October 12, 2018 1:21 pm

Restor International of Kelowna helping spread fire safety in Africa

Restor International is heading to Ethiopia in November with 14 Okanagan volunteers who will help burn patients with critical surgery and care. The group will also be teaching fire prevention and safety.

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Stop. Drop. Roll.

It’s a lesson children in Canada are familiar with, but, in developing countries like Ethiopia, burn accidents still scar thousands and kill hundreds every year.

“They’re totally preventable,” said Kelowna fire prevention officer Gayanne Pacholzuk. “Cooking over open fire, that’s how the majority of people are getting burned.”

Kelowna’s Restor International group has been traveling to the African nation for four years, helping burn victims and training health workers.

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“This is a phase three program,” said Kim East, Restor surgical care coordinator. “Establish a complex wound and burn care program in the Ghabi teaching hospital in Bahadar, Ethiopia.”

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The impact of their work is immense.

“I can’t imagine some of the burns that are left untouched without medical care,” said Pacholzuk. “I’ve seen some photos. So it’s really, really sad. You want to help these people help themselves.”

When the volunteers travel to Ethiopia next month, this time, they’re taking a new approach.

“So let’s start with the children in the schools,” said Pacholzuk. “Like we do here and teach them good habits.”

Kelowna’s fire safety officer will be joining volunteers to instruct others in how to prevent fire injuries and to educate everyone on fire prevention.

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Part of their grant funding for the project includes supporting gender equality. Pacholzuk’s presence as a fire safety educator is hoped that it will help empower women in Ethiopia and take leadership roles in their communities.

“And then take that into the schools,” said East, “and those little girls are seeing power.”

Grants for Restor’s humanitarian work have come from Rotary Canada, Rotary International and private donors.

“We leave November 9th and we do not get home until the 24th,” said Pacholzuk. “So two days of travel, 14 days of boots on the ground.”

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