It’s been eight months in the planning, but the students organizing an upcoming concert to support doctors working in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo say the event couldn’t have been timed any better.
At the beginning of May, Doctors Without Borders reported 11 of its Congolese staff members missing following a swell of bloodshed and violence in Congo’s North Kivu province — where the organization operates a number of hospitals and health centres — forcing thousands to flee their homes.
"The proceeds couldn’t be needed at a better time," said Candace Houle, a Grade 12 student and member of the MET School Justice League at Garden City Collegiate, which is organizing the Night For The Congo concert on May 25 at the West End Cultural Centre to support doctors working in the region.
The league is hoping to raise $2,000 with the concert, which features a star-studded lineup of Winnipeg talent, including the country-pop crooning of Renée Lamoureux of Keith and Renée and the alt-rock tunes of Sons of York. The concert also features a number of student groups from the Young Villagers drum group and the Deep Boyzz rap unit from Gordon Bell High School, to a capella group Bahatizz.
Since September, the justice league has been organizing a series of events and rallies as part of its No More Blood In Our Phones campaign.
The group launched the campaign to raise awareness of the destructive tactics mining companies, in particular those registered in Canada, use to get at Congo’s supply of coltan, needed for everyday electronics from cellphones to computers to video game consoles.
"It’s our last hurrah," said Katee Weremiuk, who helped organize a 150-person strong rally at the legislature in April and a human rights day at the school featuring members of Winnipeg’s Congolese community earlier this year.
"We want to leave a good impact and keep it going."
It’s not uncommon for mining companies operating in Congo to hire militias, often riddled with child soldiers, to raid villages situated on top of valuable coltan deposits, exacerbating a series of violent wars the country has endured since 1998.
More than five million have died since then, and rape has become a common tool of violence, said Anna MacDonald, a student who has spent the last year filming a documentary about the issue.
Citing United Nations statistics, MacDonald said 48 women are raped every hour in the country, and Doctors Without Borders gives critical medical care to those women, MacDonald said.
"Imagine, times that by 24 hours and then times that by 365 days," MacDonald said.
"The work they are providing is greatly needed."
Having the Congolese community involved in local rallies and inviting them to share stories of fleeing their homes and losing their families has been important in educating peers, Weremiuk said.
"It’s really impactful for us to hear those stories. We shop with them, we live with them, we go to school with them. It’s about giving them a voice," said Weremiuk.
Beyond that, it’s about showing young people in Winnipeg that they have agency to make changes locally or internationally, Weremiuk added.
"It’s important young people see what we’re trying to do and see that you can make a difference if there’s an issue you’re passionate about," she said.
"You can do more than just bake sales."
Tickets to the concert are $15 and available through the MET School, Into the Music, Music Trader or the WECC.
All proceeds from the event will go to Doctors Without Borders.
Doors open at 6:15 p.m., show starts at 7. The WECC is located at 586 Ellice Ave.
"Everyone will find an act they really enjoy," Houle promised.
For more, call 204-336-5050 (ext. 2303), or visit www.metschool.justiceleague.weebly.com