I am always moved by the incredible spirit of people who commit their lives to the good service of helping those around them in need. A few years ago I met a woman named, Julie Epp and was immediately inspired by her creative spirit and generous heart. Since 2010, Julie has been involved with supporting the Kimisagara Orphanage in Rwanda. First bringing donations of shoes and then raising $18,000 to support various projects at the orphanage in 2013. She and her friend spent a couple months with the kids, and during that time, Julie connected deeply with one young man from the orphanage, Claude, who has become like a son. She is now trying to sponsor him to study and live with her in Winnipeg. He has his passport and has been accepted into school in January 2016. His Canada Study Visa application is in process now.
Claude is an orphan. He lost both of his parents and his little brother by the time he was only four years old. He left his village on foot with some other children and began living on the street from that time; eating from garbages, and trying to find a way to stay alive. He has never returned to his village since. Eventually he was taken into an orphanage, but then ended up on the streets again. About ten years ago, he was taken into the Kimisagara Orphanage (where Julie met him) and given a place to stay and access to schooling. Not only did that act likely save his life, it also helped Claude become the young man that he is. He has a huge heart and a desire to do good in the world. He wants to help other children the way he has been helped. And even though he has almost nothing, he has found a way to support the education of a young boy who lives near his home and who’s own mother is poor. He pays this young boys primary school fees and feeds him when he can.
Claude and Julie first met in 2010. But, due to language barriers, they didn’t actually speak. When she returned in March 2013, Claude remembered her right away. In Julie’s words, “I cannot say exactly how or why Claude and I adopted each other on that trip, but we did. It almost didn’t feel like a choice.. rather, it just was. We have talked about it.. the bond we formed so instantly. Neither of us really certain what inspired that connection. Claude would say that he trusted me.. something about me allowed him to trust in a way he had never experienced before. And when he asks me why I picked him, I tell him that I recognized his loving heart. That we were the same. It didn’t feel like I chose him to be my son.. but that he already was. It was destined to be long before we ever met. 13,000km might separate us.. our skin might be different colours.. our worlds vastly different. But at the core, we are the same, and I could sense it instantly. Every moment of our connection over the past few years has affirmed what I always knew. We are family. I am his mother. He is my son. And, like any mother would, I long for the best for my son. I want to support him to achieve his dreams. I want to give him opportunities to be the best he can be."
Julie is now trying to bring Claude to study and live with her in Winnipeg. She wants to offer him an education and opportunities that he wouldn’t have in Rwanda. She would love to help him achieve his dreams. To help Julie make her vision come into reality and to assist in bringing Claude to Canada to study, a group of us here in Winnipeg have decided to perform a concert to help raise some funds. I would like to extend an invitation for you to join Sheena Grobb, Elessar Thiessen, Host Refuse and myself on Monday November 16, 2015 at The West End Cultural Centre. I will be playing a few new songs from my upcoming solo album release that night too! I hope you will consider coming out to support Julie’s incredible vision and to enjoy some great local music! In the meantime, here is a song I recently covered by my good friend, Mark Reeves called Leon’s Lounge.
Here is a little video of Claude.
Tickets to the concert are available at Music Trader, the WECC, an online at eventbrite. Charitable donations can be made for Claude online at Green Kids Inc. or by cash or cheque on the night of the event.