Ruimy pumps a well. (Contributed)

Ruimy pumps a well. (Contributed)

A holiday season filled with wellness

MP Dan Ruimy makes trip to Malawi to help village

  • Dec. 23, 2018 10:00 a.m.

MP Dan Ruimy got to know George Klassen soon after being elected in the Liberal victory that brought Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to power.

Klassen wanted to hear what Ruimy stood for – particularly, his views on assisted dying.

Ruimy was immediately impressed with this man, who was then going on 80, but was still making trips to Africa to oversee the drilling of water wells for impoverished villages.

“You’re in awe, listening to this guy who has done so much.”

Ruimy made Klassen the subject of a member’s statement in the House of Commons, and Klassen’s work got a big round of applause from the house. Soon Klassen would be there in person, meeting Trudeau and being personally acknowledged for the charity work he has been dedicated to throughout his life.

When Ruimy made that first speech about Klassen. He made a prophetic statement.

“Maybe one day I’ll be out there drilling a well beside you.”

Last month, he did.

Ruimy joined Klassen to see the work being done on three of the 44 wells he has seen drilled in Malawi through his charity agency, Project Wellness, which is based in Maple Ridge.

“I went on my own dime,” he reassured taxpayers. “It wasn’t a government thing. It’s something I wanted to do personally.”

He will always remember how something as basic as fresh water in the village, so they no longer had to lug buckets, sometimes for miles from the nearest stream, brought smiles.

“The look on the faces on children and women and families … they were dancing.” Ruimy said.

“We look at what they don’t have, but they look at what they do have.”

They would line up, with 30 or 40 buckets waiting at a time. Women and children, pumping the water by hand, then carrying the full pails balanced on top of their heads.

Ruimy wondered if it wouldn’t be possible to get a little more technological convenience, like a solar-powered automatic pump. But Klassen set him straight, that simple is best.

“Otherwise, if it breaks, there is nobody to fix it.”

He saw the people express their appreciation to Klassen with gifts.

“Thank you very much for this well, here’s a rooster,” recalled Ruimy.

Klassen would graciously accept, then Ruimy would watch him find a good home for the rooster with someone who needed it more than him.

Ruimy saw the impact the wells have had on their villages. People can grow their own food, even use the water to trade with other villages.

Ruimy also visited orphanages that Klassen has built. There was no dancing.

“On one side, you see the new wells and everyone is happy. Then you see the orphans, and it’s heart heartbreaking

He saw three or four young girls, not yet 10 years old, wearing wraps around their torsos to hold babies on their backs. They were too young to be mothers, so Ruimy could only assume that they were responsible for their younger siblings.

Earlier in December, Ruimy reciprocated, and showed Klassen his world. He brought him to Ottawa.

Klassen started Project Wellness with his late wife Sheila in 2005. Since then, their organization has raised about $220,000 to drill wells.

“I’m a Christian, and the Lord provides,” he said. “We have a lot of church people helping.”

His two daughters are involved in the project. Nadine Sands is the vice-president and Elana Warmerdam the secretary.

Their small organization is able to support three orphan care centres that each house 300 children, and run a school for 750.

Klassen started his professional life as a metallurgist, specializing in stainless steel, and was the speaker at conventions. At 50, free trade killed his business, and he launched into missionary work.

He had already volunteered with Campus Crusade for Christ, then began his own organization called Amazon Evangelism, and he knows that river as well as anyone after 25 years of regularly visiting the area.

His wife, who passed away two years ago, loved those trips to Brazil with her husband.

Then he twice went to Nigeria, where he trained pastors, and learned about the crying need in Malawi.

“Children were eating tree roots, and they were dying,” Klassen said.

“I saw women walking kilometres to go get water, held on their head with a child strapped on their back.

He told them he would drill a water well in their village. He had some experience with water wells in Canada, and thought it couldn’t cost more than $40,000.

On the flight home, he met a man from Australia who was in that very business, and they made a deal right on the plane. The driller said 45 metres would be the deepest they would want to go, and the quote was $3,200. Klassen was delighted.

“I could do that on my visa.”

He didn’t have to. He was having a doctor’s visit, and told his physician about the project. The doctor said he was going to write a prescription, and came back with a cheque for $3,200.

Another woman donated $2,100, and two months later he was back drilling the well.

It was easy to see how much it was appreciated.

“Buckets were lined up from seven in the morning until seven at night.”

It wasn’t always possible to put the well in the centre of a village – they had to go where the water was.

“But we would come back in a year, and the village was moved right around that well.”

Ruimy also took note of the important work Klassen has been doing. He likes to share the stories.

“People like George are an inspiration. He can move mountains. You can’t not sing his praises, because that’s what inspires people.”

Klassen appreciated the trip to Ottawa with his family.

“I had a great time. I got the chance to meet the prime minister. I was so impressed with him – the gentle way he spoke, and he knew us,” Klassen added.

“They gave me a standing ovation.”

The past year has reinvigorated him, and he will carry on for another year of drilling wells in 2019, at the age of 81.

“I’m going to do it as long as I can. I take it a year at a time. I’m in good shape, but I miss my wife terribly.”

She would have enjoyed the Ottawa trip, he said.

“It was the ice cream on the cake, Dan doing this for me and my family.”

The trips with Klassen have made this a holiday season Ruimy will always remember.

“It was a very special Christmas for me.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

A holiday season filled with wellness

Just Posted

LETTER: Would Maple Ridge councillors want cannabis store beside them?

Resident concerned about how close cannabis store is to her home

Sign on the door explains Service BC office in Maple Ridge is by appointment. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Covid exposure closes Maple Ridge Service BC office

Open by appointment only next week

Linda Peters want to start a Butterflyway in the community. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)
Maple Ridge gardener rallying community to create a ‘butterflyway’

Linda Peters has volunteered with the David Suzuki Foundation to become a butterflyway ranger

Cases for the week of March 28 to April 3, created April 7 by the BC Centre for Disease Control.
COVID-19 weekly case counts hit 231 in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows

CDC reports 1,941 cases in both cities since January 2020

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Buckingham Palace officials say Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, has died. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Alastair Grant
Flags drop, bells toll as Canadians remember special relationship with Prince Philip

‘He was often portrayed as a brisk or brusque, rough character… but it’s that other side of him, the caring individual who spent time with people and asked questions and showed compassion’

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

British Columbia Attorney General David Eby. (Photo: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Attorney General covers housing, homelessness and justice reform in Surrey Zoom

‘I think it would be really great to hold some sessions in Surrey,’ Eby says of legislative assembly

(File photo)
Youths confront man seen masturbating while walking his dog

Police say it happened Thursday (April 8) on walking path in Surrey

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

Most Read