Jun 15, 2012

Batwa: When Bricks Make a Difference

24 people will take part in “Building Burundi,” a housing project constructing much-needed houses for the local Batwa community in Busiga

Below is an article published by The Grove Examiner

One local teenager is hoping to make a difference in a small African community this summer with a few bricks, a bit of ‘soul,’ and a lot of ‘love.’

Becki Ramsay, 16, from Spruce Grove is one of 24 people headed July 4 [2012] to Burundi, Africa, where she will spend three weeks building houses with the Batwa community of Busiga. The trip is part of the “Building Burundi” housing project put on by Loveworks and the Beaumont-based non-profit organization, Souls of the Feet.

“The biggest thing we want to do is empower people,” said Justin Kowalewsky, Souls of the Feet president.

According to the Souls of the Feet website, the Batwa people are an extremely poor and neglected group, with an average life expectancy of only 27 years.

The Busiga community self-identified shelter as one its most pressing needs. Loveworks visited the community last summer, spearheading the construction of 24 houses. The goal is to build an additional 50 houses at $500 per house.

Kowalewsky said the group plans to build the houses with the community, not for them, to help empower homeowners.

“I think a lot of times with aid...you have this idea that people in third world countries are victims that need a savior,” said Kowalewsky. “No. They just have different types of riches that we don’t have, and vice versa.”

Ramsay, a Toronto-native, was inspired to get involved after a school presentation by Loveworks director Graeme Watt on the organization, meant to empower young people to change their world through creative projects.

Before Watt’s speech, Ramsay said she was serious about wanting to travel overseas and make a difference in the lives of others. Those thoughts were always for “after high school,” though.

Watt’s words changed her mind.

“Throughout his speaking at my school I was like, ‘Wow, I can actually do this,’” said the Living Waters Christian Academy student.

“I realized I didn’t have to be older and that I had the capabilities and talents right now, despite my age.”

Like Kowalewsky, Ramsay said her main goal coming out of the trip is to let the native people know there are people across the ocean that love them.

“I hope that I have a raw connection with them, that despite my skin colour, despite my money, despite my education, I can find a ground level with them,” she said.

Loveworks and Souls of the Feet will be hosting the “Building Burundi Gala” at the Royal Glenora Club in Edmonton Saturday to raise funds for the project. The doors open at 6 p.m. and the event starts at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $75.

For more information, or to make a donation online, visit www.ourloveworks.com/building-burundi.