A tiny panda shares space with a pink-spotted brown bear, as a spirit bear snuggles next to a grizzly.
They are part of a collection of 24 bears which have been hand-carved by members of the North Okanagan Wood Carvers Society to be donated to children in need in Haiti.
The project got its start when club director Geoff Warrington learned that many children in Haiti do not have toys to call their own.
The club connected with Westsyde Fellowship Church in Kamloops and its youth pastor, Jordy Orsetti, who is travelling with a team of youth and adults to Haiti this summer.
“Jordy’s mom is a friend of my wife and he was looking at some of my carvings and asked if I could come up with an idea for something he could take with him to Haiti,” said Warrington. “Recreation isn’t even part of their vocabulary and so I thought these rolling bears would make a great toy for a child, plus they are small enough to easily transport.”
Club members embraced the idea with enthusiasm and quickly got to work carving the rolling bears, so-called because they can be rolled easily along a playing surface, from asphalt, to grass, to wood floor.
“We left them up to individual club members as to how they wanted to do them,” said club president Elizabeth Doucette. “These were new for me, and we had fun with them.”
Orsetti and his team of 14 young people and six chaperones will travel to Port-au-Prince, Haiti in July, where they will make the five-hour trip southwest of the capital, to Les Cayes. The young people range in age from 13 to 19 years of age and will be in Haiti for 10 days.
“A lot of what we do with the kids there is breaking down barriers,” said Orsetti, “where we see the differences between us, but also the similarities.”
The team will be hosted by former Kamloops residents Rod and Debbie Wray, who now live in Les Cayes and are working as missionaries with Harvest International. On its Web site, the organization explains, “it is a facilitator, assisting Christians who are called of God to meet the physical needs of poor people in this world, and empowering them as they earn the right to minister to their spiritual needs as well.”
In Les Cayes, Orsetti and his team will spend several days working with children from the community of Renault, taking part in recreation, helping to build a gym and attending Sunday school.
“We’ll also perform several days of wedding ceremonies for groups of couples who wish to be married,” he said. “This will be followed by a lot of festivities and feasts honouring the newlyweds.”
“We appreciate all of your efforts on behalf of the kids in Haiti,” said Orsetti. “We’ve had so much support from everyone.”
On Tuesday, VCAC executive director Lynne Hossay was asked to pick the winners of the best carved rolling bears. She admitted it was tough to make a decision, but in the end named Shirley Pattyson’s panda and Gail Kopp’s brown bear as the winners.
Founded in 1995, the North Okanagan Carvers Society meets at the Vernon Community Arts Centre Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. New members are welcome, and annual membership is $35.