HAVING a baby transformed Tamara Petkau, who hopes others will open their hearts and wallets to moms and kids starving in East Africa.

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Sisters Tamara (left) and Johanna Petkau (right) have set up a Facebook challenge to raise money for African famine victims.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sisters Tamara (left) and Johanna Petkau (right) have set up a Facebook challenge to raise money for African famine victims.

HAVING a baby transformed Tamara Petkau, who hopes others will open their hearts and wallets to moms and kids starving in East Africa.

"It was the realization that the mothers of Somalia and Kenya and Ethiopia are just like me," said the 29-year-old mom with a 14-month-old daughter.

"They want to ensure the health and happiness of their child. The only difference between us and them is we live in Canada. It just hit a little close to home."

She and her sister Johanna Petkau have so far raised close to $1,500 for the Canadian Foodgrains Bank with a challenge on Facebook.

They’re asking people to make small sacrifices for one week and donate the savings to the Canadian Foodgrains Bank for famine relief.

"We were expecting our top 10 friends would respond," said Tamara, a high school teacher who lives in Charleswood.

"We’re getting responses from people we never would have thought of."

"And the creativity and generosity they’re showing" are a surprise too, she said.

"One woman donated her child tax benefit for the month," which was close to $100, said Petkau.

"The challenge is not about how much you give. It’s people giving $10 or $20 by making small sacrifices. All that has added up to over $1,000," she said Friday.

"I simply made a sacrifice to give up ice cream. My sister gave up Starbucks coffee."

It’s not much when she considers what people are going without in East Africa.

"Not to have the basic resources to feed your child, it’s the greatest injustice."

Petkau said she couldn’t look away from the suffering of other moms whose children are dying of starvation.

"When it was first in the news, I was constantly on the net looking for ways to help and not feel so helpless and powerless. I fell into a funk about what to do," she said.

"For my birthday, I asked for donations to the Foodgrains Bank in lieu of gifts," she said.

"It was my sister’s idea to start the challenge," she said of Johanna using social media to encourage more people to donate.

The sisters were both raised in the Mennonite faith and familiar with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, said Tamara.

The Foodgrains bank began in 1976 as a Mennonite Central Committee pilot project to share an abundant harvest with a hungry world.

In 1983, it was opened to other church agencies, and re-established as the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

"If you make a small donation, it has a huge ripple effect right now," Petkau said.

The Canadian Foodgrains Bank has a funding agreement with the Canadian International Development Agency that provides the bank with 4:1 matching grants up to $25 million a year.

To date, the Foodgrains Bank has committed $8.5 million to assist people in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

The federal government will match original donations 1:1 for East Africa famine relief until Sept. 16.

"It’s exciting to be part of something that’s picking up steam and growing bigger every day," said Petkau.

"We want to extend this to everybody." Their challenge ends Sept. 2.

For more information, go to https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=255382337823766

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

 

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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