The Week — Sept. 22

Maritime Museum not down with ship, 24-year-old Eric Mazimpaka takes on new leg of the Island

It might be wishful thinking for now, but the Maritime Museum can already see its future perfectly clear.

Museum not down with ship

Remember that escapade a few months back when someone was supposed to move into the old wax museum’s CPR Terminal? Seems like most people forgot all about that, though the Maritime Museum of B.C. hasn’t.

Last March, three groups submitted pleading proposals to the Provincial Capital Commission as to why they deserved to reside in the historic building: the Maritime Museum, a group from the Oak Bay Marina and a privately owned public market. All three were seemingly rejected, and the PCC told them to whip up better financial plans. Since then, the PCC has been pretty tight-lipped about any decisions.

“We’ve been working hard refinishing our plan, but there’s a lot of uncertainty and we’re not getting a lot of info,” says Jaime Webb, Maritime Museum prez. “We’re asking the government to come out in support of us, as we’re the only proposal that sees the building’s continued use in community.”

It’s no rumour the PCC has placed lofty revenue expectations on any biz that makes it into the building, but Webb says the old wax museum saw at least 300,000 tourists saunter through its doors annually. In its hidden corner of Bastion Square, the meek Maritimers see 15,000 to 25,000 visitors annually, but Webb says the new location would change all that. With not another minute to waste, the museum decided to rally their own support system, and has been hard at work collecting, literally, millions of dollars in private donations to put towards the bid. They went two steps further and have been sending out hopeful press kits (see photo) and collecting signatures for petitions as well as writing to government officials about why the citizens of B.C. deserve to choose what to place inside one of the province’s largest and oldest maritime artifacts. The group even hosted a pro-rally outside the legislature this past Tuesday, Sept. 20.

“We can put in all the T-shirt shops and coffee bars we want, but will that make people come to Victoria? I don’t think so,” says Webb. “This is the only enriching choice, both economically and culturally.”

Ray Parks, CEO of the PCC, was unavailable for comment before press time. Since the proposals were sent away for revising, however, the PCC has confirmed that two or three more individuals have come forward with interest in the building. There is no estimation of when a decision will be made.

A new leg of the Island — by Mary Ellen Green

Twenty-four-year-old Eric Mazimpaka has always felt a deep connection with children in Africa.

The Victoria man was born in Kenya and spent the early years of his life moving from place to place before ending up in Canada. “We have it pretty comfortable here,” says Mazimpaka. “I saw what life was like for those kids and thought, that could be me.”

As a teenager, he began fundraising to build schools in Africa. While a student at Spectrum High, Mazimpaka ran 50 laps of the school’s 400-metre track while dressed in a 20-pound mascot costume, the Warm Fuzzy. And it was warm — Mazimpaka went to the hospital with heat stroke after fainting on the 50th lap. The community pulled together and made all the pledges he needed to build the school.

Now, five years later, he’s taking his fundraising a few steps further. Mazimpaka is setting off from Cape Scott Provincial Park Tuesday, Sept. 27, running 600 kilometers in 11 days to raise awareness and $30,000 — seed money that will help him fulfil a dream he calls Think One21, a three-day music fest Mazimpaka is planning in Kigali, Rwanda for December 2012. He hopes to sign some of his favourite musicians, including K’naan, Damian Marley and Carlos Santana.

“About 67 per cent of Africans are under the age of 24. There’s a whole new crop of future uncorrupted leaders there that need to be nurtured,” he says.

Mazimpaka is scheduled to arrive in Victoria Oct. 8 at the Victoria Event Centre for welcome home event. To pledge, drop off donations at Studio 4 Athletics, the Fix Hair Garage or Lou’s Gallery in Oak Bay. Visit siyonstudios.com. M

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