JoAnne and Jewelle Alaric leave October 1 to work with Thrive Malawi.

Burton mother and daughter work and volunteer in Africa

Local Documentary Filmmaker JoAnne Alaric goes to Burton

Burton might be a far cry from the wilds of Africa but that doesn’t hinder local Documentary Filmmaker JoAnne Alaric in the least.  She has an opportunity to provide her services for people in need in the third world. While there, she will be getting footage for a new video project.  The work entails making a documentary about Canada’s Thrive Malawi and their partner, Malawi-based Children of Blessing Trust (COBT).  Located just outside of the Malawian capital city of Lilongwe, Thrive Malawi is a Canadian registered charity.

Alaric makes documentaries for a living. As owner of Burton-based Number Five Productions, she created a well-received promotional video in 2012 about the Arrow Lakes for the Nakusp and District Chamber of Commerce. Most of her work is accomplished in the Kootenays from her residence in Burton. This will be her first trip to Africa.

Founded in 2007 by Canadians Steve and Kathy Bowler, the COBT provides services for children with disabilities and other disadvantaged children in Lilongwe, Malawi. Their organization works largely with children who have major disabilities such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment and mobility issues.  Malawi is a third world country without a large-scale social welfare system.  As such, children with physical and mental challenges are an additional burden to already struggling families who are often without basic resources to manage. COBT helps these families to cope and even thrive. “Vivien Berry saw my work and she asked me how one goes about making a promotional video for a non-profit group and told me about the Bowlers. I couldn’t get the idea out of my head so I eventually approached Vivien about helping.”  Plans ensued for the two to travel together to Malawi and make the idea a reality.

Alaric a saw the unique opportunities available to her daughter Jewelle by coming along. “We’re doing a Video Production 11 course, and for the social justice component, she is collecting shoes to donate to the children.  We hope to take up to 100 pounds of shoes in duffle bags—all of which will stay in Malawi,” she said.

Children’s shoes from size 0-12 are still needed. Runners and sturdy shoes are preferable to flip flips for children with mobility issues. Nakusp residents who would like to donate new or gently used footwear are requested to drop them off until September 29 at Touch of Fashion, 309 Broadway.

In addition to the footwear donations and assisting with video production, Jewelle will be working alongside Founder and Director, Kathy Bowler providing care to neonatal infants in crisis, and in the preschool working directly with the local children. Jewelle is a Distributed Learning Student. Her time in Africa will compliment her independent directed studies and her volunteer hours will also be counted towards the Graduation Transitions requirements for all B.C. grade 12 students.

Berry is on the board of directors for Thrive Malawi. They feel that having a professional documentary will aid in fundraising efforts for the day-to-day operating costs in Africa.

“I saw JoAnne’s work and liked the fact that she tells really good stories. We want to tell the story of Thrive Malawi. For fundraising purposes, and to get the word out about what Kathy is doing, media is best. Kathy is adamant that her children are of blessing. Yes they are destitute but they are happy. She really celebrates the successes of these kids.” Berry adds that the biggest challenge in Africa is making sure that funds that are being donated actually go to the cause. The documentary project hopes to give viewers a first-hand look at where their money is being spent.

When talking about why she was so inspired to go, Alaric says she jumped at the chance to use her talents to assist Bowler.

“She is inspiring to me.  When I met her for the first time last month, she felt like an old friend, someone I had known for years.” Alaric stated.

To raise money for the trip each Sunday, they have been joined by friends and family to man the concession booth at the Burton Farmer’s Market, selling chili, burgers, ice cream and homemade donuts with all proceeds going into the travel fund.

There has been enormous community support; in addition to selling out every Sunday, they have received help from Touch of Fashion, the Burton Full Gospel Church as well as private donations.

The group will be gone from October 1-14, 2014. They depart Calgary International Airport for a 15,277 kilometer, four-leg plane trip to Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi.  They plan to screen the documentary in Nakusp.


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