A can-do attitude

Derek Montague
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“Cans for kids” program raising more money than ever

Ed Battcock of Happy Valley-Goose Bay spends several hours every day in his shed sorting through cans and bottles. All the money he raises through recycling goes towards treating children with cleft palates.

A little more than a year ago, Ed Battcock went to his mailbox in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Amongst his mail was a brochure from a group called Smile Train. In the brochure was a heartbreaking picture of a young boy with a cleft palate. That picture would change Battcock’s mission in life.

"There was this little fella with a cleft palate, and he was on the side of the road while the other kids were playing," recalled Battcock. "And it says he can't play because he has a cleft palate."

"And something struck me about that picture …"


Social stigma

Although a cleft lip or palate is non-life threatening, it makes eating and speaking very difficult. Also, the social stigma for children in some developing countries is tremendous. According to the Smile Train website, children born with a cleft lip/palate in Uganda are nicknamed "Ajok," which means, "cursed by God."

Ever since then, Battcock has started his “Cans for Kids” program. Battcock asks local residents to drop off their recyclables to him, so he can raise money for children in developing countries to have cleft palate surgery. Through the Smile Train organization, surgery for one child costs just $250.

Battcock began collecting recyclables for the program in January 2013. By July of that year, 54 people were regularly dropping off their recyclables to him and Battcock was making enough money to fund one surgery per month.

Now, seven months later, those numbers have nearly tripled; approximately 140 people are donating cans and bottles to Battcock and he is funding three surgeries per month through Smile Train.


Spreading the word

Thanks to Battcock’s determination and hard work, 45 children in developing countries have received medical treatment for cleft palate.

Battcock credits the success of “Cans for kids” to people spreading the word about what he’s doing.

“It comes from people passing the word along and them dropping (the cans) off. I wish I could give you a list (of people who donate),” says Battcock.

“My nieces, they’re on this … Facebook. That helps spread the word too.”

Battcock has done his part to help spread the word as much as possible as well. With help from his friends and family, Battcock has a “Cans for Kids” logo, which is featured on a shirt, hat, and even on the vehicle he uses for making trips to the recycling depot.

In the near future, Battcock will also have his own “Cans for Kids” pamphlet that he can hand out to people.


A total commitment

The 84-year-old retired insurance agent has dedicated nearly all of his waking hours to his recycling program. So many recyclables are dropped to him; he practically lives in his shed, where he sorts through the cans and bottles.

“Some days I spend five or six (hours). Other days I spend four,” says Battcock. “I get no holidays, I get no time off.”

But spending seven days-a-week on his feet can take its toll on Battcock, who suffers from COPD, a lung disease that makes it harder for him to breathe. The cold weather can make his breathing even more laboured.

“As long as I’m just doing this (in my shed) I’m fine. But as soon as I get out in the cold I breaks down,” says Battcock.

Even with his health issues, Battcock has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. As long as he is physically able, he will be collecting recyclables to help kids in need.

“For me, I feel it’s something I should have done a long time ago,” says Battcock.

“The man above, he will be the one to stop me. I’m praying that he will forget about me and leave me here a few years more.”

Battcock has no intentions of resting on his laurels. Now that he is receiving more cans than ever before, he wants to share the wealth with The Leprosy Mission Canada, an organization that raises money for Leprosy treatment.

Battcock’s new goal is to, at least, raise enough money to help four children every month; two with cleft palate and two suffering from leprosy.

Organizations: Smile Train organization, The Leprosy Mission Canada

Geographic location: Happy Valley, Goose Bay, Uganda

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Recent comments

  • Rebecca @ The Leprosy Mission Canada
    February 06, 2014 - 09:02

    Everyone at The Leprosy Mission Canada is touched by Ed's selfless commitment! His energy is inspiring. Keep it up, Ed!