Wishes can be powerful things. Briercrest graduate Olivia Boyda and her family have witnessed that first-hand.
Two years ago Boyda’s younger sister Kaitlin, who had been diagnosed with a rare and inoperable brain tumour, was granted a wish from the Children’s Wish Foundation.
“Originally she wanted to surf and snowboard on the same day,” Boyda remembered. “They were thinking of taking her out to New Zealand. So the trip was booked. . . Then I just remember her coming downstairs and saying, ‘Nope, we’re cancelling it.’ Purely because she felt absolutely selfish in taking this wish.”
Months went by without anyone knowing how Kaitlin would spend her wish.
“Around Christmas 2010 she said she wanted Compassion Canada to have it and she didn’t know what they’d really do with it but she was pretty adamant about it,” Boyda said. “Compassion came forward with the idea of the water project.”
Compassion Canada had 21 wells they wanted to fund and Children’s Wish agreed to pay for one well which cost $9,600.
“(They said) ‘We’ll fund one in your name and you’ll have this well in Africa that you’ll know you contributed to’” Boyda said. “Then we thought that was that.”
But that was just the beginning.
“People started hearing about it through word of mouth,” Boyda exclaimed. “It ended up getting so overwhelming that we had to get Compassion to put something on their website for Kaitlin’s Wish that you could go directly to.”
Word of Kaitlin’s Wish spread around the world. People from Korea, the UK, the United States, Hong Kong, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Thailand joined Canada in giving to the project.
“I think something like $270,000 came in over those seven weeks,” Boyda said. “Crazy.”
When Kaitlin died on May 5, 2011 she left behind a rich legacy that is still growing and helping to provide clean drinking water for children in Uganda, Ghana, Ethiopia and Togo.
Kaitlin’s life even inspired a song that was recorded by Stephanie Poort, vocalist for the band Hello Bella, along with instrumentation from pop/rock act Phao.
The band released “Kaitlin’s Song (Coming Home)” on iTunes and donated 100 per cent of the profit to Kaitlin’s Legacy. The song debuted on March 7 and was number one on the inspirational charts for 12 days.
“It’s unbelievable that they would even think of doing that,” Boyda said.
During the last week of March, many of Boyda’s family members and close friends, along with several staff members from Compassion Canada went to Masaka, Uganda to participate in the dedication ceremony of the original well that was dug with the wish that Kaitlin gave to Compassion Canada. The entire village turned out for an all-day celebration.
“Children were everywhere – tents, food, dancing, soccer, games – it felt strangely like a church picnic Sunday,” Boyda explained. “They honoured her memory so well. The moment when we went to see the well and the plaque on the wall with her picture was breathtaking, but what was even more breathtaking was seeing all the little ones that benefitted from Kaitlin’s obedience and the Lord’s faithfulness. Knowing faces, names and spending time with the people has infinitely changed my understanding of what Kaitlin’s Wish is.”
“We were given the opportunity to see the impact of one water well on a small community but we were also able to hear about the impact of all 21 water projects on the entire country of Uganda,” explained Tracy Smith, the advocate network national manager for Compassion Canada and the leader for the Uganda trip. “God has done incredibly more than any of us could have ever dreamed would happen as the result of the obedience of one young woman.”
“I have been a part of Kaitlin’s story since the time Compassion Canada was notified of the wish,” Smith continued. “It has been humbling for me to watch this journey unfold over the last 16 months – from the selfless act of one sick, young girl who wanted to give back, to meeting the families who were actually impacted by the result of the wish.”
Although Boyda describes the Uganda trip as “amazing,” she is clear that her purpose for going wasn’t to bring closure to Kaitlin’s death.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever have that and that’s okay,” she said. “I’m not going to understand why because I don’t think ‘why?’ is a relevant question. I don’t think we lost Katie so Africa can have water. I think it was kingdom work by a disciple of Christ who was called home.”
More information about Kaitlin’s Legacy can be found at www.compassion.ca/kaitlinslegacy or by visiting the Kaitlin’s Legacy community on Facebook.