It’s all about a Labour Relations guy retiring and his wife’s love of giraffes…
In 2005, a handful of colleagues got together for a leisurely game of golf in celebration of Rick Goodfellow’s retirement from Canada Post after a 35-year career. For the following 3 years, the event continued to take place with more and more buddies wanting to join in on the fun and camaraderie.
Meanwhile, Rick and his wife Nicole had discovered a passion for Kenya: its natural beauty, its breathtaking wildlife (particularly, the giraffes!) and its people. They have been returning to Kenya every year since 2003 – bringing along friends and family with them on their safari adventures.
In 2005, Nicole visited the Olympic Primary School in the Kibera slum district of Nairobi with her daughter and niece. Deeply touched and inspired by the dedication of the teachers and the learning enthusiasm of the kids, Nicole returned home with plans to have a library properly set up for the kids. A few months later, all of the school’s precious books had found a home in a real library setting – her literacy gift to the school.
How to do more for the school became the burning question – it was so easy to make a real difference in these kids’ lives. Bringing story books and pens and pencils to the school on their annual safari treks to Kenya could become so much more. A multiplier effect was needed – and one was readily available: the retirement golf get-together that was now attracting some 40 players for an afternoon of fun. And so, in 2008, the Rick Goodfellow Charity Invitational was officially launched with the Olympic Primary School designated as the cause of choice. Close to 100 friends, colleagues and associates enlisted in the event – and generously donated loads of school supplies. The first Invitational raised more than $5,000 and it has been growing ever since. The library was just the beginning!
A Grassroots Approach - And a Labour of Love!
Rick and Nicole work directly with the Olympic Primary School Principal, the school’s Parent-Teacher Association and the school’s Management Board to prioritize how the precious funds raised at the golf tournament will be allocated to the most pressing projects. Improving the learning environment of the most students possible is always the governing principle driving the selection of the projects. With more than 4000 kids attending this school, the largest public primary school in all of Central and Eastern Africa, the needs are forever growing and complex to address in this slum environment.
The Olympic school was never built nor meant to host such a booming student population. Its infrastructure is bursting at the seams! Projects over the years include a full renovation of the toilet facilities at the school, re-roofing of the classroom buildings, new classroom flooring, teaching boards, repairs to the safety wall protecting the school, new windows, and much more. Furthermore, Rick and Nicole personally deliver hundreds of pounds of school supplies when they visit each year – school supplies collected at the golf tournament.
In 2017, the team ventured into new project territory: identifying projects that would position the school for future self-sustainability by reducing operating costs. With this objective in mind, the school buildings were fitted with eavestroughs connected to four 20,000 liter water tanks, thus enabling the school to harvest rain water and provide more water taps to the school kids, while eliminating the need to buy water supplies when rain is plentiful in Nairobi.
The RGI operates with ZERO overhead costs – all funds raised go directly to the school projects. Rick and Nicole fund their own travel to Kenya every year and the school partners volunteer their time to oversee the implementation of the projects. With transparency, accountability and integrity as the building blocks of their partnership with the school officials, the projects have always been delivered on time and within budget. The little train that could just keeps chugging along – turning the Olympic Primary School into the pride and joy of the students, the teachers and the grateful parents.
Meet the Team
"There can be no greater gift than that of giving one's time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return."
~ Nelson Mandela
Co-Founder RGI Charity
Rick’s 35-year career with the Canada Post Corporation came to a happy ending in 2005 when he retired as Director, Labour Relations. Rick spent most of his career dealing with union matters – representing management from grievances to contract negotiations. While he was posted at Head Office in Ottawa for most of his career, he still cherishes the memories of his 2-year stint in the field, in London, Ontario, as the regional Labour Relations Manager of Huron-Rideau.
Rick is an all-round sports enthusiast. He golfs (and is quite good at it!) and enjoys watching other sports from the comfort of his favourite chair!
Rick brings his common sense and fairness perspective to all of his dealings with the RGI partners in Kenya. He firmly believes that “doing the right thing is important… doing the right thing the right way is even more important to maintain the integrity of our work there and to live up to the level of trust that our generous supporters expect of us.”
Rick loves his time on safari in Kenya and has become quite an accomplished videographer, producing exquisite movies of their annual treks in the bush with the best Maasai guides ever.
As he is often heard saying, he never expected that his retirement would be focused on hosting a charity golf tournament for the benefit of Kenyan kids at the Olympic Primary School but he couldn't imagine a better way to spend this time. And yes, he cries almost every year when he takes the podium at the golf tournament!
Co-Founder RGI Charity
Nicole’s 34-year career with the Canada Post Corporation mainly straddled the Human Resources and Operations communities of the company, both at Head Office, and in the field in front-line leadership roles. When she retired in 2011, she proudly held the position of Ombudsman, the final appeal authority for postal service complaints. Under her leadership, the Office of the Ombudsman won the Gold Trophy for Quality under the Canada Awards for Excellence of the National Quality Institute.
As General Manager, Human Performance Excellence, Nicole dealt with the full suite of Human Resources strategies and practices for the Operations community. She also represented Canada Post for 5 years on the Board of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB) and championed the advancement of aboriginal relations both inside the company and with external stakeholders. In February 2009, her leadership role in promoting and sustaining a viable strategy for Progressive Aboriginal Relations was awarded the prestigious Gold level of achievement by the CCAB.
Nicole loves golfing, reading and knitting when she isn’t busy working on the Olympic School projects, the scholarship program or the organization of the annual golf tournament.
She is passionate about Kenya – its people and wildlife – and always looks forward to her return trips year after year. She loves to learn and practice a little more Swahili every time she goes.
Olympic School Friends
Alison (Rick & Nicole's niece) is passionate about animals and has had several jobs working with them including 13 years as an assistant, and in the office, of a local animal hospital. Alison loved the daily interactions with both the animals and the people and feels lucky to have spent so many years at a job that she enjoyed and gave her the opportunity to help others.
When her first child was born, Alison decided to stay home with her on a full time basis. Many years and 2 more children later, Alison continues to love her role as a stay at home mom and "operations manager" of the household. She is actively involved with the children's schools, volunteering regularly in the classroom and holding various positions on the School Council over the years.
In 2015, Alison began working with Nicole to create a program that would connect local Ottawa students with students at the Olympic Primary School and Olympic School Friends was born. In May of 2016, Nicole and Alison traveled together to Kenya and it was a life changing trip for Alison. She loved the opportunity to visit the Olympic Primary School, meet the kids, the scholarship students, the teachers and the RGI partners.
Alison returned home with a deep belief that the Olympic School Friends Program - "Bridging distance and expanding horizons for students around the world."- had a critical role to play in the evolution of the RGI. Rick and Nicole are thrilled to have Alison on board!
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