Justin Kerswill’s life was turned upside down.
He had just visited Igoma in Tanzania and saw the devastation caused to families by diseases such as AIDS and malaria.
The scenes have stayed with him over the past couple of years and that’s why he’s determined to go back to work with the Stouffville Igoma Partnership.
He is part of a group leaving from Stouffville May 27. He’ll be joined by his mother, Susan, a nurse who is visiting Igoma for the first time to assist at the local clinic. Most of the other group members are from Stouffville, with some coming from Markham and Uxbridge.
The trip will be particularly poignant for Mr. Kerswill since an Igoma resident named Samuel, the carpenter who worked so closely with partnership members on various building projects, died recently of malaria at the age of 32. He left his wife and six children.
Samuel was in the process of renovating his house when he died.
Because he had worked so closely with SIP members, “we have the need to finish it for him”, Mr. Kerswill said.
To support the Stouffville Igoma Partnership’s latest venture, Mr. Kerswill is hosting and playing in his second annual Arts for Africa concert April 28 at the Main Course Restaurant at 6298 Main St. in Stouffville.
The concert begins at 6 p.m., featuring performances by local musicians Gypsy Grass, Carys Montgomery, J.P. Belanger, Zealand and others. Works by local artists will be on display.
Although the first contact with Igoma was made by members of EastRidge Evangelical Church eight years ago, now the group includes church members and people from the wider community. Several of them are making their first trip to the African country.
Group members are Cathy Anderson, Rod Anderson, Katherine Gray, Joel Heppner, Peter Boudewyn, Yvonne Boudewyn, Justin Kerswill, Susan Kerswill, Vanessa Fockler, Lois Maillet, Lou Geense, Jonathan Soukup, Harold Wideman, Mike Morrison and Mike Brennan.
The group returns June 20.
They’ll be tackling a variety of jobs in Igoma. One is to expand the clinic built with the support of Stouffville residents. It has now been approved by the Tanzanian government as a mother and child health clinic, providing immunizations and other services. A storage facility will also be created at the clinic, as well as a room for the ultrasound machine brought over by partnership last year. Some group members will be helping to add rooms on to an existing church in neighbouring towns.
Another members will oversee the I Care child sponsorship program run out of EastRidge.
“We ensure that all the money you give goes to Tanzania,” Pastor Lou Geense said.
Mr. Kerswill wants to see more people involved with helping people in Igoma. He would like to see other municipalities follow the partnership model of helping others.
For reservations to Arts for Africa, call 905-642-2122.
By Hannelore Volpe
Staff Writer, The Stouffville Sun-Tribune