Aaron has been off the radar for a while – you might remember him as the chicken loving, random instrument wielding third of the Long Treks on Skate Decks adventures. He’s back and brings Skatefurther an interview with Caleb from Push for Burundi.
Over the past 2 years, a project sprung up out of Sherwood Park, Alberta, called Push For Burundi. Three local kids pushed their longboards across the province to fundraise money for a country trying to rebuild after decades of turmoil. For those who don’t know, Burundi is the neighbor of Rwanda and experienced the same genocide between the Tutsi and Hutu tribes. I had the chance to ask one of the skaters Caleb, whose spent some time volunteering in the Burundi, about how their project came to be. Now Push for Burundi has raised $15,000.00 going directly to the African country. First year across Alberta, 2nd year across BC, and as we speak they’re about to complete their 3rd and longest journey from Sherwood Park, to Portland Oregon. Incredible if you ask me.
Hey Caleb, glad I could catch you as you’re well into your journey, What were you doing in Burundi the past few years and how many times have you been?
I’ve been to Burundi twice, first time was for three weeks in 2012, second was 6 months in 2014. The first time was to see the effect that our fundraising had on a village that was building new houses. We got to be part of the building process, more just to work with the community and build those connections, rather than us actually building the houses, cause we knew nothing about that. It was really eye-opening, and I felt I wanted to go back and spend more time in Burundi and be part of projects that promoted sustainability, rather than just giving things and not really taking into consideration the cultural impact. So for 4 months I lived in a city called Gitega (2nd biggest in Burundi), and worked at a medical clinic (set up by Canadians, but planned in such a way so that they could leave eventually, which they have already, and be completely sustained by Burundians) and a school (grade 7-12, an English-speaking boarding school). At the clinic I took vitals for patients, and at the school I taught science and ran a volleyball team and taught guitar. Clinic in the morning, school in the afternoon. The last two months I was working with a coffee producing company called Long Miles Coffee Project (http://www.longmilescoffeeproject.com
) as a volunteer and did so many odd jobs. Their mission is to get the highest quality coffee so that roasters around the world will pay a lot for it, so that they can pay the farmers what they deserve for their beans. They also want to combat the way coffee farmers are treated around the country by having their own washing stations where the scales are fair and they are treated fair. I worked at the Bukeye washing station during harvest, as well as being a guide for a team of Canadians who came to visit the washing station to see the impact of their fundraising.
Have you seen with your own eyes how the Push’s fundraising is helping (build the school)?
Well the community that I visited during the first trip (Busiga) was the community who was going to receive the medical clinic we raised funds for during the 1st and 2nd Pushes. When I went to Burundi in 2014 and visited the village, they had just laid the foundation for the medical clinic, and construction was just about to begin. No word if it is up and running yet, as things take a loooong time to get up and running in Burundi. More the logistics side of it, rather than the construction is what takes so long.
So due to the political turmoil going on right now due to an upcoming election (I don’t know if you’ve been following), we want to focus on a project which will address some of the issues that have arisen due to the turmoil this year. We were going to support the construction of a farmer training centre that long miles was going to build, but the American family who started it left the country because of what was going on, although the main guy has stuck around to see out harvest. And they won’t be building it anytime soon, because it wouldn’t make sense to during a turbulent time. So now we are supporting a local organization which is sponsored by World Vision Burundi called Safechicks. What they do is help rural families start chicken farming business, which will increase their household income and nutrition. This is super important right now because a ton of people are losing their jobs due to turmoil, which means they can’t eat and provide for their families. Last year Safechicks helped 100 rural families, and this year if we reach our goal, it will be 100+. The community it will be impacting is Rutegama.
What can you tell me about Love Works?
Loveworks originated out of the idea of inspiring youth to do what they are passionate about in order to raise awareness and funds for causes they care about. It was also Loveworks who sent teams to Burundi. Loveworks actually merged/was absorbed by World Vision to become part of their youth wing, because they saw the impact that Loveworks had on youth to get them engaged with the passions and causes. So now it is through World Vision Canada, although our communication is still with the staff who were with Loveworks.What made you get involved with Burundi of all places?
It was honestly going to Burundi for those first three weeks and seeing the brokenness and also the amount of hope in the country to want to get involved in projects that would promote sustainability. Then going to Burundi for the 6 months, it made it that much more personal with all the friends that I made there, and the perspective on the country that they gave me.
Apart from sending dollars to the cause, what is another way that people can get involved?
I think the most tangible way would be to meet us on the road to just talk with us and hangout. Share the cause on social media and get engaged with the story. Be engaged when we release our video documentary.–
Please follow along Push For Burundi’s awesome journey
Rayne Longboards Made 10 Burundi Long Treks MIni’s for purchase here, all profits of the sale going directly to Burundi. Share this article, buy one of these boards, and then you can consider yourself a philanthropist for the day