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The Obakki Foundation - "Because....."
by Marilyn R. Wilson

Photography by Candace Meyer - www.candacemeyer.com


One of the first questions Treana Peake (owner/creative director of Obakki) answers in her blog is why she started the Obakki Foundation. "Because of the two-year-old orphan girl I met living on the streets of Romania, because of the baby that died of malaria one night when I was in Cameroon...." And the list goes on. Real stories of real people who touched her heart. Launched in November 2009, it has a strong focus on empowerment. "It's about giving people the opportunity to be creative - using thoughts, ideas, art and fashion to stand up and participate in improving the lives of those who need it most."

Peake grew up with an innate passion for charity work. When travelling with husband, Nickelback guitarist Ryan Peake, she chose to step away from the glamour and explore impoverished areas. In her early 20's she helped develop her first charity, ICA, which has operated in Haiti, Romania, Jamaica and the Philippines. One day a man from Lewoh in Cameroon reached out to them and said, "My village needs help. Will you come and visit." That initial trip brought home the need evident in all of Cameroon and ICA quickly established a presence. A year ago Peake asked the orphanages there to have the children answer three questions with words or drawings: What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What makes you afraid? Their answers provided the basis for an inspirational line of clothing and accessories that launched the Obakki Foundation's fund raising efforts. Included are a children's cotton t-shirt and dress, men's t-shirt, women's t-shirt, hoodie, canvas bag and silk scarf. On a trip to Cameroon last fall, the children were shown what had been created and given hoodies of their own. The message was brought home that they could have a hand in changing their own lives.

Each trip to Africa is a chance to launch a new campaign. The women of Cameroon are invisible in many ways, so on a recent visit the foundation took portrait pictures and then gave them each a disposable camera. The instructions were to take 24 pictures that showed who they were as women - mothers, caregivers, farmers, etc. The money raised from this project will go straight back to improving the lives of these women. For another campaign, children were asked to take Polaroid photographs of themselves which will be auctioned off in limited edition prints. Again, the funds go to improving the lives of the children involved. Peake hopes to do more than raise money with these projects. "I want to show there is poverty of course, but there is also life and energy and happiness. The beauty in Africa is really hopeful and inspiring..."

ICA and the Obakki Foundation are sister charities. ICA handles the field work and the Obakki Foundation is the umbrella fund raising agent. On the foundation's website you can purchase campaign clothing or chose to donate money, school kits and medical kits. Priorities in each area they visit include education, clean drinking water, medical needs and nutrition. Seven schools and three water projects have been completed with another eight or nine schools in the planning stages for next year. They have just finished a medical assessment to help develop a five year health plan for the region. As well, they are working in two orphanages and a school for the deaf. The ultimate goal for each village is to raise it to the level where it can become totally self-sufficient - something that has already happened in their first village, Lewoh.

When Peake first launched Obakki, the foundation was already an integral part of her future plans for the company. Unique in it's vision, "The Obakki Foundation is really about finding and nourishing creativity. It's going into these communities and finding outlets through art, dance, music and photography, then taking it back here and using it to raise money. It's giving people that platform to showcase their work and let them see that by sharing with us, they will be able to raise money for themselves."

For information on how to be involved, please visit the website at www.obakkifoundation.org.

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