A local woman is back at home in River Heights, sleeping in her own bed; an everyday luxury she likely won’t take for granted anymore.
Ricki Miles recently travelled to Sri Lanka with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) — a Canadian non-profit organization that distributes bed kits to needy children in developing and poor countries — where she and five other volunteers delivered 4,000 bed kits to local children.
"A bed kit would be — in my case — a mat, sheet, mosquito net, towel, pillow, pillow case, a backpack, five scribblers, two clothing outfits, socks and shoes, and a water bottle; a lot of things that these children really need. Many of these children have never slept on a bed, or a mat, have never had a sheet," Miles said.
SCAW routinely travels to different countries across Africa, South America, Asia and other regions, and has distributed more than one million bed kits since it was founded in 1970.
"The mandate of Sleeping Children Around the World is to give each child a good night’s sleep," Miles said. "We visited a few homes and saw the conditions in which they live, and the homes are usually one room or two rooms, no furnishings, no beds, the whole family basically sleeps on the ground.
"These children have never received a gift, probably in their whole lifetime, so they were pretty amazed, excited, elated, they had all of the emotions, you could imagine."
Miles says she vividly recalls her second day of volunteering in Sri Lanka, when she was designated as the group member who would physically hand the bed kits to their recipients.
"That was the first time I had ever done that," she said. "I was about to hand it to one little girl, and she kind of disappeared from my view, because she was bowing to the ground; a custom that children have in Sri Lanka when they’re showing very deep respect and gratitude. So she was right on the ground, bowing and clasping her hands, and then she stood up to take the bed kit.
"And I was just overcome with emotion at that point, that this meant so much to her. There was just so much emotion for both of us."
A regular volunteer at an assisted living residence in Winnipeg, Miles has also volunteered with Global Volunteers in 2008, and says the overseas experiences have been invaluable and enriched her life.
"It was a life-changing experience for me. I need to try to make a difference, even a small difference, but to make other people’s lives better if I can, because I’ve been blessed with so much," Miles said. "I have the time, energy and resources at this point in my life and I like to pay it forward.
"No matter what stage you are at in life and your circumstances, I think it really puts perspective in your life. I think volunteers often get just as much, if not more, out of the experience than the people they’re helping."
For more information on Sleeping Children Around the World, and how to volunteer, visit scaw.org