Bringing books to Bariadi

Many Canadian immigrants send money back home. Leonard Boniface sent a library. In January, the Mobile Youth Container Center officially opened in Bariadi, Tanzania, Boniface's hometown.

Many Canadian immigrants send money back home. Leonard Boniface sent a library.

In January, the Mobile Youth Container Center officially opened in Bariadi, Tanzania, Boniface’s hometown.

Built out of a shipping container, the centre has books, computers, free Internet access, and even a small conference room.

Bariadi is a nice village, but like most areas of rural Tanzania there is a lot of poverty, said Boniface.

“The people there they don’t have access to Internet; they don’t have access to computers,” he said. “Most of the schools don’t have libraries, so there’s a need.”

Fulfilling those needs is something that Boniface has spent most of his life working towards.

It’s a passion that has taken him around the world.

It was while visiting Australia as a member of the Oxfam International Youth Parliament that he first got the idea of starting a Mobile Youth Container Center.

“I saw mobile facilities as a means to connect communities and provide information necessary for change,” said Boniface.

In Germany it’s also very common, although it’s a different kind of project, he said.

There they fill a shipping container with toys and take them to underprivileged communities.

“The kids play, then they put the toys back into container and they drive to the next community.”

Three years ago Boniface visited the Yukon on vacation and fell in love with the territory. Eight months later he was living in Whitehorse.

[image2]

One of the first things he did was start a non-profit organization aimed at empowering the territory’s young people.

Through Teenage Life & Young Adults International, Boniface toured around Whitehorse speaking at schools and events and inviting other inspirational Yukoners to join him.

He also started fundraising to build the library.

Somewhere in between his work with multiple community groups and his day job as a geotech in the mineral exploration industry, Boniface found time to get married and start a family.

He used some of the money he got last year from the birth of his son Hisani, whose name means charity or good cause in Swahili, to help fund the library project.

Someday Boniface plans on taking his son to Tanzania to visit family and see the library that his birth helped finance, but right now he’s focused on sending other Yukoners there to volunteer at the centre.

There is one local employee that works at the library in Bariadi, but volunteers are needed to teach English and basic computer literacy, he said.

“We want to connect people locally and internationally, that’s the main thing,” he said. “This world is like a village.”

There’s also a lot that Africans can teach Yukoners, said Boniface.

“Learning about the other cultures is very helpful in life,” he said. “Getting experience by seeing the life in other cultures and how we take some stuff for granted … by helping, you can make a huge difference.”

On April 20, TELIYA International is holding an event at the Coast High Country Inn where Boniface hopes to drum up interest and recruit volunteers for the library project.

A Night of Africa will feature African food, crafts and performances. Boniface, who is also a musician, will be performing himself and launching a music album he recently recorded.

The proceeds from the event and album sales will be donated to fund the next project Boniface has in mind, a mobile medical clinic.

The idea is to buy a minibus and stock it with medical supplies and equipment to provide free medical care to rural Tanzanians.

The mobile clinic will cost quite a bit more than the $7,000 it took to set up the library, said Boniface. About $22,000.

The precarious state of women’s health care and the fact that child mortality is so high in Tanzania are problems that really strike home with the new father.

Many poor rural Tanzanians struggle to pay the expense of hiring a car to take them to a hospital, he said. It isn’t uncommon for women to try to reach the hospital on a bicycle with a flat tire. That means many women end up delivering their babies in the bush.

Just providing a ride to the hospital would make a huge difference, said Boniface.

“Why can’t kids be born the same everywhere?” he asked. “I’m sure we are going to save the lives of so many woman with this project.”

Tickets for A Night of Africa are available at the Coast High Country Inn, Asian Central and Arts Underground. Tickets are $20 each. More information can be found at www.theteliya.org.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read