An experience for anyone
In 2000, Canadians Wayne McRann and Dan Miller were in the jungles of Guatemala, installing water systems and building houses on a Rotary International trip. They felt people other than Rotary members should have the same chance do something to make others’ lives better.
Four years later, the first Developing World Connections meeting was held in Kamloops, B.C., but getting up and running took a while longer.
Then, on Dec. 26, 2004, a massive tsunami pounded 14 countries in the Indian Ocean, killing 230,000 and destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands more. The horror of the devastation sparked DWC to life, with the first teams rushing to Sri Lanka to rebuild homes and community buildings. The fledgling group got itself organized, got teams over to Sri Lanka, and McRann took the helm as executive director.
“The tsunami galvanized people in a way that was unseen. The loss of life was so huge; the devastation was so huge. It was the biggest thing that ever happened in terms of disasters. For some reason, people just decided this was their opportunity to give a hand,” McRann said.
DWC has been on the ground ever since, first in Sri Lanka, then spreading to other parts of Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin/South America. Marking one decade in 2015, DWC had organized 200 trips and sent more than 2,000 volunteers to build homes, schools, training centres, latrines, water systems, computer labs and other projects.
Retired, but not really
In 2014, McRann retired as executive director and handed the leadership over to Joshua Molsberry. But he remains involved and still sits on the board. He has travelled to explore partnerships with non-profits in numerous countries. What he has seen has touched him profoundly.
“With one family, the kids were living sleeping on the ground, no beds or living room, they had a fire pit in the middle of the hut and a couple of pots and plates and that was their entire existence. And in a very rural area, there were three little girls, 13, 11 and nine. Their parents died of AIDS. They were being sexually assaulted every day; there was no one to protect them.
“Because I’m working I don’t get incredibly emotionally involved. But as soon as I get on the airplane, I break down and cry. And cry and cry.”
McRann is heartened by the successes he sees when doing follow-up visits.
“I go back in a year and see we’ve built care places where children go to get fed every day. In exchange, they have to stay for four hours of education. So they get fed and educated. So I end up seeing the worst and then the success of a DWC project. And I have seen the individual kids and the difference it was going to make in their lives was huge.”