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Project Uganda: Concordia students making a difference

by Archives March 14, 2007

Due to the efforts of individuals like Dr. Stephen Lewis, the AIDS pandemic in Africa has been brought to the forefront of people’s social conscious. However, repeated statistics of worsening conditions in newsreels and articles have made the subject seem as if individual action is hopeless. For two Communications students, the opportunity to travel to Uganda this summer and make a documentary is the chance to for them to know their actions are actually making a difference.

Project Uganda, spearheaded by Shaughn McArthur and Adam Azimov, is a documentary film initiative that aims to tell a unique Canadian story of student volunteers that will spend two months in northern Uganda as part of the Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program (CVAP).

According to McArthur, the project aims, “to bring synthesis to a community that has been fractionalized by 20 years of civil war.”

Started in 2004 by two Concordia students, the mission of CVAP is to provide humanitarian assistance to communities that have been ravaged by civil war, famine and AIDS.

Through an elected-upon levy from student tuition, CVAP was able to collect $2 million in funds for the Uganda project.

The funds will be used to construct a community centre that will house a library, research rooms, points-of-sale for local artisans, as well as a daycare, medical clinic and other recreational facilities for children.

“For both of us, it is not just that we are going to Uganda, but it is the fact that it is the first program of its kind in North America. It’s an in-house volunteer program that is fully funded by students. A lot of universities will be looking at Concordia as a model,” said Azimov, an already active filmmaker.

Putting the larger picture into perspective, the film hopes to show that an initiative like CVAP can have a real and lasting, positive effect on a community in dire need of normalcy.

Documenting the progress of CVAP’s work may prompt other Canadian universities to undertake their own initiatives and lend a desperately-needed hand to rebuild deteriorated communities in Africa and beyond.

“This project, if communicated well to people back home, stands the chance of changing the way that campuses, universities, and North Americans in general, look at their role in international aid programs. It has the chance to reenergize the current donor fatigue,” said McArthur.

Under the current plan for northern Uganda, CVAP will send three separate groups of volunteers to assist with integrating the services into the community.

Azimov and McArthur will be part of the second group that will be leaving in May.

Their arrival coincides with the official opening of the community centre, an ideal time for the documentary to start production.

Their project has been in the planning for months and has received some funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), though they are still in need of funding for equipment and other expenses.

The two graduating students are offering producer credits in their film to people that make donations to the project.

They hope to collect enough money to produce a broadcast-quality finished documentary that, ultimately, could be marketable to a wider audience.

For more information, or to make a donation of cash or equipment, please visit www.projectuganda.com. For information on Concordia Volunteer Abroad Program, please visit, www.concordiavolunteers.org.

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