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Knowledge for life in Africa

Chris Puglia
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 01/06) - An aspiring Yellowknife filmmaker is turning his passion into a life saving tool during a mission to Africa.

Joshua Bourget, a graduate of St. Patrick high school, is preparing to return home from a three-month aid mission to northwestern Ethiopia.
NNSL Photo/graphic

Joshua Bourget is working in northwestern Ethiopia on a film project designed to educate the Gumuz people about the realities of HIV/AIDS. Damalash Geremew, top left, translates Bourget's instructions to actors Habtamu and Demmis. - photo courtesy of John Coleman

Working near the Sudan border with Serving In Mission, a Christian organization, Bourget has been developing an educational video designed to spread HIV/AIDS awareness to the region's Gumuz people.

"The HIV/AIDS pandemic is rapidly spreading across Africa. My job is to cut off its path to the Gumuz people. One of the worst contributors to the spread of HIV/AIDs is ignorance," said Bourget in an e-mail.

Filmed in the Gumuz language using Gumuz people as actors, Bourget said the video will be the first many of the Gumuz have ever seen.

The opportunity for Bourget to travel to Ethiopia came last January when he contacted his uncle John Coleman, a missionary in the region, about a six-month volunteer term.

"He had heard that I had experience in video and technical work, and asked if I would be willing to shoot an HIV/AIDs awareness video," wrote Bourget.

For the first month of the excursion, Bourget was immersed in the Gumuz culture and learning the language.

He said during that time his most important lessons were techniques to educate a people about a disease that they believe doesn't threaten them.

"The Gumuz are a very untouched people group, with their only contact to an outside world through a market in the nearby town of Dibate," according to Bourget.

Filming for the project began on Oct. 14 with nine people speaking about their beliefs about the virus.

"Fortunately, the top Gumuz leader for the Geses region and about 11 villagers, participated in the filming giving the video heightened credibility," said Bourget.

He said the project was difficult because the Gumuz people had a very poor understanding of the virus.

None knew the difference between HIV and AIDs, nor did they understand that it may not physically manifest in a person until many years after contraction.

After working out a few kinks in the script to make it easier to follow and teaching the Gumuz subjects about acting, Bourget said they were able to shoot some successful footage on Nov. 13.

The video was scheduled to be shown to the public on Nov. 19 after approval by Gumuz elders. Raymond Bourget, Joshua's father, is excited to have his son home next week.

Although he said he and his wife have missed Joshua, they are extremely proud of his efforts.

"It's great what he's gone through to help them out there," said Raymond.

Raymond said Joshua has always been interested in film.

"He's hoping to go to Ryerson (a Toronto University known for its media and arts programs)," said Raymond.