The Way I See It...
Pincourt Library hosting event
I think we’re lucky to live in an involved, energetic, compassionate region. Which means there’s almost never a shortage of good-cause events and things to support to help others, or simply help the people who are trying to help others.
And while each effort has its own merit, one event taking place next week really is a can’t miss chance to have a great time and feel good about helping a very unique cause.
I’ve written about the Westwood Bridge to Burundi Project since it began five years ago when a teacher from Westwood High School in Hudson told his life story to a group of students during a Leadership trip.
Jean Claude Manirakiza, who lives in Pincourt now, comes from Rwoga, a town in the African country of the Republic of Burundi.
The story Mr. Manirakiza told the youths five years ago was about as far removed for the Westwood students as it could be.
I mean how could a teenager living in comparative Western luxury relate to a tale about Rwogan villagers living in first-world conditions?
How could they understand what it’s like to live in absolute poverty yet want to walk hours just to get to a rudimentary schoolhouse to get an education?
Or after years of civil war, what it’s like when warlords come to your home and execute your father before your eyes?
And what you feel when you then watch your mother die years later?
But Mr. Manirakiza’s story was also one about human triumph. Kind, humble, wellspoken and very well-educated, the recounting of his experiences also helped start something he probably never imagined would spread so far, or reach so many.
No doubt moved, the teachers and students at that leadership camp made a decision to band together to start the project that really does link Westwood senior and junior, which has also gotten involved - along with many local schools on a smaller scale - with the small African town.
And what probably at first seemed like a far-flung, feel good cause to build a one-room schoolhouse in Burundi, has blossomed into a life-changing project for everyone involved.
The project did raise enough money that first year to build a one-room schoolhouse. It then expanded to see six more classrooms built in subsequent years, along with a well that supplies water to the villagers, and a medical centre that’s been started with money raised by Westwood Jr. Since then the project has spread to include the starting of a business development co-op where the Rwogan members make decisions. The co-op sends beads made in the village to Westwood where students turn them into necklaces which are sold to support the effort. Funds from bead sales have helped the co-op buy a diesel-powered flour mill that in turn helps the village support itself. In short, the project has changed the small African town and given its people hope and a future. It has also greatly affected and touched the VaudreuilSoulanges community in Quebec.
Music & Dance Festival
The nice thing about the Bridge to Burundi project is that it remains a grassroots effort. The fund’s not managed by some multi-national conglomerate, but by the high school and its students, so all money raised in each effort goes right back to making a difference in Rwoga.
One such event is the second annual Westwood Sr. Music & Dance Festival, taking place on June 7, at the Stephen F. Shaar Community Centre, located at 394, rue Main in Hudson.
Nancy Koluzs, a Westwood teacher and event organizer, says the aim is to raise enough to complete another three classrooms and provide next year’s students with school supplies. They also want to complete the medical center that is situated on school property.
So all in all a great cause, and the only thing people here have to do is dance, listen to music, buy a snack and a drink, and maybe a raffle ticket or two. Seems like a good deal. Koluzs says the bands, which include El Proyecto Colectivo, The Shutters and the Traditional Burundi Drummers, who are truly incredible to watch, are composed of current and former students, parents, family members and community members. Last year’s event played to a capacity crowd, and she says those attending this year can expect a night of great musical performances, as well as a brief movie overview about the project.
As well, there will be a cash bar, tapas and a Bridge to Burundi table where traditional Burundi beaded jewelry made by Westwood students will be sold. That’s a lot of positivity and good will for a $10 advance tickets, or $15 at the door.
Tickets can be purchased at Que de Bonnes Choses bio/organic grocery store and bistro in Hudson, located at 484, rue Main, or by emailing Koluzs at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, call Westwood Sr. High School at 514 798-4900.