A trip to Kenya in 2006 permanently altered Cat Ross’s perspective on the world and her place in it.
She had been volunteering at Nine Circles Community Health Clinic, teaching a course called "Global Women with HIV and AIDS," when it occurred to her that she had never seen for herself the places in the world most affected by the disease.
"So at that point I decided I’m going to travel abroad where it’s at its worst and be able to hopefully experience it first-hand, so I truly know what I’m talking about," she said.
Ross founded the Kenya Initiative for Development and Sustainability (KIDS) after returning from that trip. The initiative supports several projects in Kenya: a hospital, a primary school, an orphanage, an HIV/AIDS program, and two internally-displaced persons camps.
Winnipeggers can support the KIDS initiative at its second annual gala event, dubbed Crossing Plains, at the Holiday Inn Polo Park on March 14. Tickets are $50, and all funds raised will go towards projects in Kenya.
When starting her organization, it was important to Ross that she have complete oversight of where the money was going.
"We are the ones who actually go out into the field and we hand-deliver the materials to the people. So we have full control overseeing the funds that are being raised here in our community and utilizing them in the field and distributing them to the programs."
The gala event will include a screening of a mini-documentary filmed on the last distribution trip Ross took to Kenya. It will also feature performances by several socially conscious musicians, including the Peaceful Village student drumming group, refugee performer Gentil Misigaro, and supergroup Starry Skies Collide.
James Roth, of the local bands Pushing Daisies and Hot Stone Road, started Starry Skies Collide with his bandmate Curtis Paull as a way to support charities like KIDS. They released a song called "Just Believe In Me" last fall to support Ross, who Roth has known for 10 years.
"Cat’s always been there to support us, and anytime she’s needed a band, Curtis and I, in the Pushing Daisies, would always be there to support her," said Roth.
The music video for the song can be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1_U1uDqEwc&feature=plcp.
Thursday’s gala will be the first time the whole band will perform the song live. The rest of the group, which includes other local performers like Flo, Dane Bjornson and Ariel Shatsky, will record an EP of songs to be released in the next couple months.
To learn more about KIDS, visit www.kidsinitiative.ca.