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Our Community: Free trade and a global vision

Learn more about how a former University of Victoria student’s trip to Peru more than 10 years ago has changed both her life and the lives of a whole community of indigenous Quechua at a fundraising gala Friday at the Empress Hotel.

Learn more about how a former University of Victoria student’s trip to Peru more than 10 years ago has changed both her life and the lives of a whole community of indigenous Quechua at a fundraising gala Friday at the Empress Hotel.

Ashli Akins took a year off her schooling to travel when she was 20 years old. Along the way, she ended up in an area called the Sacred Valley in Peru, which is near the UNESCO-designated World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu.

In her four months there, she fell in love with the indigenous Quechua people of the central Andes. She saw a community dealing with an influx of tourists eager to view one of the wonders of the world. But the façade of economic prosperity also hid a community in a fight for cultural survival.

“Falling in love with the people wasn’t part of my plan,” said Akins, who divides her time between Victoria and Cusco, Peru. “I believe in responsible travel and want to give back. But when I started learning people’s stories, I started to ask how I could fit into the narrative.”

When she returned to Canada, she founded Mosqoy (a Quechua word for dream), a charity that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Instead of just asking for a handout, it also gives a hand-up to elders and youth. She promotes fair-trade for the weavers who create Peruvian textiles using traditional backstrap looms with alpaca and sheep wool. As many as 100 weavers are employed weaving blankets and clothing.

But she uses some of the profits from the sale to invest in education for youth. In the past 10 years, this side of the organization has offered post-secondary scholarships for promising candidates. The initiative has seen five Quechua students enrolled at the University of Victoria.

“We worked with the community, with many conversations, on how they could adapt their goals and visions for the future,” said Akins, who is working on her master’s degree. “Our vision was for them to be eventually self-sustaining.”

The social enterprise has borne fruit, with recent graduates the first crop of role models. One culinary-arts graduate recently opened her own restaurant, a first for the community. She has also hired local residents as staff. Grads from the computer sciences courses are sought out by companies.

Education extends beyond Peru. In Victoria, Akins lectures at the University of Victoria and Brentwood College School, teaching by example and showing youth the path to becoming global citizens.

The keynote speaker for the gala is award-winning author Ronald Wright.

The evening includes a four-course sustainable dinner, a silent auction and sale of fair-trade Peruvian textiles (purses, headbands, table-runners and bedcovers).

Tickets are $95, cash bar. Drinks and mingle at 5:30 p.m. Dinner at 6:30 p.m. at the Crystal Ballroom, Empress Hotel, 721 Government St.

Tickets are at Tanner’s Books, Ten Thousand Villages and online. For more information, go to\

Syrian violinist plays for benefit concert

Instead of playing with the Syrian national orchestra in Damascus, a talented musician from that country will instead perform for a local audience at On the Road From Damascus, a benefit dinner and concert at Friendship Community Church on Saturday.

Sari Alesh is a 31-year-old violinist whose career was cut short by the civil war that has gripped his country. He is one of more than 33,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in Canada since November 2015.

Nine months ago, he came to  Victoria — like many other refugees — with little more than the clothes on his back.

Since his arrival he has been busy. He has been able to take   music lessons at the Victoria Conservatory of Music, and hopes eventually to work toward a master’s degree in music. His desire is to teach violin to children with Down syndrome.

Alesh will be one of the performers at the benefit, hosted by the Peninsula Refugee Fund Team, which is working with St. Mary’s Church and the Anglican Diocese to sponsor another Syrian family of five to Victoria.

The event features Saffron, Victoria’s world music group, for an evening of Middle Eastern-themed entertainment. Expect excerpts of Turkish and Arabic pop, as well as classical pieces. Asmira and her belly-dancing group are among the featured performers. Dinner is a three-course Middle Eastern-themed dinner prepared by the owners of Café Zanzibar Restaurant in Brentwood Bay.

Tickets are $50 adults, $20 under 18 years old. The event runs 5 to 9 p.m. Nov. 26 at the Friendship Community Church, 7820 Central Saanich Rd. For tickets call 250-652-4123 or buy at the church, Zanzibar Cafe or Brentwood Bay Village Emporium.

Gala supports building project in India

The Global Perspectives class at Stelly’s Secondary School is hosting a Global Gala Fundraiser, Thursday at the Brentwood Bay school.

The event is an annual fundraiser that serves as a catalyst for the school and community to come together to raise money for a construction project in a Third World country.

This year, proceeds from the event will go toward installing tiles and building a protective wall around the playground of the St. Louis Primary School in Kochi, India.

Any other funds will provide additional support to the Kochi community.

