John and Hannelore Fryters have faced many challenges since they started international missions work 15 years ago, and those efforts have not gone unrecognized.
On Sunday, the couple received a Global Citizen Award from the Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation (SCIC) for their efforts. They both describe the award as an exciting, but humbling moment.
“We aren’t looking for accolades or recognition,” John said afterwards. “It’s not for the awards or the trophies or things like that. You have to keep a humble heart. (Awards) can blow your head up. We’re pleased that we were nominated and that we received it and it gave us an opportunity to look back on all the things we’ve done.”
During those 15 years, the Fryters’ spent time everywhere from Ghana to South Sudan to Uganda to Ethiopia to India to Peru, their most common destination. They visited the country 33 times to aid in local leaders in humanitarian and development work.
John said it was incredibly rewarding work to be a part of, so receiving an actual award was the cherry on top.
“The payment that we receive for the work we do is always in the people that we’re trying to serve,” he explained.
However, the SCIC says it wasn’t just the amount of time the Fryters’ put in that was impressive. It was also their willingness to listen.
Senos Timon, a SCIC member and founder and president of the South Sudan Humanitarian Action Development Agency, said it’s important for Western aid workers to live and work with humility, and the Fryters’ did just that.
“(They) believe in the need to have very practical solutions to peoples’ problems, not complicated, and secondly, not solutions delivered from the Ivory Tower, … but locally,” Timon said during his introductory speech. “It’s the surrounding and embracing of people on the ground in love, and giving them a helping hand. Not doing the work for them, but teaching them to do the work for themselves. This is a very important point.”
Both John and Hannelore were equally appreciative of the SCIC, and the organization’s efforts to support humanitarian work in developing countries.
The organization provides a forum for aid groups to discuss international efforts, while also advocating for those efforts in Saskatchewan and administering grants, like the new four-year global citizenship engagement program.
“They are very helpful, the SCIC, very helpful,” Hannelore said. “Very supportive, but I think we need much more members. People should be aware of things like this.”
Besides international aid work, the Fryters’ are also strong advocates for seniors in Prince Albert. They also founded a bible school in the city, and John has written several books on theology.