Donna Cino’s affinity for Africa began at an early age.
“My brother’s godfather worked (overseas) when we were kids and I think that got me going,” says the Saanich resident. “I was tiny and he would come home with slides and tell us stories about what was going on. So I always had an interest.”
These days, it is Cino who will be coming home with the stories and the slides, as she is currently travelling through Tanzania, a country of 51 million in the southeastern corner of Africa.
In her role as a child sponsorship ambassador with World Vision, Cino will be visiting various area development projects, many benefitting the local Muslim population, that World Vision undertakes in collaboration with locals in Tanzania, while raising awareness about World Vision child sponsorship program.
Cino, who sponsors three children herself, has seen its impact up close. While with World Vision in South Africa she encountered a local woman who was crying.
Cino soon realized the woman was crying for joy, as she had received a donated school uniform for her child.
“So these are the sort of things that you see and witness,” she says.
Cino’s current African trip, which began last month, is her third with World Vision and her fifth overall. As such, it helps her renew a lifelong love affair.
“To me, it’s where we all came from,” she says. “Once you have been…your heart just stay there.”
She experienced various hardships along the way, as the countries that she has visited over the years (South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe) consistently rank among the lowest of socio-economic development rankings.
The poverty and frequent absence of basic services such as power and water that Cino has encountered during her trips have altered her perspective.
“It really opens your eyes and broadens your horizons, that is for sure,” she says. “I find it makes me a lot more tolerant of things here.”
Her visits to Africa have also made Cino aware of the sense of community that has gone increasingly missing in developed countries such as Canada.
“The people [she has met in Africa] are fantastic,” she says. ”As poor as they are, they are so happy to see you and welcome you.”
Their daily experiences have also changed the way Cino lives her life. She has become more conscious about her water use and cut back on unnecessary expenditures around mass consumption events such as Christmas.
“The excesses that we used to do were crazy, compared to now,” says Cino’s husband Tom, who credits his wife’s trip and works for these changes. “I’m really proud of what she does. It’s amazing.”
Money now goes towards items and programs that cost little to Canadians, but can make a big difference abroad.
“If every Canadian were to sponsor a kid, there wouldn’t be the poverty that exists there,” says Cino.