Loving Zambia from Lynn Valley

Argyle student Hope Pearmain and her mom Debbie are returning to Zambia at the end of June. It’s a story of fate, coincidence or a divine plan depending on your point of view.


Project Samuel


Today, the Lynn Valley family is supporting the education of 24 orphans in Africa, after a Texa’s businessman went to Zambia was compelled to make a difference 2006. His young son, Brenden Vowell, now leads Project Samuel and later met – and went on to marry – a North Vancouver girl, Kim Close. It was Pearmain’s relationship with Close that brought the family to Zambia last summer.

Hope Pearmain

The Pearmains spent a few weeks in the Chibombo District, three hours north from the capital of Lusaka, at Project Samuel.

“It’s super rural,” said Debbie. “It’s like living in the 19th Century. They don’t have electricity. They cook over open fires. They wash their clothes by hand in tubs. The people live in a basic hut structure.”

The small organization started by the Vowell family sits on 257 acres of land with four homes with hopes of making a difference in the lives of some of the 1.4 million Zambian orphans (that’s 10 percent of its 14 million population).

“We are used to seeing homeless people here that are usually adults or maybe teenagers and that is upsetting but over there, there are five – six – seven-year-old kids running around the streets homeless,” she said. “It’s tragic.”

Project Samuel is a youth revitalization project aiming to raise leaders who will stay and rebuild their nation, said Debbie. With such a big challenge Brenden, then in his early 20’s took custody of 24 children – choosing to take full responsibility and invest totally in improving the lives of those children and their communities. The Pearmains arrived last year to help the Vowells as they welcomed their first birth child and learn more about the project.  It was a life changing experience.


Starting with education


Debbie Pearmain

The Pearmains were naturally drawn to schools in the area in part because their children, then 12 and 15, could relate strongly but also, dad, Mark, is the superintendent of the North Vancouver School District. Schools are little more than walls and roof with a painted blackboard – and expensive, said Debbie.

“Here every child has the right to an education,” explained Debbie. “In Zambia that’s not how it works. It costs $80 USD a term [including uniforms, supplies, tuition and supplies] and the average family lives on one US dollar a day.”    

With a background in HR corporate training and coaching Debbie joined Mark at a number of professional days for Zambian teachers.

“Education is expensive and the dropout rates are high,” she said. “Then in Grade 7 the government begins to mandate exams but the students don’t have the literacy levels to be successful.”

Children in a classroom.

They spent one teacher enrichment day just teaching how to teach an exam that students had never been able to pass.

“Everyone showed up – all the teachers, even the vice principal,” she said. “They are working so hard but without the resources and training they need.”

Even Hope stepped into to teach.

“Hope had a Grade 10 education and was actually in one of the schools teaching because we went into one of the classrooms and they were working on a math problem that no one could solve,” said Debbie. “As a mom I had tears streaming down my face because I was so proud.”


The vision is long


Teacher enrichment.

Last summer’s trip had a deep impact on the Pearmains.

“When we came home we sat down with our kids and said ‘We have had this experience, so now what? What do you want to do?’” she said. “We decided as a family our mission will be to keep these kids in school. We can’t help everyone we saw – but we can help these 24 kids at Project Samuel.”

It’s a plan that was quickly supported by people in Lynn Valley and across the North Shore.

“We did some small fundraisers with family and friends and we have raised enough money for two years for all the kids to go school,” said Debbie. “There are crazy stories of people helping us – reaching out on social media. Random people who I haven’t talked to in 20 years sent us cheques.”

North Vancouver donations.

Pearmain highlights the donations of Park and Tilford Cobs Breads for their support of bake sales and the ongoing support of Dave Smith of SmithWerks Carpet and Upholstery Care and the North Shore Alliance Church. Even Grade 5 and 6 students at Vancouver Christian School raised $5000 at their entrepreneur fair. Plus local Lynn Valley families who have donated soccer gear and necessities, including the North Shore Girls Soccer, North Van Football Club as well as the Argyle PAC. These donations are important part of a soccer outreach program in the rural villages, said Debbie.

With Hope asking to go back, the Pearmains wanted to do even more.

“The system isn’t perfect but we have so much here in North Vancouver. We are blessed to have the North Vancouver Literacy Centre. We’ve got this unbelievable resource that we were connected to because our son struggled with reading,” Debbie said. “I started meeting with Susan McLean  – she has put resources together and has been teaching me how to teach reading.”

The year has been spent creating curriculum for students as well as professional development for teachers. It’s not all business though. There were be plenty of soccer games, movie nights, community days and picnics. The long term goal for Project Samuel is to help more children, be self-sufficient and earn income with its farm and ultimately help create a stronger Zambia.

