WRITTEN BY: ERYN AUSTIN BERGEN
|BRAD (LEFT) HOLDS HIS SPONSORED CHILD, EVOD, WITH CURTIS (RIGHT) IN BURUNDI
Brad and Curtis Rempel of High Valley took a life-changing trip to Kabarore, Burundi in October 2014. They returned to Canada with an intensified passion for making a difference. Here’s what they had to say about the County Line Tour, Kabarore, Child Sponsorship, and how country music fans are changing the world.
Q: You recently completed your first headlining tour across Canada — how was it?
CURTIS: The County Line Tour was absolutely amazing! Winkler, Steinbach, and Fort Mac were sold out shows. We also exceeded our Child Sponsorship goal — that was an expectation but also a surprise at the same time.
Q: Tell me more about that — how long have you promoted Child Sponsorship?
BRAD: Ever since [we’ve] been involved in music! I remember, as a young teenager, going to concerts and seeing other bands promote the idea of Child Sponsorship — that’s where I really heard about it. We didn’t really have TV growing up and stuff, so I never saw the commercials.
CURTIS: We’ve been giving fans the opportunity to sponsor children at our shows for probably 15 years.
Q: What’s your motivation to promote “doing good”? Why not just ride the wave of success and enjoy it?
CURTIS: I believe that God has blessed me so much, and I believe that fortunate people are responsible for helping out the less fortunate. I consider myself a very, very fortunate person. I’m blessed to be able to do what I do for a living and I’ve got a family — a wife and a son. I don’t think I can just sit around and “be thankful”; I think it’s up to people like myself to share with the less fortunate and I believe strongly Child Sponsorship is a way to do that.
Q: There are a lot of ways to help people; why did you choose to advocate for Child Sponsorship, specifically?
BRAD: [Well] it seem[s] amazing that you could actually have a personal relationship with a child and, beyond that, actually support them.
Q: How do you think your fans responded? Are country music people into Child Sponsorship?
CURTIS: It [the response] was unreal! I mean, there were people every night sponsoring kids and coming up to us [to talk about it]. It was pretty awesome, pretty special. Fans were excited about it. We also hit our goal — we got over 300 kids sponsored!
Q: You met many of those 300 kids when you traveled to Kabarore, Burundi before you started your County Line Tour. What was it like to see where they lived?
CURTIS: It was my first time in Africa, [so] I had expectations, I was expecting to see a lot of poor people, and I did. But we interviewed a lot of them and got to know them and their stories, and found out what their dreams were.
The hearts of the people there, the thankfulness, just the smiles on their faces when they’ve got nothing compared to anybody over here — it was unreal to see how content the people are in poor situations. That was pretty inspirational to us.
Q: What kinds of dreams did you get to hear about when you interviewed kids?
CURTIS: Well, the shocking thing to me was that none of them could see past their current situation. They were all just like, “My dream is to teach my younger sister how to farm so that she can survive.” Their dream is survival.
BRAD: It is pretty depressing — the lack of dreams that the kids have. Whenever you ask them what their favourite thing to do is they’ll say something like, “fetching water” or “helping with chores,” [but] I want the kids to dream a lot bigger than that. It’s sad for me as a dad — I mean, if you asked my son what his favourite thing to do was and he said “helping do chores”, that would be pretty depressing.
CURTIS: That’s as far as most of them dream; that’s their reality. It was a big eye-opener for me.
Q: How do you hope to change their opportunities and their dreams through Child Sponsorship?
CURTIS: I just kind of learned how important education is and how, if individuals in Burundi knew what was available for them, then they could dream.
BRAD: This is a big goal, but my main goal would be to look back in 15 years — 10 years even — and find a couple success stories of kids in the FH Child Sponsorship program that are now in college, that have graduated from college, that are able to get some sort of job, just something to see light at the end of the tunnel. My dream is that, someday, the whole village is filled with dreamers and that the dreams are actually realistic.
Q: What do you think is one realistic dream that a child in Kabarore could have with the help of Child Sponsorship?
BRAD: I think a child could have a dream of working a job dealing with businesses — actually having a computer job or, you know, a marketing job or a business management job. The moment you learn not only the English language but, more importantly, the French language out there instead of just your own village dialect, you are a very, very valuable person in the workforce.
If their parents didn’t need them to quit school to work at home [to survive], if we could keep them in school and support them, I think these are smart kids and they’d learn a lot — just like any other kid in the world.
They deserve a chance.
Q: Do you think your fans will walk with you through these 10 years to help children in Kabarore learn to dream?
CURTIS: We’ve got country music fans all across Canada supporting those kids and their friends and their brothers and sisters. It’s just amazing — we’ve got kind of our own village out there in Burundi, and we’re just honoured to be a part of that, for sure.
BRAD: We’ve been excited to partner with FH for a long time, but more excited than ever about actually having a village that we could kind of feel like was our responsibility.
Q: Clearly, your fans love you and have a lot of respect for you guys. If a fan came to you and said that they wanted to change the world, what would you tell them to do?
CURTIS: If you want to change the world then, how do you say it? One step at a time. You are just one individual, but one individual can impact another individual significantly. There are so many people in our situation, as we all work together we could change the world.
You’re not just changing one child when you sponsor a child, you’re affecting their families and their communities.
BRAD: I would say start with one person. That’s it.
|A GIRL IN BURUNDI FILLS HER WATER JUG FROM A CLEAN WATER POINT