Ralph Newton-White’s thoughts are always miles away, but not because he’s a daydreamer.
The Victoria resident has dedicated his retirement years to helping the most vulnerable of people – lepers and young orphans – in a country ruled by a dictatorship.
“I decided I wanted to help where there was the most need, because they were as poor as any country in the world,” said Newton-White, who has been to the southeast Asian country of Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) more than a dozen times since the mid-1990s. “They needed help and they weren’t getting it.”
He has since mobilized a passionate group of people who help by raising funds and travelling to the beleaguered nation to provide people with the essentials needed for their very survival: pipes for water, food and walking canes for the blind, among other humanitarian supplies.
The next step for Newton-White’s Victoria-based OrphanAsia Society will be hosting a fundraiser tea that will mark the 67th birthday of Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The leader, who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, was released after almost two decades of house arrest in late 2010. Her pro-democracy work is also helping to chip away at the suffering in Myanmar, Newton-White said.
He is also passionate about reaching out to those, like the lepers, who are shunned by the rest of society, and the children who are growing up without parents.
Newton-White says it’s been heartbreaking over the years to see so much suffering.
“Sometimes, not always though, (the orphans) will have disappeared and other children have taken their place. It’s very said. That’s true of all those places.”
That only fuels his need to do what he can to help.
“I just love the children, and the people that we help are so nice.”
OrphanAsia’s birthday tea happens Saturday (June 19), from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at St. John the Divine church hall, 925 Balmoral Rd. Tickets are $10 and must be purchased in advance by calling 250-595-2335.
For details, visit orphanasia.com, call 250-595-2335 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.