DEC 06 2006

VICTORIA AHERN – MACLEANS.CA

TORONTO (CP) – Tom Cochrane has gone from “the lowest of the lows to the highest of the highs” this week.
The Ontario-based rocker arrived in Rwanda on Monday for a five-day humanitarian mission with World Vision Canada.
By Wednesday, he was already “quite exhausted” from his experiences, which included a stop at a memorial church in Nyamata, where 10,000 people were massacred during the 1994 genocide.

“That laid us out pretty bad. I mean, everybody was having a hard time with that,” Cochrane said over a satellite phone from a hotel in the capital, Kigali.
“To sit at that church and see remnants of thousands and thousands and thousands of women and children, see their skulls and their bones, it was pretty overwhelming.”
The singer-songwriter is in the central African country with representatives of World Vision Canada, a Christian relief, development and advocacy organization for which he’s been a spokesperson since 1988.

The team is delivering items from World Vision’s Christmas Gift Catalogue, which allows Canadians to buy livestock and other sustainable development items for people in impoverished nations. Canadians don’t actually see the items — which include hens and piglets — but they do get a card that includes a photo and description of the product.
Cochrane helped deliver a goat Wednesday to an HIV-positive widow who lives in a house with her three children on the slope of a mountain that she climbs for hours every day just to get her medication.

Cochrane also described a woman in Rubero in the north who received a goat through World Vision a few years ago and has “turned it into a micro-enterprise.”
“She’s feeding a lot of her neighbours, a lot the kids that have no nutrition with milk,” he said. “World Vision has also helped teach her how to (fix) her small little plot of land so that the soil can rejuvenate itself, it taught her how to compost.”

Cochrane, who was due to leave Friday, also met orphans, AIDS patients and a man who spent a number of years in prison for slaughtering a family.
“My voice starts to shake when I talk about this,” said Cochrane. “A woman named Beatrice was his neighbour and he went and slaughtered her family — and this is one of many, many instance like that — and she actually took him in later. They actually made amends. She forgave him.”

It’s one of several examples of how the country is turning around, said Cochrane, who also visited a healing and reconciliation club that brings children of Tutsis and rival moderate Hutus together for singing and dancing.

Cochrane even had a chance to pull out his guitar and sing one of his hits for the children. “I couldn’t help it,” he said, his voice denoting a big smile on the other end of the line. “It started to rain so we had the rain pounding on the corrugated roof so I huddled everybody in the corner and sung, what else — I sung ‘Life is a Highway’ to them and they started pounding their feet.”