Long before last year’s devastating earthquake, Haiti was a country with serious problems. It’s little wonder, then, that relatively little progress has been made in the aftermath of that catastrophe.
Many of us have moved on, figuring the millions of dollars in aid that flowed in following the quake has solved the crisis. Aid agencies like Foundation for International Development Assistance, however, know this is a long-term project. A concert and dinner later this month is the latest in a long line of fundraisers aimed helping Haitians help themselves.
Featuring music by The Wiebes, the dinner takes place Sept. 27 at Floradale Mennonite Church.
FIDA has been working in Haiti for the better part of three decades, helping to establish agricultural cooperatives as a way to fuel long-term sustainability. It’s the kind of work that requires years of effort to bear fruit, with no quick solutions, said FIDA’s Alexis Barkman
“On a project, our staff might spend three years working five days a week in the community, working with farmers and their families.”
Since 1984, the organization has helped get up and running 29 cooperatives, representing 8,000 members in 14 communities.
Problems aren’t solved overnight, as it can take more than a generation to make changes in the culture, said Barkman, the granddaughter of FIDA founders Jack and Anne Wall.
It’s that commitment that makes the concert even more compelling for The Wiebes, said Shane Wiebe
“What I appreciate about the Wall family and they’ve done with FIDA is that it’s long-term,” he said from the couple’s Stratford home, noting a long-term commitment is the key to sustainability. “It’s an honour to be associated with something so significant.”
The Wiebes are Shane and his wife Angela, who’s known the Wall family for years. She grew up in Stratford, while he’s a B.C. boy. The couple and their two young children moved back to her hometown earlier this year after being based on the coast.
Writers and performers of contemporary gospel music, The Wiebes are right at home with church performances; they keep an extensive tour schedule of such venues.
The two have been singing together since the day they met. Their first adventure, long before they began dating, was a choir tour of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in 2000 with the Columbia Singers. The group was led by Tony Funk, who would end up bringing the couple together again two years later.
According to the couple’s bio, Angela needed a pianist to accompany her on violin. She called Funk for the number of someone who could help her last minute, and was given Shane’s. The couple began performing regularly together, started dating in June of 2002, and were married in December 2003. The following May, Shane began his journey to a top five spot on CTV’s hit television show Canadian Idol, working with musicians like Lionel Richie, Gordon Lightfoot, and Debra Byrd.
In June of 2009, The Wiebes released their debut album, “Into Your Light,” which won Inspirational Album of the Year at the 2010 Covenant Awards. In December 2009 The Wiebes released their Christmas record, “Christmas With You.” The album was nominated for two Covenant Awards, ended up on the Canadian “AC Top 50” charts among artists like Michael Buble and Mariah Carey.
Wiebe said he’s looking forward to the performance, eager to help the cause.
“We’re well-suited to this type of event. We always appreciate it when we can observe and be inspired by what the organizations do … to make a difference, helping others.”
Given that the couple writes songs based on their faith – “our faith is primary when it comes to our inspiration” – the work of FIDA is in keeping with their worldview.
“It’s part of our perspective that stems from our faith.”
FIDA’s annual fall fundraising dinner and concert for Haiti featuring The Wiebes goes Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Floradale Mennonite Church. Tickets are $15, available by calling or emailing Alexis Barkman at 519-886-9520, email@example.com. Tickets also available on line at http://thewiebesforhaiti.eventbrite.com.