A fundraising concert for the Friends of Guatemala is coming up on March 24th at St. Andrew’s United Church.
Showtime is 7 p.m. The performance will feature The Great Plains – Saskia and Darrel – an accomplished duo known for their finely-crafted Celtic, folk and bluegrass tunes.
The Friends of Guatemala food security project is a fundraising committee under the auspices of St. Andrew’s United Church.
“Friends of Guatemala started from having a Guatemalan women visit here back in the mid-1990s,” said Bob Settle of the Friend of Guatemala group. “Then, a group from here went to visit there. The minister here had made some connections earlier, and he encouraged it and was part of it. Every couple of years, there have been visits there,” he said, adding the group became more formalized around 2004.
A primary connection has also been made with the Fraternidad de Presbiteriales Mayas, which operates a Food and Nutrition Security project.
“We have worked with them, and more recently, gotten into some more specific projects,” he explained.
“Recently we have done a project in a community called Tojalic. It was a food sustainability project to help the people learn to grow crops that they hadn’t been growing in the area before, including carrots, peas, cabbages and turnips,” he said.
Diversification is certainly an emphasis, along with the education component as well.
“That was a three-year project, and we have now sent the last of the money for it. We are committed now to another three-year project in another community doing basically the same thing,” said Settle, adding that although Friends of Guatemala is out of St. Andrew’s Church, the group is open to everybody.
“Along with supporting projects there, we want people here to know as much about Guatemala as possible,” he said. “And so we’ve been organizing those trips every couple of years for about 10 years now,” he said.
“We do that with CEDEPCA. They set up visits to interesting places for us as well.”
It’s certainly a country that has faced and continues to deal with immense challenges.
“Guatemala is still suffering from a very long and a very vicious civil war,” said Settle.
According to Wikipedia, Guatemala is the most populated state in Central America.
“Since a United Nations-negotiated peace accord, Guatemala has witnessed both economic growth and successful democratic elections, though it continues to struggle with high rates of poverty, crime, drug trade, and instability,” according to Wikipedia.
“As of 2014, Guatemala ranks 31st of 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries in terms of the Human Development Index.”
Geke Bruning, also of the Friends of Guatemala, has journeyed to the country as has Settle.
“I think you are always surprised how the people are – the spirit of the people,” she explained. “Of course, there is a lot of poverty, but you are also surprised at what people can do there – a dollar can go a long ways,” she said, pointing to the impact that micro-loans can have for example for making a real difference.
For their part, Saskia and Darrel are excited about a new direction in their artistry that is unfolding under a relatively new moniker – The Great Plains.
“We have made so many friends and fans over the last 10 years, sweet people who loyally buy our latest CDs, who follow us online, and pay money to come to our shows, that we feel a huge responsibility to them. And indeed; without you believing in us, we wouldn’t be playing music at all,” they noted via their web site. “So our new outlook on our music is this – we are simply going to write, record, and perform the very best music we possibly can, for you; the people whom we love and like and to whom we are responsible.”
Tickets for the concert are $20; call Geke at 403-885-4915. They are also available at the church office and at the door while quantities last.