Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Marquis Puts Brandon on National, International Map

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, September 23 / 19

Zack Gross

It was at this time of year, forty years ago, that Brandon-Westman’s The Marquis Project was created by a local committee of church, university and farm folks.  The feeling at the time was that big-city Canadians had the opportunity every day to get involved in international aid projects and to attend events about global issues, but those of us in more rural locations were left out.  It was hoped that Marquis would fill this void.

Forty years later, the organization is still around, while many similarly small, rural or remote groups have folded due to lack of funding or lack of interest.  There have been heydays, when funding has been plentiful and programs – both local and global – have been numerous.  And there have been leaner times, when funds have dwindled, staff has been reduced and programs have languished.  That is not an unusual story in the not-for-profit sector.

Despite these ups and downs, The Marquis Project has put our local area on the national and international map.  The development project work by Marquis overseas, and Brandon’s Fair Trade Town Committee’s local efforts have garnered many awards for its support of rural people and agricultural producers in developing countries and its education of youth and consumers here at home.  At a national conference where again Brandon was singled out as Fair Trade Town of the Year, a very Toronto-ish executive turned to me and said “What gives in Brandon?!” 

Recently, a film-maker from Vancouver contacted me for an interview about Brandon’s historical role in anti-Apartheid work, led by Marquis back in the 1980s and 90s.  The organization was part of an international effort to have Nelson Mandela freed from prison and have rule over South Africa shared by the majority black and minority white population.

Over the years, Marquis has received further awards for its educational programs, its focus on sustainability, and its volunteer component.  I remember comments from a government official I met on a flight one day, that Marquis and its Manitoba supporters were never afraid to take on the tough scenarios, delivering aid projects in Central America and East Africa.  We are known in Tanzania and Uganda, Nicaragua and El Salvador, and in Ottawa and Winnipeg.

The Marquis Project celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a Fair Trade Feast back in the spring and now will hold its Annual General Meeting, tomorrow, Tuesday, September 24th in the Elephant Room at Brandon University at 7 p.m.  The organization is, of course, looking for financial supporters – annual memberships, monthly donations and so on.  It is also looking for local citizens to continue to step up and join the Board of Directors, local committees, or take on specific tasks so that Marquis can continue to make a difference in the world.

Marquis currently has three development assistance projects in operation in East Africa and a fourth in the application process.  These projects support young entrepreneurs hoping to make a living in their local areas rather than having to relocate to large cities.  Brandon and area can relate to that!

On an annual basis over the years, Marquis volunteers – most often at their own expense – have traveled to visit our partners in Africa to assess project activities and lend their expertise.  Locally, Marquis has been active until recently in local schools in particular, speaking to students about fair trade, environmental sustainability and global poverty.  A downturn in funding support has stalled this work.

Memberships and donations will certainly help, as well as support in developing new funding applications.  People with skills or an interest in learning skills in administrative procedures and computers in particular are needed to help the organization meets its requirements such as CRA reporting, as well as maintaining mailing lists.  All are welcome at Marquis’ AGM and can also contact the organization at marquis@marquisproject.com.

Volunteerism and local generosity have been huge factors in Marquis’ success.  As with other charitable organizations who are able to build a local base of support, the organization has attracted many who have put hours into the work, even on a daily basis.  In response, Marquis has awarded annual Global Citizenship Awards to these stalwarts to recognize their efforts.  This celebrated group has included a diverse mix of teachers, professors and students, church, farm and business people.

As an organization that has endeavoured over forty years to make a contribution to ending poverty in our world, the Marquis Project is to be congratulated, and has earned our continuing support.

   
Zack Gross is a former Executive Director, and current Board Member,
of The Marquis Project.

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