Residents open homes to WHO billets

Although there’s no guarantee they’ll all be needed, 15 home owners have opened their doors to accommodate international delegates coming here to attend the 11th-annual World Health Organization Conference on Safe Communities on May-6-9.
“It’s going excellent,” said conference co-ordinator Jeannette Cawston. “It’s fabulous people have opened their hearts and homes to help out.”
The conference could see more than 300 visitors from around the world visit the district. And with local hotels expected to be booked up, billeting is an alternative in case there are no accommodations left—or the visitors can’t afford it.
“Many people are from developing countries and need sponsorship to come here,” said Cawston. “If we can find sponsors to pay for their conference fee, billets can help out and ‘sponsor’ them by offering them accommodations.”
One of those host families is Bill and Heidi Naturkach, who wanted to help out with the conference in their “own small way.”
“While I sit on a lot of committees to do with the town, I’m not really involved with a lot of the groups involved in this conference,” said Bill Naturkach.
“And I wanted to do whatever I could to help out with this conference, which is a big event. It’s the right thing to do,” he added. “And besides, we’re empty-nester parents so why not?”
Naturkach also said billeting visitors is a way of returning the favour for the courtesy he’s received in the past.
“I’ve been hosted when I’ve gone abroad, like when I went to Africa,” he noted. “I look forward to whoever it is who’s going to be staying with us, and I think all the hotels and the community in general will do their best to accommodate our visitors.”
Cawston said there isn’t a rush to get more billet families at this time as it’s still unclear how many will be needed. “But if we need more, we’ll be sure to call out for them,” she added.
Meanwhile, Cawston said the number of delegates interested in attending the conference continues to grow.
“We just got a request for hotel reservations for 30 delegates from Hong Kong. And I think we have 10 from Ghana,” she noted.
“There’s an increasing national flavour. It’s very cool,” Cawston enthused.
People from 27 different countries have signed up so far, mostly from Canada and the U.S. Organizers are still shooting for 300-plus registrations, including the 110 presenters who have been lined up.
For more information on the conference, drop by the WHO headquarters at 414 Scott St. or log on to www.who2002.com