Stouffville church sings for Pikangikum Water Project

A community chorus outside Toronto is raising money for a remote First Nation in northwestern Ontario
Stouffville's "Bach to Blues" choral group was moved to help Pikangikum First Nation after seeing a presentation about the community in church. (bachtoblues.com)

A community chorus outside Toronto is raising money for a remote First Nation in northwestern Ontario

Stouffville's "Bach to Blues" will donate proceeds from its spring concert to the Pikangikum Water Project.

The project aims to bring running water and sewage holding tanks to Pikangikum.

Choral director Anne Gage said choir members were moved to help after seeing a presentation at their church.

“We just couldn't believe that in a country the size of ours and the wealth that we have, there were people that didn't have clean water,” she said.

"As well as the situation with the youth in Pikangikum, that the suicide rate is so terribly high. And I think many of the choir members, most of them have children, as well as grand children.”

Gage said it “hits home when you think of your own grandchildren and children being in that position. One of the basic necessities of life is clean water and, for young people to have respect in themselves, they need to be able to shower and bathe and drink clean water and … clean clothing.”

The choir sings everything from classical to blues, jazz and contemporary music.

The concert takes place Saturday in Stouffville and will feature a guest performance by Aboriginal storyteller "Raven."

Running water a priority

The Pikangikum Working Group, which runs the water project, was created in 2011 in response to the Ontario coroner's report about the high suicide rate in the community.

Executive committee member David Steeves said the coroner approached engineer Bob White about bringing together  individuals from the private sector to try to address the root causes of the problem.

He says they met with the band to identify priorities — the first of which was running water.

Currently the community gets water from three standpipes, Steeves said.  People have to transport water in blue cans to their back porches.

The working group has partnered with the Frontiers Foundation to provide homes in the community with cisterns and sewage holding tanks, along with pumps and fixtures such as sinks, toilets, baths and showers. It costs $20,000 to upgrade each house.

The plan is to have 14 homes outfitted with the plumbing by the end of May.

Steeves said eight homes are currently finished.

Frontiers Foundation workers are helping with the job, but they're also training local people in trades such as plumbing, so the community has the benefit of having skilled workers on hand.

There are about 400 homes that need the service, and Steeves said the total projected cost to outfit these homes is about $9 million.

The group has raised about $200,000 through churches and service groups such as Kiwanis for the initial projects.

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