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Dairy co-operative gives back

Gay Lea Foods keeps up its commitment to improving the lives of Rwandans by supporting their agricultural co-operatives


Toronto – A dairy co-operative in Canada is giving back to co-operatives in Africa.

Gay Lea Foods held an event at its offices in November where its 650 employees raised more than $78,000 for a group of small co-operatives in Rwanda.

The week-long event is called Co-op Week and for seven days at all Gay Lea locations employees pay to participate and compete in a range of activities, from nail driving to pie tossing, waffle breakfasts to a silent auction, potlucks to Family Feud. They also earned BINGO cards when signing up for bi-weekly payroll deductions for the upcoming calendar year.

The money they raised is part of their four-year $200,000 commitment to the Co-operative Development Foundation to support agricultural co-operatives in Rwanda.

Funds matched

Matched 3:1 through Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) over the life of the project, funds raised

Gay Lea staff, Andrea Boileau and Zbigniew Ewertowski, enjoy a waffle breakfast, a fundraising staple across all the company's sites. The waffle mix and toppings are donated for the event by a proud supporter.

will leverage $800,000 for UGAMA, the local Rwandan partner who will oversee the project.

The board of directors has also added $400,000 over four years from the co-operative itself, which when matched by CIDA, will send an additional $1.6 million to the Rwandan project.

Some 22,000 families in rural areas will directly benefit from increased food security and crop production.

Gay Lea says the company has been working with the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CFC) and the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) to support co-operatives in the international arena and at home in the Canadian Arctic for 12 years.

Michael Barrett, COO of Gay Lea Foods and president of CDF, says the company believes in “the co-operative model and we are confident this model is key to strengthening communities in need and paving the way for a better future.”

Rwanda, one of the world’s poorest countries, continues to re-build after the political instability of the 1990s. Co-operatives, a government-supported model for socio-economic development in Rwanda, are working together to increase crop yields, and improve infrastructure and access to larger markets.