Friday, July 15, 2011

Donated car seats help local families

Sisters Presilia, Raisa, Plamedi and Chancebi Bakana, clockwise from left,
enjoy getting out more often as a family thanks to a new car seat for baby Chancebi.
Chancebi Bakana, two months old, has the look of an old soul. Like a wizened woman, she sits uncomfortably and with heavy eyelids in the lap of her biggest sister, Raisa.

“We want to have a good future for our kids,” says Carlos Bakana, their “Papa” who first travelled to Montreal from Angola as a refugee 11 years ago.

His wife Maria followed in 2006 with Raisa, now 11. Daughters Plamedi, 4, and Presilia, 2, were born in Canada.

Bakana moved his family west in 2009.

Maria and Carlos
“We are happy to be here in Calgary,” he says, happy but unable to afford necessities that are basic to his family’s well-being.

“Nobody needs a car seat [in Angola], but here it’s mandatory,” he explains.

“Sometimes I want to go out together with them but without a car seat, they have to stay here.”

Staying at home has meant the inescapable onslaught of cabin fever for Maria’s girls and depression for Maria herself.

But thanks to the help of Kidseat Recyclers and NeighbourLink, two local non-profit organizations, this young family will be out on the town this summer.

And little Chancebi – she really will become ‘wise in the ways of the world,’ as she explores it from the comfort of her very own car seat.

“It will help us to go out together, to go out [as] a whole family,” says Bakana.

Chancebi’s car seat came from NeighbourLink, at no cost to the family except a phone call.

Thanks to a new partnership between NeighbourLink and Kidseat Recyclers, many like it will be making the same trip from vehicles where they’re no longer needed into cars, trucks and vans where they’re a necessity – either that or a recycling bin, but never the landfill.

“We want to keep as many car seats as possible out of the landfills,” says Melanie Risdon-Betcher, one of two directors at Kidseat Recyclers and co-host of 88.9 Shine FM’s morning show. She estimates more than 700 car seats have been recycled since the program’s inception in 2010.

“We are looking for partners and sponsors to help expand this much-needed program. Without us there is no option for car seat recycling.”

But Kidseat Recyclers isn’t only helping the Calgary community go green by recycling – they’re also facilitating the reuse of car seats by partnering with NeighbourLink.

“In our partnership, NeighbourLink agrees to be a drop off location for Kidseat Recyclers where people can bring used, expired car seats, pay the $10 levy fee and we will store them until Kidseat Recyclers picks everything up,” says LeeAnne Alexander, manager of volunteer and operating resources at NeighbourLink.

“If someone drops off a car seat that is still useable at any Kidseat Recyclers drop-off location or Round-Up Clinic, NeighbourLink will get it, test the seat and be able to give it out to low income families.”

In the past, NeighbourLink’s car seat wait-lists have been full, but the warehouse shelves empty. Now warehouse employees can’t get the car seats out to families fast enough.

“Since the beginning of our partnership in April, we have received close to 30 car seats that we are able to give out to families in need,” says Alexander.

NeighbourLink now needs volunteers who can deliver car seats to clients and give babies like Chancebi a chance to see the world.

For more information about volunteering with NeighbourLink or donating a car seat to Kidseat Recyclers, visit and

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