The event includes a buffet and food platters that will be served throughout the night. There will be a silent auction, featuring hundreds of items donated from businesses in the area. Live entertainment will take place in the school’s auditorium.

Tickets are $15 and available through Stelly’s students or at the door on the day of the event. For further information contact Chris McDonald, Global Perspectives teacher at

It’s poinsettia time for hospital

The Victoria General Hospital Auxiliary has just launched its 2016 Poinsettias for Patients campaign. Proceeds from the sale of the locally grown plants will go toward purchasing equipment.

The 10-inch pots boast plants that are three feet high and three feet around. They will last for months.

“I’m the most satisfied customer of all,” said Val Smith, president of the Hospital Auxiliary. “The biggest problem is fitting it into our Miata. The big one can stand alone in the centre of a hall table, on top of a bookshelf or on the floor in front of the fireplace.”

The plants are cultivated by Hilltop Greenhouses, which grows thousands of holiday plants from cuttings that arrived in Victoria in mid-summer. Although the nursery supplies florists and big-box stores, the Poinsettias for Patients plants have their own special place in the greenhouse and are the best plants.

Depending on size, plants range from $7 to $35. They come in red, white, marble and three colours. For more information, or to order a plant, go to

Arts council seeks board members

Esquimalt’s Township Community Arts Council is looking for nominees for its 2017 board of directors.

The board is comprised of 10 positions: president (three-year term), vice-president, secretary, treasurer, director of memberships and volunteers, director of events and special projects, director of communications, director of social media, director of youth mentorship and special programs and past-president (non-voting).

The board works to enhance arts and culture in Esquimalt and to promote artistic endeavour in all its forms. On average, a time commitment of between 10 and 20 hours per month is needed.

For information and a nomination package, go to or send an email to
Nominations close Nov. 30.

Commissionaires back Broadmead golf tourney 

Commissionaires Victoria, the Islands and Yukon has just announced that it has signed on for a three-year title sponsorship of Broadmead Care’s annual charity golf tournament.

The tournament raises funds for special projects at the Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead. The lodge is a 229-bed residential-care facility that provides care and respite care for Second World War and Korean War veterans.

“We are excited about the extension of our three-year title sponsorship opportunity with Commissionaires Victoria,” said Dave Cheperdak, CEO of Broadmead Care. “We are proud to serve Canada’s veterans and Canadian Armed Forces members at the Veterans Memorial Lodge at Broadmead and the Veterans Health Centre.” For more information, go to

Victoria nurse honoured for excellence

Lenora Marcellus of Victoria was one of 17 nurses honoured for excellence in nursing practice, research and leadership at the 2016 Nursing Awards of Excellence, held last week.

The nursing community recognized Marcellus for excellence in advancing nursing knowledge and research.

For the first time, the B.C. nursing recognition awards represented all four nursing designations — licensed practical nurses, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, and registered psychiatric nurses.

“I’m pleased that for the first time, nurses from all four designations have come together to celebrate the achievements of the entire nursing profession,” said  Minister of Heath Terry Lake. “Working together is a key component of patient-centred care and I really appreciate this collaborative approach to creating a balanced and unified approach to nursing.”

Recipients are nominated and adjudicated by their peers. They received their awards at a gala ceremony held in Vancouver.
For more information, go to


Be a Santa to a senior


Brighten a senior’s Christmas by being part of the Be a Santa to a Senior program, which launched this week. The program provides presents and companionship for lonely and isolated seniors during the holidays.

It is sponsored by Victoria Home Instead Senior Care.

The idea is simple: Go to a participating Be a Santa to a Senior location, listed below.

Pick up an ornament with a senior’s gift request from the tree. Purchase the item listed on the decorative bulb. Return the bulb along with the unwrapped present to the same location. Volunteers will collect, wrap and deliver the presents to the recipient.

Be a Santa to a Senior trees are located at:

• Walmart, Uptown, 3440 Saanich Rd.

• Walmart, Langford, 860 Langford Parkway

• Forbes Pharmacy, 755 Goldstream Ave.

• Forbes Pharmacy, 1775 Fort St.

• Progressive Chiropractic, 1595 McKenzie Ave.

• Save-on-Foods, 108-3170 Tillicum Rd.

• Sooke Evergreen Physiotherapy, 6726 West Coast Rd., Sooke

• Heart Pharmacy, 3643 Shelbourne St.

• Lana Popham, MLA, 4085 Quadra St.

• London Drugs, 911 Yates St.

• London Drugs, Saanich Centre, 3989 Quadra St.

Since the effort started in 2003, volunteers have distributed more than 1.2 million gifts to seniors. For more information about the program, call  250-382-6565 or go to

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