by Brenda Suderman
from Winnipeg Free Press
For 11-year-old Camryn Kangas, compassion is as simple as being friendly to her classmates, and as involved as caring about people who are completely different from her.
“It’s a really big part of life, and you really need compassion in the world for people to be equal and get along with each other,” explains the Grade 6 student at St. John Brebeuf School.
In addition to that eloquent explanation, Camryn and her classmates at the Roman Catholic elementary school in River Heights are dancing, singing, chanting and even rapping their feelings and thoughts about compassion.
With the help of their teachers, the dozen grade 5 and 6 girls created a five-minute mini-musical about compassion, based on a poem by Winnipeg artist Manju Lodha.
“It reaches the soul of the listener,” Lodha says of the mini-musical, which includes a rap about human rights.
“I only put the words to it, and the students invoked the life in my words through their talents and the directions of their teachers.”
Lodha and fellow Winnipeg artists Isam Aboud and Ray Dirks spent the last two months leading workshops on compassion in eight Winnipeg public and independent schools for a project sponsored by the Manitoba Multifaith Council.
Called the Art of Compassion, the project culminates with a week-long student art exhibit, which opens 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Canadian Mennonite University, 500 Shaftesbury Blvd., and features the St. John Brebeuf students and Hindu dancers.
Since 2007, the three artists, representing three different faith traditions — Hinduism, Islam and Christianity — have led workshops for schoolchildren and adults on topics such as multiculturalism, respect and more recently, compassion.