“My personal mission is to do anything here in North Vancouver I can to get the word out. There are 24 kids who will need to go to college. There are two graduating this year. I want to send each child to college – $1500-2000USD commitment per year per child. They have 24 kids to help. If people want to partner with us on this they can receive tax donations and email me for more information,” said Debbie.

“My vision is long. Not only do I want to see them read and finish high school but I want them to be able to give back to their communities and help break the cycle of poverty for their families in the future. It’s unbelievable – the kids have such dreams but they don’t even know all their options – they don’t know what they could be dreaming about.”

To learn more about Project Samuel visit its website or reach out to Debbie.

To donate go to: icmsgo.com. Then click: DONATE, select: Canada, agency: project Samuel Foundation, supporting: children and project giving.


Looking for more?


There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Healthy teachers – happy classrooms

A health-focused Lynn Valley couple has written the book on keeping teachers healthy. With more than 20 years practicing occupational therapy focusing on the education sector Wade Repta put much of his expertise down on paper in The Well Teacher with the help of his wife Andrée.


Keeping teachers well


“Expectations on teachers are extremely high,” said Wade. “They work under extreme scrutiny and typically they are hare high performing individuals who put others ahead of themselves. The job can be overwhelming – it’s far more challenging than people think.”

Covering a range of topics The Well Teacher was written to give teachers practical tools to keep them in the classroom longer and to get them back sooner after injury or illness.

“If someone is struggling with mental or physical health it can be a tough to manage while caring for 22 children,” said Wade. “I have probably worked with over 1000 teachers either one on one or in workshops. We see so many challenges and there was nowhere for them to go to get the information they need. We wanted to give them the information to improve their well being. We hear over and over again ‘Why didn’t I know this?’ Or ‘Why was I never taught this?’”

Another big difference between other sectors and education are the return to work accommodations, explained Andrée. After an injury or significant work absence most employees are able to figure out with their employers reduced hours, part-time schedules, different responsibilities and a variety of other accommodations.

“For teachers depending on their schedule, their blocks, their specialties it can be difficult to find support for that which makes it very different from other sectors,” she said.

Most of the book is specific to the teaching profession which Wade says is to address the unique challenges teachers are facing.

“In the work we do – [the teachers we see] are already struggling,” said Wade. “Our job is to help people to manage their illness or disability and then figure out their work. This book is to help those teachers and to give information to teachers who don’t want to get to that point.”


Specific help for teachers


Topics range from mental health to ergonomics to voice as well as an entire chapter on returning to work after an injury or illness. They cover the day to day life of educators which can slowly erode health. The physical challenges are usually not brute force injuries but stem, typically, from poor routine.

“In younger grade levels everything is low, so there are repetitive injuries from bending, kneeling,” said Andrée. “Or in high school a teacher maybe working by a white board all day long and not doing in the best way.”

Often small changes to classrooms and routines can help those teachers. The Well Teacher also addresses the physical challenges of chronic conditions and disease. But that’s not the case for other teachers.

“Of those we see – people who are asking for help or had a crash – pretty universally, about 50 per cent are off for physical health and about 50 per cent are off for mental health reasons,” said Wade. “We are seeing a lot of anxiety, we are seeing a lot of depression and while it is not a diagnostic term, we are seeing burn out. They are just tired.”

People don’t realize it’s common for teachers to feel that way because they get multiple breaks throughout the year but when they are at work it is overwhelming, he said.

“So many are just barely getting by.”

The Well Teacher website also has a number of resources available that help readers implement the strategies in the book.

“We wanted it to be functional and actually used and put into practice,” said Wade. “We know sitting down and setting goals leads to more success. We want teachers to have more control over their wellness – to prevent a further decline or give them a starting point to get back in the classroom.”

The Well Teacher is available online or by contacting Wade and Andrée at thewellteacher@humanworks.ca to order your copy and arrange Lynn Valley pick up to save on shipping.

Who is your good neighbour?

It’s one of our favorite times of year here at Lynn Valley Life: The Good Neighbor Award season.  Year after year this is a highlight for all of us.


Our quiet contributors


Day-to-day we try to gather interesting and Innovative stories about Lynn Valley but one thing that is often missed are the quiet stories. The good that goes on in our neighborhood everyday – often unnoticed beyond the person or organization helped.  We have people step up in times of need, we have those that day in and day out give of their time, money and energy. We have those that invest in our schools, our community groups, our churches. We have those that are staples on our streets who step up and help neighbours and friends whenever it’s needed. From helping refugees to outstanding coaches to people who are practically community institutions.


Pillars of the community


Lizz Lindsay at Sharing Abundance.

