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Amy and Stu McLaren with students who attend Shalom Primary School, which their charity helped build in a refugee camp in Kenya.
Amy and Stu McLaren with students who attend Shalom Primary School, which their charity helped build in a refugee camp in Kenya.

GIVING BACK

Going out of their way to educate children Add to ...

The Donors: Amy and Stu McLaren

The Gift: Creating World Teacher Aid

The Reason: To educate children in rural parts of developing nations

Shortly before Christmas in 2006, Amy McLaren turned to her future husband and suggested they go on a trip over the holidays. Not just any trip.

Ms. McLaren wanted to go on an excursion to a remote village in a developing country where the couple could bring thousands of dollars in donations and buy education supplies. That kind of trip was nothing new to Ms. McLaren, an elementary school teacher near Port Dover, Ont., south of Hamilton. She’d been travelling for years like that, going far afield and sometimes teaching in out-of-the-way places.

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But the idea unsettled her fiancée, Stu McLaren. He wasn’t sure they could pull off a trip like that in such a short time. Ms. McLaren wouldn’t budge. “She told me, you are the business guy, you raise the money and I’ll arrange the trip,” recalled Mr. McLaren, who runs a software company called WishList Products.

They managed to raise $17,000 and headed to a village in El Salvador, using the donations to buy supplies for a local school. On the way back to Canada, Mr. McLaren turned to Ms. McLaren and said: “Okay, I get it, let’s make this a formal thing.”

They soon created a charity called World Teacher Aid and turned their attention to Africa, a continent both felt drawn to (they also married in 2007). The charity has built a primary school in a refugee camp in Kenya and is about to open a high school too. It also operates food programs for students, offers scholarships and funds teacher salaries. Each year, the couple, who are both 32, have to raise at least $150,000 to fund the charity’s activities. And while the work can be taxing, both say the effort has been more than worth it. “When we are [in Kenya], it is the greatest reward that you can ever receive in terms of all the hard work that you put into it,” Mr. McLaren said.

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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