Magdalen Leung paused as she took a moment to compose herself while telling the emotional story of the first time she visited an orphanage in South Africa.
Her eyes welled up with tears as she recounted her meeting six years ago with a then five-year-old orphan named Michael who told her that if he could have three wishes, they would be to own a book, not go to sleep hungry and be hugged and kissed by someone who loved him.
Leung, project leader and coordinator for the Richmond Sunset Rotary Club as well as the South Africa and Taiwan districts, has visited the orphanage, called Refilwe, every July since then.
Together with other Rotary members and even students from Hugh Boyd secondary, she has since helped with building a kitchen, library and donating a minibus in years past.
After her last trip, she came back with a new mission — to raise $50,000 to repair the leaking tin roofs at the cottage and to fix their tainted drinking water by setting up a filtration system.
That’s why she has organized the first Rotary Skates for the World event at the Richmond Olympic Oval this Jan. 5 from 3 to 6 p.m. where people can skate and collect pledges.
“I thought, okay, people do gala dinners, they do bike-a-thons, walk-a-thons, what can I do that is something different and that is also a challenge?” said Leung.
She was working out at the oval one day and happened to gaze down at people skating at the rink when inspiration struck.
“I thought, it looks not that difficult,” she said, laughing, not realizing that after she proposed the idea people would suggest she take the challenge of skating to fundraise herself.
“I said oops, I don’t skate. I never skate, I actually panic when I see anything white in front of me. But, I said to myself, I want to do something for my children. I call the African kids my children,” said Leung, who also has three kids of her own.
She teamed up with property developers Aspac, that donated a day at the oval to host the event as well as $5,000.
Concord Pacific chipped in $13,000. A few other sponsors also contributed to create Rotary Skates For the World and still more are being sought.
While Leung (and skating partner Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie) will be collecting pledges for Refilwe, other Rotary clubs and organizations from across the Lower Mainland will be in attendance promoting various other causes.
Volunteers are needed. For more information, including sponsorship and registration inquiries, email Leung at email@example.com or call 604-214-8833.