February is Black History Month but for Pickering teacher, Paula Walker, its an opportunity too to celebrate the future as well as the past. She has organised a celebration of, and a benefit for, a school in Uganda. Sounds of the Soul takes place at the Oshawa Music Hall Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018. Sounds will come from a variety of performers including the 2017 Boots and Hearts Emerging Artist, Jade Daniel Eagleson, and over 70 students from Sir J.A. Macdonald P.S. in Pickering, where Walker teaches.
“I wanted my students to feel what it was like to shine like the stars do,” says Walker in an email, “when they have the stage and an audience to engage. So, I asked my lifetime friend Johnny Matusiak to help me form a village of professional musicians to make this happen."
Walker had another village in mind too; Kawanda in central Uganda.
“My friend, David Amot, was raised in this village by his mother Suzan Mary Okel, who established and principals Jethro a school for orphans which now educates over 200 students,” says Walker. “What began as an effort to school her own relatives who had lost their parents, turned into a mass outreach to her own community".
“David was very young when Suzan opened Jethro, and was inspired by his mother’s work. As such, a few years later he travelled with the African Children’s Choir as an 'uncle'. Then, went on to become a nurse. There are many more success stories like this, for the children who have been schooled at Jethro. It now schools over 200 children,” she says.
Walker met Amot at her church in Peterborough in 2004 along with Joziah Deklerk (who will also perform at Sounds of the Soul). They became friends sharing their love of music as a source of healing.
"Again, my intention was multi-layered, as it was not only to give my students an opportunity to perform with professionals and show their own gifts, but to celebrate music born out of suffering; donating all proceeds to a greater cause,” says Walker.