As can be said about virtually all civically/politically active people I know, Shara’s family was a huge influence in her development as a community worker.
My parents (of blessed memory) were the perfect role models. Our home was always open to strangers who spent many a holiday feast with us. My mom was active in the school PTA and numerous Jewish women’s groups. My dad worked six days a week but was an essential participant in my elementary school's annual bazaar - he was in charge of the clothing section - he had been in retail clothing sales.
Shara’s first conscious memories of being involved in community service were from when she was about nine years old. She joined a Jewish youth group called Habonim that:
…taught us the merits of social democracy where all citizens are valued and assured by the state a life of dignity, education, healthcare and free from poverty.
She remained an active member of Habonim for ten years.
Over the years, Shara has been active in a number of non-profit groups, both here ( B'Nai Brith Youth), and the Health Action Committee, and overseas (Senegal), as a volunteer with American Jewish World Service . Presently she is on the Board and a number of committees of Project Genesis , and she is the founding member and President of Fondation Sénégal Santé Mobile (FSSM) - you can visit their website by clicking here .
When I asked Shara what had led her to found FSSM, she replied as follows:
"Several years ago, my husband a Senegalese man I met while in Senegal, got off the phone with his family and he was crying. His 12 year old niece had just passed away having been wrongly diagnosed with malaria instead of yellow fever. The treatments are different and so she did not make it. I told him at that time that we who are privileged have to do something. Especially since both of these diseases are endemic in the country and it should be very routine to get a proper diagnosis. A few years later the Fondation Senegal Santé Mobile was established - 2009 and in 2010 we received our Revenue Canada Charities status and began our work in earnest."
The combination of a strong sense of social responsibility and the personal tragedy of her niece mobilized Shara to take action.
I realize that there is a great need in Canada as well, but my experience in Senegal has shown me that even the most needy here are in better shape than there [Senegal]. This is because most of our basic health care needs are provided by our government.
FSSM was founded to “…provide basic primary healthcare to under-served populations in Senegal.” At present, there have been two shipments of basic medications and diabetes monitoring equipment to the community health centre (known as Post de santé) in the town Gorom 1. Serving roughly ten villages and between 40,000 and 60,000 villages, this Post de santé is critically important.
FSSM is presently in the process of planning a Gala evening of multicultural food, parables, and music, with all proceeds going to support a maternity and birthing centre – recently built in Gorom 1. Shara’s goals as President of FSSM is “…to raise enough money to provide these, and eventually other village populations, with the basic healthcare they now lack.”
(These planning sessions are always comfortable, replete with wonderful food, and often include the non-human 'member' of the committee.)
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Donate to the Brick by Brick campaign of FSSM, either as part of your regular donations or as a gift to another.
2. If you are in the Montreal area, buy a ticket to the Gala, to be held on Oct 26, 2011, from 18h00-22h00 (place to be determined). You can buy tickets by contacting FSSM at 514-369-8607, or get more information at their website .
3. Think about some injustice you’ve experienced
4. Do a bit of research and see if there are any groups dealing with this issue
5. If there are, donate time and/or money. Educate others.
6. If there aren’t, do some research and start your own group.