For the past 20 years, the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM) have been working to better their community and connect with others.
Now, the group of approximately 90 has taken the opportunity to expand its efforts to Uganda where they are contributing to the creation of a primary school.
Group president Donna Harris of Crestview said they recognize the benefits of organizing outreach the way religious groups do — they simply subscribe to different beliefs.
"Humanism is a life stance," she explained. "You can say that we’re atheist, most of us do embrace that label. We don’t believe in gods or supernaturals or deities, but we do believe in people.
"We don’t believe in heaven, hell, God… we believe in science. Science is a way to understand the world around us, it’s the best tool we have. We also believe in empathy and morality, non-discrimination, equality, and doing good for other people because our life is so brief and so precious, we feel like doing good for others is part of what we should be doing."
Agnostic, she added, refers to someone who doesn’t know for sure. The group’s mandate is to provide a gathering place for like-minded people and provide information to the community.
"We recognize that one of the great things about religion is its ability to bring people together," Harris said. "We’re a social species, we need that community."
The Uganda project is a recent one for the group.
"It’s quite an exciting opportunity," she said. "They’ve just really started and they’re very gung-ho to bring a more humanist approach to the schooling in Uganda."
Currently, Harris says, the two largest groups who work to develop schools there are Catholic and Anglican.
"And the public schools, there aren’t that many and they’re usually over-crowded," she said.
Harris said the school they’re involved with serves many orphans in the community and children who come for the day as well as board there.
"What we’ve gotten involved with is sponsoring one of the students there," Harris said. "He’s an orphan and taken in by one of the women who is associated with the group. His name is John and he’s six years old and our group has committed to sponsoring him throughout his education."
One year of schooling for John is $250. To help him and fund other outreach projects, the group hosts fundraisers throughout the year.
Harris says that anyone interested in donating, getting involved or attending a meeting can visit mbhumanistsatheists.ca for more information.
"If people want to come check us out, they’re more than welcome."