Translation of above Swahili caption “Seek the water at once”.
I first met Kaitlin Boyda around 2010 through my contact with John Voort of Compassion Canada. She was terminally ill and The Children Wish Foundation wanted to grant her a wish. What she wanted wasn’t typical of what teen-age kids her age would hope for. Instead of a trip to Disneyland or backstage passes to meet Beyonce she wanted to fund a water project in Uganda. I remember being so impressed with her positive attitude and demeanor. She got her water project and her story resonated with people all over Canada. What she was able to accomplish is miraculous. Her legacy continues and I wanted to get an update from John as to what is happening today. So I’ll let him take from here:
Remind everyone who Kaitlin Boyda is.
She was a most amazing young woman who passed away Thursday May 5, 2011 at seventeen years of age and who has left behind an absolutely incredible legacy by giving away her Children’s Wish gift!
What do you remember about the first time you met her?
The first time I met her was only a few days after I began working for Compassion Canada. It was the night the Children’s Wish Foundation presented Kaitlin with her $7500 and we were presenting her with a gift to say thank you for funding a water project in Uganda with her money. My thoughts as I was driving to her home were “I hope I don’t screw this evening up!” I had never done anything like this before and I was so nervous about meeting her. All my work skills came via 31 years of retail experience and here I was representing Compassion Canada. But the minute I met her, she put me at ease with her quiet and confident manner and the evening went perfectly.
You had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact she had on her water projects in Uganda. Take us through the emotion you felt.
I’ll never forget the day we shared with the people of Uganda in the community where Kaitlin’s initial water project was dedicated. It was such a big deal, I remember the second highest ranking member of the Church of Uganda and the president’s right hand man even showed up but what amazed me was that so many ordinary Ugandan’s walked from over 100 kilometers away to attend. I kind of figured that there would be much gratitude from the people but I had no idea as to what the extent of the gratitude would be.
The amount of money she was able to raise was staggering. Did you ever imagine she could accomplish what she did in such a short period of time?
No, not even an inkling. In fact, the evening in which Kaitlin received her $7500 from Children’s Wish, we had a plan supply the remaining funds required to pay for one water well and call it hers. If you remember, Compassion Canada couldn’t commit to just the one well for Kaitlin to fund because it was part of a project that consisted of 21 water wells. It was in the middle of our fiscal and this was the only water project still needing funding in all 25 countries that Compassion International serves. Each well required $9,600 from Compassion Canada so our commitment was $201,600! As you can imagine, it required a substantial leap of faith to add this amount in the middle of our fiscal year. As I was leaving the Boyda household that night, I only managed to get to the front door when I was approached by a few of the family and we began discussing the possibility of finding a few businesses who may wish to fund a well, or maybe even just a portion, and at the same time Kaitlin, her brother, sisters and a few of her cousins decided to start a FB page that night. I left thinking these were good ideas but I didn’t for one minute imagine it would be anything too big. I figured perhaps a few thousand dollars but within 7 weeks she had raised enough money to pay for all 21 water projects.
We all knew she was going to die but when that reality came, what went through your mind?
We all knew but we were all praying for a miracle. Honestly Mark, if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this was something Kaitlin knew she was meant to do, I’m not sure how I would answer that. Every moment I was thinking about her during the last few months, every time I was working on the funding, the trip, etc, I was and I still am in awe of her faith in God. As much as she wanted to live, she was okay with her situation because she was so pleased that she was making such a huge difference in so many lives. I’m certain that everyone has a number of people in their lives who we consider to be wonderful mentors and important influencers in our lives. The majority of these people in my life were very important and influential in my youth. Only 3 have been huge for me in my adult years and Kaitlin is absolutely one of those and most certainly the youngest one.
What has happened since her death?
Her legacy continues to grow. Every week her FB page still receives numerous views, likes and comments. She encouraged Compassion Uganda to believe they could reach their goal of water to every church/community. Kaitlin’s amazing gift has now helped bring Compassion to the point where all 355 plus Church partners in Uganda will have clean water in their communities by 2020! It’s truly going to happen! I am truly in awe. I learned a while ago that Compassion International is now the second largest water NGO in Uganda!
Do people who have benefited from her initiative know who she is?
She is a hero in the community where the initial well went and she is certainly known by Compassion Uganda. Her well has a plaque attached with her picture in honour of her amazing contribution to their community. And of course she is known in Compassion Canada and USA as well.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned from what Kaitlin was able to do?
I used to be one of those people that would tell anyone who would listen that our society has no hope for the future because of the way youth are these days. Kaitlin is the most selfless person I have ever met and she was a teen when I met her, and she made me think about my boneheaded attitude. In fact I have taken it a few steps farther than just thinking about it. My job is essentially initiating and nurturing partnerships with churches in my territory. But since she passed away, and because of her, I have been very intentional about trying to work with students in elementary and middle schools and through youth conferences as much as possible. I have been blown away by how passionate these children and youth are about making a difference in this world and I can honestly say that there are many reasons for hope in our young people for the future. They care so much more than I, and I believe my entire generation ever did at their age.
How can people still donate or learn more about Compassion Canada?
Now that every Compassion church partner in Uganda is set and totally funded to have clean water by 2020, the initiative has been expanded to the other countries we serve in Africa. If anyone wants to help Compassion Canada reach our goal of $1 million for this fiscal year for this fabulous initiative, they can click on this links to donate: https://www.compassion.ca/make-a-donation/
We are just finished our 5th month of this fiscal and are at 32% of our goal!