Local author/humanitarian Andrew Kooman continues to explore ways to make a difference both locally and abroad.
Kooman has brought many projects to the public over the past years, perhaps most significantly that being his play She Has A Name which saw tremendous acclaim last year.
The play, which is about the battle against human trafficking, provides poignant insight into the issue in South East Asia. Performances sold out across the country, and the powerful script proved an excellent vehicle to spark discussions and momentum for change in many people’s lives.
Next month, there will be several readings of the play in New York City’s Hunter College. Kooman won’t be able to attend, but is thrilled that the story continues to pointedly make its mark.
As of late, he was commissioned to write three monologues for the Central Alberta Pregnancy Care Centre’s 25th anniversary gala, which runs Nov. 2.
“I’m really excited to be working with them,” he explains. “Basically, I’ve written three monologues that deal with unexpected pregnancies. One is about a woman in her 50s who is looking back on decisions she made in her past. One is about a young man whose girlfriend is pregnant, and another is about a girl who gets pregnant in college and is figuring out what to do as well,” he said.
Kooman does thorough research prior to penning the material, so elements of the monologues come from some of the work that’s been done by pregnancy care centres across Canada.
“They’re really based in reality,” he adds. “They are unique stories for me to tell, but it’s a way to highlight the work at the Centre. We also have an amazing cast.
“Obviously they are stories about pregnancy, and about difficult decisions people have to make, but they really are human stories. So it’s about tapping into the emotion. It’s amazing to be able to explore without judgment the choices people make, and the things that they face,” he adds.
“The challenge was to look at it all with openness, compassion and honestly about the issues people face. So that was really exciting to do. Theatre is so powerful, and I think it’s a way for people to step in and imagine the realities that people face. Making it live – in the moment – I think it will make for a really powerful experience. It will make for a great night.”
Kooman’s Unveil Studios is presenting the monologues.
“Another thing that we are excited about is we’re moving into a space downtown; we’re sharing a space so we will have a live recording studio for film and audio. We want to create space for artists to come and create. We’re really excited about the opportunity to create that space so they can create their passion. We can help serve artists so they can then serve the community in Central Alberta.”
The plan is to have the studio space operational by December, he said.
Kooman has long been passionate about social issues such as the impact of war, poverty, and the AIDS pandemic, to name a few. Meanwhile, he remains inspired to continue to help bring change to issues where there is often not nearly enough awareness.
In early 2011, a book was released featuring stories by Kooman chronicling the experiences of migrants and refugees in Malaysia. He wrote 26 pieces for Disappointed by Hope: 30 Days of Prayer. Although the stories were fictionalized for confidentiality reasons, they are based on actual accounts, case studies and interviews of refugees.
He also said it’s exciting to see what can be accomplished when they partner with groups who have similar visions such as the Lacombe-based A Better World. The two groups have joined forces to launch the ‘She Has A Name Project’, and it’s aimed at offering training opportunities for girls coming out of the sex trade.
“We’ve already raised $10,000 for an after care centre in Bangkok. In November, me and two of my younger brothers Matt and Dan, who are part of Unveil, are going to visit that centre and see how the She Has A Name project can help it in the future with A Better World, which has done such amazing work.”
The centre helps girls and women who leave the sex trade to learn vocational skills.
“Their lives are being transformed,” he said. “They’re finding new skills so they don’t have to do the unthinkable to help their families survive.”
For Kooman, the energy to continue to push for greater awareness on all these issues certainly isn’t waning.
“If you set time aside to create, the creativity comes. It’s not a perfect, wonderful process – it’s about tackling the fear and unknown of maybe I can’t do this, and looking that in the eye.
“I have stories to tell. I’m so drawn to words and how they can impact people. Stories are so powerful. I want to be a better writer. There are so many stories to tell, and I’m drawn to the drama of human interaction and the big questions people ask. The sky is the limit and it’s fun to collaborate and find ways to tell the stories.”