Wander The Forest raises money and awareness for Indigenous students

The event was a night of cultural celebration and charitable giving
Photo: Korbin Amaya
Before the end of the "Wander the Forest" event, Mariyam Chougaipova (1st), Jinxuan Tang (3rd), Phuong Thanh Nguyen (4th), Bernardine Cadiz (5th), and Eric Johnston (6th) pose together.

Algonquin College’s Restaurant International was packed with 54 people on April 5 as guests gathered for Wander the Forest, a charity event dedicated to supporting Indigenous students through the Mamidosewin Centre.

At 5:30 p.m., Eric Johnston, the manager of the Mamidosewin Centre, opened the event with a speech where he discussed how crucial the centre has been for assisting Indigenous students.

“The Mamidosewin Centre for me, it’s been very helpful finding a place to study, interact with other Indigenous students, and also get help when I need it,” said Randy Blue Kakegamic, a talented performer who mesmerized the audience with his Indigenous dance, singing and rhythmic drumming after Johnston gave his opening speech.

Randy Blue Kakegamic before he gets into action by singing, dancing and rhythm drumming at the "Wander the Forest" event.
Randy Blue Kakegamic before he gets into action by singing, dancing and rhythm drumming at the "Wander the Forest" event. Photo credit: Korbin Amaya

“Initially, at the beginning of my schooling here, I didn’t really know anything about how to get online or how to apply, and it was the help of the Mamidosewin Centre. Now I’m a graduate, and you know, I’m doing really well,” said Kakegamic.

Attendees dined on a luxurious three-course dinner celebrating regionally grown foods, such as three-sister soup, roasted Alberta beef striploin, grilled Atlantic salmon and mushroom pappardelle, all topped off with apple cranberry tart for dessert.

Mariyam Chougaipova, the finance manager for Wander the Forest, later said, “we wanted to make sure that the theme tied together, which is why Wander The Forest is incorporated with the land, especially since it’s very significant to Indigenous people.”

The ambiance was enriched by live music played by Talia Aoude, an incredible soul singer/songwriter who captivated the audience with her powerful voice and stage charisma.

“Since it’s quite a deep topic about truth and reconciliation, we wanted somebody with high energy and charisma to try and lift the experience for all the people attending here tonight,” said Chougaipova.

A highlight of the event was the charity auction and raffle, which featured an array of attractive prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations.

“The funds are going to the charity, so ticket sales are going to the charity. And then, basically, all of our auction items, sales, and raffles will all go to the charity,” said Chougaipova.

Melissa Lord, who attended the event as a guest, admired the organizer’s efforts to portray and advocate the cause of Indigenous students and create an inclusive space for all.

“I think it was a really good event to enjoy, even if you’re not Indigenous. It’s good to know about it and explore it,” Lord said.

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