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Canadian Comics Standing Up for Nicaragua

Maureen Monette poses with Paula Alcaron and her daughter, Victoria, during a trip to Nicaragua in 2010 to discuss the needs of the newly formed Women's Cancer Prevention and Treatment Project. Paula Alcaron died a few months after the photo was taken.
Maureen Monette poses with Paula Alcaron and her daughter, Victoria, during a trip to Nicaragua in 2010 to discuss the needs of the newly formed Women’s Cancer Prevention and Treatment Project. Paula Alcaron died a few months after the photo was taken.

NICARAGUA NEWS — On Saturday, Oct. 25 at 2 p.m., Canadians will get a unique opportunity to laugh it up in Ottawa, in the second edition of “Stand Up for Nicaragua”  featuring comedians Mike Macdonald, Luba Goy, Martha Chaves, Paul Mussel and Wafik Nasralla.

It’s another brainchild of Maureen Monette, a retired Ottawa kindergarten and special education teacher who has lived with cancer since December 2001.

One of Monette’s greatest passions is her work for Nicaragua. She first travelled to the country in 1988 and became fast friends with Sister Ana Maria Murcia, who lives and works among the poorest people in Managua. For more than 25 years, Ana Maria has been assisting the people of Barrio El Recreo to improve their lives by helping them develop a cluster of life-giving community programs they call Proyecto Generando Vida. In 2008, the group initiated the Women’s Cancer Project.

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After assessing the needs, they determined their focus would be on education about breast and cervical cancer (leading causes of cancer death in Nicaraguan women), finding access to early detection and supporting women already suffering from the disease, including helping them pay for costly medications. To launch and sustain this project, they would need an influx of cash. Monette wanted to help.

Somehow the words “cancer” and “comedy” kept intermingling in her mind. In August 2011, while watching news coverage about the death of Jack Layton, she saw a clip of him lifting his cane in the air: “Don’t let anybody tell you it can’t be done.” She felt a surge of excitement. She was going to organize a comedy show!

Where to start? Immediately she emailed a former student, Craig Lauzon from Air Farce, who wrote back that he’d be happy to help. Craig put her in touch with Chaves. Soon she had lined up three more performers. And to top it off, someone mentioned the show to Goy, who called Monette and offered to host the show. Thanks to the generosity of the comedians and many hard-working volunteers, $15,000 was raised through tickets and donations for Ana Maria’s project.

During that first show, Chaves introduced Monette to her cousin, Mariamanda Espinoza, who raises funds through comedy for Las Yahoskas, a project in San Marcos, Nicaragua. The group rescues street girls, provides them with loving homes, and attends to their physical, psychological and educational needs. Monette and Espinoza hit it off right away and decided to join forces in 2012.

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But in August that year, Monette was seriously injured when she was hit by a pickup truck as she was crossing on a green light at an intersection near her home. If “c” stands for cancer and for comedy, it can also stand for courage. Among her injuries, Monette suffered a complex tibia fracture that required plates and screws, two pelvic fractures and a broken shoulder blade.

It took every ounce of determination to walk again. Monette still uses a walker outdoors, so she’ll no longer be able to navigate the rocky terrain of the barrio. Instead, her friend, Sister Ana Maria, is coming to Ottawa and will be here for the show. This past February, Monette sent a young family friend, Mimi Reeves, to Nicaragua in her place. Life goes on …

On Oct. 25, Espinoza and Monette will realize their dream of staging a comedy show together for Nicaragua. Proceeds from the event will be divided equally between the projects of Generando Vida (including the Women’s Cancer Project) and the Las Yahoskas homes for girls.

Come prepared to laugh until your cheeks hurt with some of Canada’s best comics: legendary Mike MacDonald, Air Farce’s fabulous Luba Goy, multi-talented Paul Mussell, wild and quirky Wafik Nasralla, and featuring Martha Chaves, Canada’s comedienne extraordinaire, as MC.

Right-click? Depends on you!

Stand Up for Nicaragua Comedy Fun-Raiser

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When: Saturday, Oct. 25, 2 p.m. (doors open at 1)

Where: St. Paul High School, 2675 Draper Ave.

Tickets: $25 ($35 at the door) Telephone 613-749-7474 or 613-978-4163, email ComedyforNicaragua@rogers.com or online at https://stand-up-comedy-for-nicaragua.eventbrite.ca

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