growing and growing.

The East Kildonan resident, whose full-time job is working as the Children’s Wish Foundation’s fundraising co-ordinator for Manitoba and Nunavut, also started up KIDS (Kenya Initiative for Development and Sustainability) in her spare time.

For her tireless dedication, Ross was honoured with the Soroptimist Ruby Award: For Women Helping Women Award, presented by Soroptimist International of Winnipeg at a gala at the Viscount Gort Hotel on April 13. In addition to the honour for Ross, KIDS also received a $500 donation.

Ross knew her sister was putting together a nomination for the award, but was still shocked to be named the recipient when she received a call from Ruby Award committee chair Sally Thomas informing her of the news.

"I was definitely surprised – you don’t get a call every day telling you you’ve won an award," she said. "It was amazing to hear that not only was I going to be the recipient of this Ruby Award, but I was also being given a donation towards my organization. That was a big bonus for me."

Ross said she was inspired to travel to Kenya initially in 2005 while working with HIV/AIDS patients through Nine Circles Community Health Centre. She was teaching a course on the disease’s effects across the world at the time.

She said it "seemed a little weird to be teaching it" without having seen the effects of the disease first-hand.

"I decided I wanted to travel abroad and I wanted to work in HIV/AIDS clinics where it was at its worst," she said.

Once she arrived in the country, she knew she wanted to dedicate her life to helping people affected by the disease. She travelled to the country once again before starting KIDS.

"I wanted to make sure I was putting together an organization a specific way," she said. "I wanted to make sure that a majority of funds being raised were going into the field. I wanted to ensure the organization would remain grassroots."

KIDS holds an annual event, and Ross noted the scale of the event has increased year after year, as have the number of volunteers and others wishing to help. She expects donations to top $25,000 this year.

KIDS supports five projects in Kenya: Ndiani Primary School, Mama Tunza Children’s Centre, Ngong Hospital, Kieni Fighters of HIV/AIDS, and GIWA and Banita internally displaced people camps.

Ross said she hopes to help the organizations become independently sustainable to move onto other established programs in need of help in Kenya and across the continent.

For more information on the organization, visit www.kidsinitiative.ca.

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