Three years ago Zobida Ambtman travelled to Hyderabad, India for the first time to volunteer in an orphanage.
Ambtman’s desire to help didn’t end when she returned home. Today, she is continuing to do all she can to help the children she became so connected to during her first visit.
Now, for the third year in a row, the Lindenwoods resident is organizing a fundraiser dinner to raise money for Child Haven International, an organization which runs the orphanage in Hyderabad, as well as seven other homes across South Asia that provide a safe haven, education and vocational training for approximately 1,000 children.
Ambtman had always wanted to volunteer overseas, and was introduced to CHI — which is operated by Maxville, Ont. residents Bonnie and Fred Cappucino — through a friend. After spending three months with staff and children in the orphanage, she said it was impossible to ignore her desire to continue helping.
"When I left, my stay was more than a fleeting feel-good experience. The children and staff moved and inspired me and I could not turn my back on them. CHI gave these children hope and opportunities (and) I could not turn my back on them. I needed to do more," Ambtman said.
"Coming back (home, the orphanage) was always in the back of my mind, because I (couldn’t) pretend the kids aren’t there, or that I don’t know (the need), and I can do something I think."
Since her first visit, Ambtman returned to Hyderabad to volunteer in 2011, and is hoping to return again next year.
CHI relies solely on private donations to operate. After her first visit to India, Ambtman determined she wanted to help raise additional funds for the charity. In that first year she rallied family and friends together to sell 200 tickets for the inaugural fundraiser dinner.
The first two dinners were able to raise more than $24,000 for CHI through ticket sales and other donations. Last year, Ambtman was able to raise enough money to purchase a vehicle for the Hyderabad home.
This year, Ambtman and other organizers are hoping to sell 300 tickets for the dinner and raise enough money to help the Hyderabad home purchase a school bus.
"It’s a huge commitment, but we’ll give it a stab," Ambtman said.
"We try and do what we can. (The fundraiser) has been small, but fairly successful."
Ambtman said her one concern is with the fundraiser in its third year, the novelty might have worn off for some of the friends and family who have attended in the past.
Fred Cappucino said it’s the efforts of people like Ambtman that keep CHI running.
"It’s a wonderful thing, we now have 23 dinners across Canada, and one in the States and we really depend of that financial support," said the 86-year-old in a telephone conversation.
"Most of the dinner committees are run by people who have been (to one of the homes) and have seen the work is real and the children are real."
The Cappucinos will be visiting Winnipeg to speak to dinner attendees about their organization.
The dinner will be held Sun., Sept. 23 at the Punjab Banquet Hall, located at 94 Mandalay Dr.
Tickets are $35, and include an East Indian buffet. To purchase tickets, call Ambtman at 204-489-7630. For more information on CHI, go to childhaven.ca.