Sunday, February 05, 2006

Benin Benefit Concert

Last night's benefit concert attracted more than one hundred people for an evening of music. My sister raised money for her trip to Benin, Africa, where she will be working for four months this summer.

She thought it would be a great opportunity to practice her French, since it's located in the French region, near Cotonou. She gets along well with children, and will do a good job of organizing activities, teaching, and providing supplies for the school, thanks to the help of our friends, family and our congregation.

The program last night included singing, guitar, an ensemble and piano from a wide range of styles. There was the Lifted Voices, a group of six women including their pianist, who did songs like "He (Jesus) Never Failed Me Yet", a bouncy and exhuberent piece, "This Little Light of Mine" and some lighter songs of their own creation, including a song about annoying encounters with answering machines: "After Beeps". They read some proverbs and wished my sister luck.

Her friend Walter has a very stageworthy voice which suited his cover of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Think of Me" from Phantom of the Opera. He also did John Lennon's "Imagine" which I thought was perfect for the context. It was interesting to be in a church setting but hear the words: "imagine there's no heaven...imagine there's no religion...imagine all the people, living for today."

I sang the unreligious song "Vibrate" by Rufus Wainwright and hoped people got a chuckle out of it. Later I talked to several who did get the humour and I chatted with my neighbors, a couple, marvelling at the belly which is due to give birth to a new baby in six weeks time!

Mennonites love their coffee, desserts and fellowship, so we stayed for several hours at the church, then started packing up. Back at my parents, that had even more food! I talked to my little sister's friends, feeling a bit old but enjoying their stories which reminded me of the good old days. They have such bright hopes and colourful personalities!

Anyway, so the concert was a success, and now my sister will have a way to fly to her mission. So that you may learn a bit more about where she's staying, here's some information on the place she's going to, from her display:

La Casa Grande is not adequately described as a simple orphanage, but as a place of restoration and as a refuge of peace for children who have lost those who love them.

The children at La Casa Grande live as a family with a mother and father figure, Esther and Paulin, and resident staff members who are brother and sister figures.

Their vision is to construct a village where the children will rediscover their sense of family, and of the world. It will have a health centre, a school facility, a workshop, and playground and sports facilities.

La Casa Grande has already purchased land for the new facilities, and needs continued aid to begin construction.

In 1997 a missionary group from Burgos Mennonite Church in Spain encountered a woman who was supporting a group of orphans and abandoned children in Benin. Their congregation was inspired to aid her.

In June of 1999, Annette and Paco Castillo were sent to open the centre in Benin.

In November of 2004, Paco and his wife Annette returned to Spain, and left the growing centre in the hands of Paulin and Esther Bossou. Today there are 24 children living there.

There are three staff members currently working at La Casa Grande: Elianne, Evariste, and Abel.

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