EL CENTRO — An evening filled with fun, humor and laughter left the audience gasping for breath Thursday evening at the second annual “Comedy Night” fundraiser for Burning Bush International at IV Expo-Plaza de la Cultura in Imperial.
Jim Rhodes, president of Burning Bush International, said the primary effort of the evening was to raise funds for the construction of water wells that will provide clean water to an area known as Ngora/Teso in eastern Uganda. For the most part, their access is dirty water which is shared with animals. “It is really contaminated water,” Rhodes said.
Currently, Rhodes said, BBI has funding for 17 wells. The goal is to raise funds for the construction of five more wells. “We go over once or twice a year and celebrate with the villages that are getting the clean water,” Rhodes said.
The night began with local comedians Denise Rogers and Oreda Chin. The plot of their comedy show involved the experience of two elderly women, “Mama Crabtree” (played by Rogers) and “Sister Etta May Jones” (Chin) as they sat in the pew attending a church service.
“They were hilarious the whole evening. Everybody had a good time,” Rhodes said. His wife, Nancy Rhodes, secretary/treasurer of BBI, concurred saying, “They were great.”
Following the first comedy routine, Rosie Blankenship helped with basket drawings and silent auction results. This allowed participants to catch their breath prior to another hour of laughter by the featured comedian, Comedian Nazareth.
Comedian Nazareth was born in Israel, raised in Kuwait and moved to the U.S. during his teen years. He has toured the comedy circuit for the past 27 years entertaining audiences in Canada, Germany and the U.S.A.
During his show, Nazareth talked with several individuals in the audience and gathered information which he quickly used to generate more humor. After seeing an emerging pattern of unemployment, volunteering at local churches, and retirement, Comedian Nazareth commented, I’m glad we’re not taking an offering tonight.”
He asked one of the guests, “What is your name?” The retired history teacher who was sporting a pony tail responded, “Levi.”Nazareth responded, “I like that. That’s a Hebrew name. Here, it is a jeans. Over there, it’s a Rabbi.”
Imperial resident John Martinez, who attends Valley Christian Church, said of Nazareth, “He is absolutely funny. He is great. It was really funny. I really enjoyed it.”
Rhodes said there are now 22 wells at full operation in an estimated area of 400-square-miles in Uganda. “Then, 80 percent of the population in that region will have to walk less than one mile to get clean water,” he explained. The shorter distance is an improvement on walking four to six miles twice a day to collect dirty water.
The ripple effects go beyond drinking clean water for the Ugandan villagers. According to Rhodes, the children, young girls and mothers are the primary water gatherers. With cleaner water available in shorter distances, the children will have more time for education. “If there is a well close by, and its a clean water, their health is better, they go to school more often and learn,” Rhodes said.
Among the projects Burning Bush International is working on is “Goats for Orphans. An investment of $50 to purchase a female goat can yield offspring through the years for the Ugandans.
“If you provide an orphan with a female goat, in three years or four, that one goat will turn into four or five. And then, they can trade some of the goats for a cow or a calf and start building their herd,” said Rhodes.
Or they can sell off the goats one-by-one and start paying for school fees past the seventh grade, he said. Through livestock, children can possibly further their education in high school and in universities. “So that part of this program is making a big difference in people’s lives,” Rhodes said.
Comedian Nazareth said, “I’ve been using my comedy to inspire and encourage people. Laughter is good medicine and healing.” Besides performing in El Centro, he currently is involved in ministering through humor to people affected by the hurricanes in Houston and Florida.