Haliburton resident, Jennifer Ramsdale, was a teenager when she spent a couple of months in South Africa with extended family.

This September, the Fleming prof, Abbey Retreat Centre board member, Lymphedema therapist, and cancer survivor, is heading back to the continent, to Kenya as part of A Fresh Chapter (AFC)

“AFC is an organization that means a lot to me and that I have been involved with since 2020 as a hopeful applicant to their international cross-cultural leadership programs,” Ramsdale said.

She added AFC’s mission is to empower people impacted by cancer across the globe to heal the emotional scars of the disease.

The Elevate Program she’ll participate in is part of a broader mission to build a scalable, sustainable model of support that will help 15,000 Africans affected by cancer by 2025.

After volunteering with AFC since 2020, when the pandemic curtailed their original onsite program planned for September of that year, Ramsdale said she’s, “thrilled” to finally be joining Elevate fellows from Kenya, the U.S., and beyond in Nairobi in a few months.

Ramsdale has committed to fundraising $1,400. It will cover travel costs. Any additional money raised will support AFC continuing work in Kenya. For example, it might go towards workshop costs for Kenyans impacted by cancer in local communities.

She’ll be there Sept. 9-22.

Ramsdale came upon AFC through her volunteer work at the Abbey Retreat Centre, when looking at comparable organizations and retreats offered around the world.

“I was really interested in cancer advocacy and the woman who founded A Fresh Chapter is Canadian,” Ramsdale said. She added the two hit it off and then she decided to apply for the fellowship.

She said AFC does everything from online workshops of an hour or two, to 10-week virtual program, all free for cancer survivors and caregivers. Post-COVID, she said they are also returning to in-person international retreats.

During the pandemic, part of her volunteer work involved helping to develop online programming to a Kenyan context, working with Kenyan cancer advocates and survivors. With internet poor or non-existent in rural parts of the country, there has also been a shift to more in-person offerings. “There’s a whole series of workshops that have been delivered in-person in Kenya over the last year-and-a-half.” The work has also involved training the trainers in rural areas. “It’s really a leadership development piece, where we’re working with the team in Kenya delivering these workshops, to help with things like marketing, messaging and networking. How to increase their impact and how to expand training.”

She said another challenge is the diversity in dialects spoken in the country.

Ramsdale noted cancer is a leading cause of death in Kenya, behind HIV-AIDS and because so many people are diagnosed late, with stage four cancers, there is a stigma that it is a death sentence.

As a survivor of stage three breast cancer, Ramsdale would like to help destigmatize the disease and be an example to people that you can emerge from diagnosis and lead a full life.

She’s looking forward to meeting some of the people she’s been working with over the past few years and hopes to bring back what she learns to her cancer advocacy work in the Highlands.

“Having gone through a cancer diagnosis and treatment gives a perspective. It’s about making the most of what you have because none of us is guaranteed anything tomorrow. I think the time in Kenya will be intense and emotional.”

See more at AFC Africa Elevate Program Fundraiser or email jaramsdale@yahoo.com for direct donations.