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MR president making a difference on and off campus

People at Mount Royal are not the only ones who consider Dave Marshall a good leader.
Dave Marshall sporting his chief hat.
Marshall climbs Mount Cameroon, 12,500 ft.
The new health centre.
Marshall rides across a river.
Roger Saint-Fort with a biosand filter.
Saint-Fort collects sand at the river.

In Cameroon, Africa — where Marshall has dedicated his personal time, through International Children’s Awareness Canada, to better the lives of people in several small villages in the Ndumbin region — they also see Mount Royal’s president as leader material.

So much so, that they have made him a chief. He is Chief “NCanKum.”

“The title is honourary, but it is very important to the community. If I’m there and not wearing my chief’s hat, they’ll say, “Where’s your hat?” says Marshall, PhD, who returned to Cameroon last month to monitor the building of a health centre as well as schools.

Though Marshall is very proud of being named a chief, he doesn’t mind poking fun at himself. “As chief, I’m eligible to have 10 wives … or, am I just a seven-wife chief? I can’t remember,” laughs Marshall, who is happily married to Sheila.

On a more serious note, though Marshall has worked with the University of Buea to sign an exchange agreement with Mount Royal, he stresses that this is mostly a personal project.

“Everyone should have their own personal way of contributing that is part of their lives,” says Marshall. “I do something else other than be President of Mount Royal. There is something else in my life that is important and rewarding.

“We change the world one person at a time — one event at a time. I’m not going to change the world with what we do in Africa, but there is a group of little villages where people will have a better life because of what ICA Canada does.”

Marshall and his wife Sheila have been going to Cameroon for a decade — helping these small villages improve their standard of living. Through ICA Canada, Marshall helps ensure money raised is being spent the way it was intended.

On this latest trip, he saw the completed construction of a health centre and the building of several schools.

Mount Royal instructor Roger Saint-Fort accompanied Marshall to help ensure the villages have clean drinking water via biosand filters.

“These are great, resourceful, industrious, hard-working people who just don’t have access to cash or the type of knowledge that Roger can bring them,” says Marshall.

In fact, Marshall’s favourite memory from this trip is watching approximately 100 seven-year-olds gathering rocks and sand from the river for Saint-Fort and his biosand filters.

“Roger brings some knowledge — new and innovative ways of bringing clean water,” says Marshall. “They don’t need me over there. I go for my own pleasure. We come away with far more than we leave.”

That sense of accomplishment is something Marshall wishes for all Mount Royal employees and students.

“Everyone, no matter who they are or what their financial situation, should find their own way of giving back to the community and the world.

“Sheila and I are lucky to have this opportunity to help in Africa … but we have always travelled and we’ve lived overseas. I think people who don’t do that are missing something in their lives — the opportunity to experience how other people live and work in their home setting.

“I’m also very grateful to a number of local individuals who have donated to the projects. Without their support, ICA wouldn't even exist."

Because his work with ICA Canada is separate from Mount Royal, Marshall has not concentrated fundraising efforts on campus. For his next trip — likely in 2011 — he is considering collecting used eyeglasses on campus.

— Anika Van Wyk
    April 9, 2009

MR research changing lives

Instructor Roger Saint-Fort has put his research into action — providing accessible and affordable clean drinking water to villages in Cameroon, Africa.

“I engineered my own system in the lab,” says Saint-Fort, explaining his biosand filters improve on existing models. Saint-Fort’s filters last longer (five years compared to one year), are more affordable and have a shorter set-up time.

Saint-Fort has hired a local graduate student to help maintain the filters installed during his trip to Cameroon with President Dave Marshall in February. He predicts Mount Royal students will be involved in the project in about a year, when it will be more relevant to their studies.

After making more improvements to the biosand filters, Saint-Fort will publish his work so it can help even more people.

“It was never the intention to sell it. The goal is humanitarian and scientific.

“That should be the goal of every human being — to make a positive difference,” adds Saint-Fort.

In the immediate future, the environmental science instructor plans to adapt the biosand filters for use in Aboriginal communities in the Fort McMurray area.

“It is a similar situation … they both use surface water. But the water is significantly worse up north,” says Saint-Fort. “Scientifically, it will be a greater challenge.”