The Way I See It...

Pin­court Li­bra­ry hos­ting event

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

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 nan­cy@bridge-to-bu­run­ For more in­for­ma­tion, call West­wood Sr. High School at 514 798-4900.

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