Lively weekend in downtown Kingston Ontario

Have I said how much I love living in Downtown Kingston?  All these photos were taken within a 5 minute walk of where I live!

This weekend had perfect end-of-summer weather and  the downtown was full of activity ranging from Bollywood to jets to skydivers to a wonderful multicultural arts festival.

Here’s a five minute taste of how the weekend unfolded.   Never a dull moment…or a quiet one.

My Christmas – 55 years ago -1959

While cleaning out a closet I found a treasure. Old movies of my family that my Dad must have had transcribed from the little 8mm 3 minute films that were popular in the late ’60’s. The movies are grainy and dark but what a treat it is to see and remember Christmases from 55 years ago.

My Vardon grandparents in this film are younger than I am now.  My Dad in 1959 was younger than my eldest daughter is today.  I have a granddaughter as old as I was then.

My brother and I were lucky to have both sets of grandparents living fairly close by so we would all get together at one home or another for Christmas, taking turns as to who cooked the turkey. How wonderful it is to hear my mother’s laughter and to see my grandparents images again. All of us having fun.

There was always music.  One grandmother played the piano, the other the accordion. My Dad and Grandfather played the fiddle. We had a bass drum, flutes and when he got a bit older my brother played the trumpet. I could play the ukulele and the piano (not at the same time). My mother sang and danced. And laughed.

Rudolph as brightened a family yard now for almost 60 years!

Rudolph as brightened a family yard now for almost 60 years!

My Dad had made a plywood Rudolph with a red lightbulb nose that always was strapped to the railing of the front porch.  My brother Bob still has that Rudolph and posted a picture last week of it in his Hamilton yard.

In 1960 my mom’s cousin and her family came from Montreal to spend Christmas with us.  Always fun to get together with “cousins”.

In 1960, John F Kennedy was elected President of the U.S., John Diefenbaker was Prime Minister of Canada, Spartacus and Psycho were on at the movies and Elvis Presley and Chubby Checker (The Twist) were at the top of the music charts. A new group formed that year but not yet known to the world was The Beatles.

Cranking up the old turntable…

As I mentioned in my last post, the sight of records spinning on a turntable at The Screening Room and in American Hustle made me feel reminiscent.

I found my old Technics BL 220 turntable and a week later, after cleaning the dust off and replacing the rotted belt, I was ready to explore the dozens of 33 LP’s stored in crates in the basement.  My kids will remember me sitting on the floor in front of the stereo and playing track after track of my records as relaxation.  imagesThe advent of CD’s and now iTunes music has made that personal handling of the medium with little pops and crackles a lost pleasure, akin to the difference between reading a book on a Kindle versus holding it in your hand and turning real pages.

I beamed from ear to ear when I put on my favourite album of all time – Dr Music.  This short-lived Canadian group had about 15 members in it and their tracks are all rich with harmonies and full instrumental arrangements.

Some of The Canadian Band - Dr Music

Some of The Canadian Band – Dr Music

I enjoy every track on the album that was released in 1972 – 41 years ago(!). I was in medical school then, Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister of Canada, Richard Nixon was the President of the U.S. but the Watergate arrests that led to his 1974 resignation happened that year.

As a group, Dr Music lasted only a couple of years and then disbanded. Some of the members moving on to another Canadian band – Lighthouse.

One advantage of this digital age is that I was able to I look up the names of the several members of the 1972 Dr. Music band.  I sent a brief note to Bruce Cassidy, who played trumpet and flugelhorn in both Dr Music and later in Lighthouse (and also Blood Sweat and Tears). He kindly responded with a photo of the band as they were going on tour in 1972. There are very few photos of this band online I was delighted to see this one and appreciate his response. I have ended up downloading some of his recent music, heavily influenced by time he lived in South Africa.

Photo of the Dr Music band heading off on a cross Canada tour in 1972.  Supplied by Bruce Cassidy, one of the members of the band.

Photo of the Dr Music band heading off on a cross Canada tour in 1972. Supplied by Bruce Cassidy, one of the members of the band.

lighthouse-bandI found the Lighthouse album as well, with songs like Sunny Days and One Fine Morning. And also discovered that the band, with many of the original members, is still playing occasional concerts. In fact they are performing at Hamilton Place at the end of this month.

I have had a very enjoyable Saturday night listening to these and other old albums – the Beatles, Bob Seger, Fleetwood Mac.  A blast from the past.

Of course, this was well before the days of Music Videos.  But here are  a couple of Youtube links to some of the music.

And have a look at the photo of Lighthouse above and see these guys still at it in 2012. Less hair but just as much energy and talent!

Sunny Days – Lighthouse – Music and Lyrics by Skip Prokop, the drummer in the band

Sittin’ stoned alone in my backyard
Askin’ myself “Why should I work so hard?”
Sittin’ dreamin’ ’bout the days to come
Half-undressed, just soakin’ up the sun
Sittin’ here, I hope I don’t get fried
Two years ago, you know, I almost died
And yet, there’s nothin’ better for your soul
Than lyin’ in the sun and listenin’ to rock ‘n roll
Sunny days
Oh, sunny, sunny, sunny days
Ain’t nothin’ better in the world, you know
Than lyin’ in the sun with your radio

Meet Edward and Christopher

Edward 500

This is Edward. He is the oldest of three kids living with a father who is intermittently ill and absent from the family. For much of the past three years he and his siblings have had to manage on their own.