The Good Neighbour Award has been going strong since 2012. We receive heartfelt nominations – some short, some long. Check out some previous winners and read their stories – whe have an exceptional community! Last year we had Tim Green, a tireless supporter of the Lynn Valley Services Society and Molly Nye House. Dave and Wilna Parry passionate advocates for refugees and immigrants. In 2015 we were proud to recognize Cath Bates Dimmock a volunteer with Argyle Secondary for more than 10 years! We have shared the astounding work of Lizz Lindsay and her charity Sharing Abundance that brings people together through food and programs address food insecurity and social isolation. We love hearing about who makes a difference in your life and our community.


How to nominate your good neighbour


Who might our Good Neighbour be for 2018? Please send us a note telling us why you think your nominee makes Lynn Valley a better place to be. It doesn’t have to be long and fancy – just from the heart! Please send your suggestions to info@LynnValleyLife.com before December 31, 2018. Lynn Valley’s Good Neighbour for will receive a plaque, a restaurant gift certificate, and some well-deserved recognition!


Looking for more?


There’s always something fun and exciting happening in Lynn Valley. Check out our Community Events Calendar or learn more about Local Activities, Mountain Biking or Hiking and Walking Trails.

Culture Days: Shaketown

Lynn Valley will be buzzing with activity for the ninth annual Culture Days September 28-30th. Events and activities will be happening throughout Canada, North Vancouver and in our very own neighbourhood.


North Shore Culture


Culture Days is an opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to try something new, experience something totally different, discover creative spaces in the community and meet the artists that work there. North Vancouver Parks and Recreation have centred the events at seven different “Hubs” throughout the District and City of North Vancouver.

“North Shore Culture Days celebrates the vital role that arts and culture plays in creating vibrant and connected communities. We invite residents to participate, be inspired and have some fun.” said Heather Turner, director, North Vancouver Recreation & Culture Commission.

We have two picks for Lynn Valley:

  1. Saturday Sept. 29; 10-11 a.m. Shaketown Walk with NVMA curator Karen Dearlove , Community History Centre, 3203 Institute Road, Lynn Valley
  2. Saturday, Sept. 29; 2-3 p.m. The Glorious Mountains of Vancouver’s North Shore with author David Crerar,  Community History Centre, 3203 Institute Road, Lynn Valley

Shaketown


At the turn of the last century, Lynn Valley isolated, forested and at the edge of the frontier.

“It really was in the mountains,” said North Vancouver Museum and Archives Curator Karen Dearlove. “Before bridges it was a fairly remote. Just to get up here traveling from Burrard Inlet was difficult. It was mostly skid roads for the mills.”

Ca. 1909. Hastings Creek bridge and boardwalk on Lynn Valley Road, with flume running overhead.

The heavily treed landscape was bisected by Tote Road, a rugged skid road that allowed oxen to haul felled logs down to the Moodyville waterfront, “Centre Road” (now Mountain Highway), and Pipeline Road, a plank road along which a pipeline was installed to carry drinking water from Rice Lake into North Vancouver.

Its relative remoteness and difficulty did not keep people away. The community was first called Shaketown because of the mill – on Mill Street – producing cedar shakes or perhaps it was because of the the shake-sided shacks housing the necessary workers.

“Because the workers at the mills wanted to live close by, homes were built, stores opened, clubs and churches were formed. There was an influx into the area and quite quickly it became a community,” said Dearlove.

The appeal of good jobs, land and a community drew a diverse group of workers from early Chinese and Japanese workers, to industrialists from Vancouver and a number of families from Finland, plus many others, she said.

“Many were like Walter Draycott – they had a sense of adventure,” she said.


Shaketown Walk


Ca. 1910. Depicting the new streetcar line at Lynn Valley Road and Ross Road. The Lynn Valley general store is at the right.

The September 29th Shaketown walk will take participants on an hour-long stroll through Lynn Valley, centring on the intersection of Lynn Valley Road and Mountain. Dearlove will present historical images alongside today’s environment to explore juxtaposition of then and now.

“We have some really great historical photos that show how buildings have changed or moved,” she said.   

The guided walk should be easy for most abilities. It begins at the Community History Centre, 3203 Institute Road, Saturday,  Sept. 29, 10-11 a.m. Participants must pre-register by calling 604 990 3700 x8016.

For all the Cutlure Days events check out the  NVRC website at https://www.nvrc.ca/arts-culture/culture-days (for Lynn Valley events, click on the Lynn Valley Hub accordion on the webpage) or the national website at https://culturedays.ca/en.

All images courtesy of the North Vancouver Museum and Archives.

To learn more about Lynn Valley’s history check out this page.


Historic images


ca. 1950s. Panoramic image along Lynn Valley Road, across from Mountain Hwy. Buildings depicted from left to right: the Brier Block; the Triangle block; the Fromme block. Lynn Valley United Church can be seen behind the Fromme block. This image was taken after the streetcar lines had been removed.