Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/3/2011 (3138 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
At first it was a feast, and now it's a famine. Whatever the menu, the people of a St. James church are determined to amass cash to build a medical clinic in an African village.
"No, it's not a fun meal," explains Paul Hazelton of tonight's fundraising dinner of beans and rice at St. James the Assiniboine Anglican Church.
"The bottom line is you're going to go home hungry. But hopefully, you go home feeling you did something right."
That something right is completing a medical clinic in Mayungwe, Uganda, a village that's a two-hour's drive southwest of Kampala. Hazelton says half of the proceeds of the $35 tickets are earmarked for the clinic project, and the rest is designated for Winnipeg Harvest.
Three years ago, the church and the local Muslim community co-operated on an interfaith dinner, raising about $12,000 for the $40,000 clinic, which will serve both Christian and Muslim patients. That effort was thought to be the first time Christians and Muslims in Winnipeg worked together on a common overseas project.
The initial funds paid for the brick walls and part of the roof, but since then, the villagers in Mayungwe have had to borrow money to finish the roof to avoid water damage, explains Pat Stewart, the Winnipegger who initiated the fundraising project.
The retired nurse was asked by the villagers to build a clinic for them when she visited Uganda four years ago with a delegation of local Anglicans.
Stewart is reminded continually of that commitment through an ongoing correspondence with people from Mayungwe.
"They're telling us what the weather is like and reminding us of our promise to help them," she says of the letters she receives from Uganda. "It's very familial."
Stewart is determined the clinic will be completed as soon as possible, and she is planning another event with the Muslim community for some time in spring.
"It doesn't happen with one fundraiser," she says of raising $40,000 for the clinic. "It takes this ongoing commitment and care for them."
A second joint effort in Winnipeg to raise money helps create relationships between the two faith communities both locally and in Uganda, says Shahina Siddiqui of the Islamic Social Services Association, the organization involved in the Anglican-Muslim dinner three years ago.
"The fact that this is being built halfway across the globe also helps build global interfaith relations and encourages us to think like global citizens," she says.
"As Canadians we have so much that God has blessed us with. Why not show our gratitude through sharing with those who have less than us."
Most of the people attending tonight's meal, dubbed a famine feast, will be served rice with beans or chickpeas, seasoned with a little salt, for a total of about 800 calories, says Hazelton. A few lucky guests will also get a cup of powdered milk to supplement their meal.
"We're going to give them an experience of what they would get at a (refugee) camp," says the University of Manitoba researcher.
Put yourself into the shoes of a person living in Mayungwe without any health care or (of a person) in a refugee camp in Darfur."
That small taste of poverty might build people's appetites for other social issues, whether local or international, and motivate them to action, explains David Northcott of Winnipeg Harvest, who will be one of the servers at tonight's meal.
"We have people who come into the food bank hungry, who have already missed a meal," he says.
"This is already happening in a rich country. It doesn't make sense."
Raising money for a project far away as well as funds for a local food bank is part of the church's mission to be relevant to the neighbourhood, explains Rev. Murray Still.
night coffee house and a drop-in-centre for at-risk middle school youth, the congregation hopes to make the famine feast an annual event, he says.
"The famine feast is the first step in education not only for the church but for our neighbourhood."
A famished evening
Tonight's Famine Feast begins at 5 p.m. at St. James the Assiniboine Anglican Church, 195 Collegiate St. Tickets are $35 at the door or by calling 888-3489.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.
The Free Press acknowledges the financial support it receives from members of the city’s faith community, which makes our coverage of religion possible.