Christopher and his older brother, Edward at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda.

Christopher and his older brother, Edward at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda.

Edward and his brother, Christopher, are just finishing up their studies at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda – a school that has been supported in several ways by the CanAssist African Relief Trust. Fortunately the staff and administration at the Hope for Youth school have been there to offer an element of stability to the lives of these kids and a bowl of porridge mid-day when food was scarce.

I have visited the school three or four times and have watched Edward and Christopher grow up. They both are involved with the traditional dancing and drumming entertainment that the school.

Christopher serves up some posho for lunch to visitor, Dave Kay, at Hope for Youth School

Christopher serves up some posho for lunch to visitor, Dave Kay, at Hope for Youth School

When I visited the school in September I asked the boys if they planned to go on to Secondary School. Their response was downturned eyes and shrugged shoulders. Their family has no money for them to attend secondary school (it would take about $550 for each boy to provide tuition and books for a year).

Their final exams are happening in December. The teachers at the school imagine that both boys will qualify for secondary school entrance.  (This little school is leading the pack in terms of grades for their district.)

Prossy

Prossy

I also met a girl named Prossy who has received top marks at the school but who has no money to continue her education. The teachers report that her academic performance has also been good but she lacks the resources to go on to secondary school.

What will become of these kids, I wonder.

This is a familiar story. African kids may get through elementary school but to go on requires some tuition, books and uniforms and this is often out of reach for a family living in poverty. Even fewer go on to post-secondary education. Most rely on outside support to continue their education. But there are so many pupils in this circumstance all desperate for some assistance.

Enjoy Christopher, Edward and some of their classmates as they do some Ugandan Traditional Dancing at the Hope for Youth School in Uganda. And realize how lucky we are that most of our students are able to complete secondary school with public funding regardless of their background or family situation.

Dimes 4 desks

Kids!  Their enthusiasm is infectious.

Last month I visited the Grade 4 class at Glenburnie School to tell them a bit about Africa.

Here is a “campaign” that resulted from my visit. This short video presentation, created by Ashley, one of the students in the class,  speaks for itself.

Ashley had originally had “With a Little Help from my Friends” as her background music but YouTube is picky about copyright so we changed it to some original African sounds. I recorded the music in the video when I was visiting a CanAssist project site in the village of Olimai, Uganda in 2011.  The thumb piano band had welcomed me to the community in the afternoon and serenaded me again after dark. What a delightful treat for a visitor.

The money raised by the class will go to the S.P. Geddes Early Childhood Development Centre to provide furnishings (they have none at the moment).

Everyone is a winner…

I am always happy to be part of a win-win situation. Last year I enjoyed one that was win-win-win. If I think about it I could add more win’s but you get the point, I am sure.

The St Gorety School is a secondary school in a small village called Mikei, Kenya. It is pretty rurual, about 20 km inland from Lake Victoria and in Nyanza Province, one of the least advantaged districts of Kenya.

Through CanAssist, and with my Canadian friends, Virginia and Suzanne I met Edward Kabaka a couple of years ago. Edward is a founder of a local support group called Rieko Kenya. Well, to make a rather long story shorter, Edward brought the needs of St Gorety School to our attention. Basically the school, serving secondary students from the surrounding region, was overcrowded and needed more classroom space.

St G classroom 2013So in 2012, CanAssist agreed to construct one classroom and complete another which had been partially built with Kenyan government funds which dried up before the roof could be put on the building.

Virginia and Suzanne, secondary school teachers themselves in Kingston, promoted this project to some of their students who responded with fundraising to help with this building.

At the same time, the Queen’s Health Outreach group, university students whose mandate is to promote Health education to students and youth in various parts of the developing world, were looking for a new district in Kenya to work. I have been an ad hoc mentor to this group for the past several years and it seemed natural to put them in touch with Edward and the St. Gorety School.

QHO students visited several schools and community groups in the Nyatike region in 2012.

QHO students visited several schools and community groups in the Nyatike region in 2012.

Last year the QHO group spent several weeks in the Mikei/Nyatike community, living in a house overlooking the rolling Kenyan hills and interacting with schools and women’s groups in the region to educate and promote healthy living practices. Another group of six QHO students are excited to be returning to the community in May/June this year.

When I visited the St Gorety School and other groups in the region in February, they all lit up with smiles at the mention of the QHO students and were ecstatic to hear that there would be a group returning this year.

So where do all the “win’s” come in?

  • CanAssist has been delighted to be able to provide infrastructure support to the school (and three other community groups as well…more about those in later posts).
  • The QHO group has found a welcoming community where they are able to do their outreach work to promote education about health to young Africans.
  • The community which was actually quite neglected and off the beaten track for development has been excited to welcome visitors from Canada who are eager to help them improve their living circumstances. Kenyans love visitors.
  • Edward Kabaka has found support for his dream of improving well-being in the community.
  • Some of the students at KCVI and LCVI in Kingston have established pen-pal relationships with students in Kenya and have the satisfaction of having been able to help their peers in Africa.

And I sit back and smile. It’s all so good.

Treat yourself to the joyous music from the St. Gorety school choir in the Youtube video below.