Posted by Michele McKinnon

It is amazing what can be accomplished when people work together. Chigozie Okalie is the Advisor for the Rotaract Club of Cape Breton University (CBU).  Originally an international student, now working at CBU (and a member of the Sydney-Sunrise Rotary Club), Chigozie wanted to help local and international students in need. The Rotaract Club is designed to help young people develop leadership and professional skills. Rotary and Rotaract members work side by side to take action through service and have some fun while doing so.
Rotaract is certainly making its mark in the community. The Club includes a range of individuals who are eager to serve the community. At a recent meeting in the University’s cafeteria; members talked about some projects they are involved with, and what motivates them to help. As Upkar Singh Bahod puts it “we need to identify what problem we can solve, and how we can help the community.”   The Club certainly helped a lot of people with their mattress project, which saw over 47 brand new mattresses delivered to first year CBU students in need.
The idea for the mattress project began with the Rotaract Club, through Chigozie, who presented the idea and his own personal story, to the Presidents, Executives and Area Governor of the local Cape Breton Rotary Clubs. Chigozie told us of the many students who were sleeping on floors, on air mattresses, on couches or on mattresses with bed bugs.   Through telling his story to the local Rotary Clubs of North Sydney, Sydney, New Waterford, Sydney-Sunrise and Port Hawkesbury, all came on board for support.  Because the Salvation Army already had a supplier secured, they came on board, as did the local Kiwanis Club, Boston Pizza, and the CBU Student’s Union, raising a total of $10,575 to purchase the new beds.  CBU students (both local and international) were invited to apply for a bed (mattress & boxspring), and 130 people did so.
The applications were vetted by the Rotaract Club and its partners, and on February 1st, Rotarians and their trucks delivered 47 mattresses to the grateful students. The excitement as the mattresses were being loaded for delivery was palpable. As Rumpal Singh said, “It will make nights better, we definitely need this. I want to thank everyone for this glorious gift.”
The ability to have a good night’s sleep is something many of us take for granted. This project ensures that many others will have that same pleasure. For Ravneet Tung, she admitted that buying one was out of the question for her. “I am very excited, and very thankful for this. We have been welcomed so warmly; it’s been a great experience. Cape Breton feels like a home now.”
That kind of result is what the Rotaract Club was hoping for. And, they are anxious to take on more projects. They hope to double up with Rotarians on any upcoming community projects and find others that match the talents of the Club. As one member put it, “it’s good to help people in any way. Our biggest gift is our ability to help.”
The mattress project went from a germ of an idea to reality in just a few short months.  That’s a real testament to the drive and commitment of the Rotaract members, their partners and their leader—Chigozie Okolie. “We saw a need, found a way to meet it, and made some people very happy in the process. I think we can all sleep well with that result.”