Bakuru and the School on the Hill gets Roméo Dallaire’s approval
An ongoing humanitarian project adopted seven years ago by students from Westwood Sr. High School is now the inspiration for a children’s book that was written and illustrated by teens currently attending the Hudson school.
Bakuru and the School on the Hill is based on Westwood’s Bridge to Burundi Project, a student-run initiative that began with a goal of building, staffing and supplying a one-room schoolhouse in Burundi, Central Africa.
The African school serves grades one to six students.
But like the little engine that could, a character from another popular children’s book, the project picked up steam and to date has funded the building of a 10-room school house in Rwoga, a community of 5,000 people.
The effort has additionally helped villagers develop a community co-op, open a medical centre, source clean, running water, build a flour mill, and buy such things as sewing machines, livestock and solar panels.
Bakuru and the School on the Hill also features an introduction by Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, who worked to stop the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1993 and 1994, when he served as commander of a United Nations peacekeeping force.
“Westwood High School’s Bridge to Burundi Project is an example to all those who wonder how they can help heal the wounds of conflict…,” Dallaire wrote in his introduction. “Like a school, an education must be built brick by brick, by a willing team with a wide range of talents….When you educate people, you change destinies and nations and you may just find your own lives changed,” added Dallaire, who congratulated past and current students “on the long-term nature of your commitment.”
Birth of a book
The idea for Bakuru and the School on the Hill began after Westwood resource teacher Nancy Koluzs received a gift of another children’s book from her husband, a fellow teacher who helped spearhead the Burundi project.
Peter Nield bought Emma and the African Wishing Bead, which was written by local author Valerie Redmond, because he felt her book had a great message.
Fate came into play when Koluzs later received a note and a request to meet from Redmond, who had heard of the Burundi project.
“Valerie and I instantly connected – we both equally feel passionate about creating positive change in this world,” Koluzs said. “As an educator, I believe it is my responsibility to motivate and inspire my students to want to make a difference in the world.
To make that difference, the two woman asked students if they wanted to write their own book.
Keen to take on the challenge, a group of 30 Westwood students produced the manuscript for the book. Their story follows a young girl in Burundi through a day of learning about the school. Westwood art students did the illustrations while some alumni have helped with the editing.
Bakuru and the School on the Hill has been printed thanks to a gift from Halo Publishing. All proceeds will go toward the Westwood Bridge to Burundi project.
The official book launch and reading to both congratulate the Westwood Bridge to Burundi students – and to celebrate their vision of changing the world, one classroom at a time – will take place May 5 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Westwood Sr. High School in Hudson.