Drag queens take the stage in Port Hope, Ontario, to raise money for Laotian villages.
While maybe an surprising combination of venue, entertainment and cause, the evening of performances will bring together residents of Port Hope and Cobourg for a fundraising event seeking to improve the lives and living conditions of rural villagers in the South East Asian country. Toronto community member Roland Drake is one of many dedicating his time and energy to this larger cause.
Drake explains he became involved after a chance meeting with someone at Woody’s. “At some point during the conversation, my friend brought up a project that he and his partner were working on,” Drake says. “I got totally enamoured with it, just picked up the ball and ran with it.”
His new friend ended up being Mike Yap, and the project was Adopt a Village in Laos (AAVIL). With contributions from Yap’s partner/co-founder Steve Rutledge, a number of directors and volunteers, AAVIL labours to provide resources for improved schools, clean, filtered water and hygienic toilets to rural villages in Laos.
Drake has now been to Laos twice as part of AAVIL and even got to check out the Laotian gay community on one visit. “They do exist, they are there,” he says. “You could never compare it to anything here, because you don’t have a gay village or anything like that. They do have a disco where I was in Luang Prabang, and it’s very mixed, but you wouldn’t have things like a Pride parade. There are establishments that gay people go to. They actually have drag shows there, too, but it’s kept low-key.”
Drake cites the strong gay community support in Port Hope and Cobourg as inspiration for the fundraising drag show, which will feature Toronto drag queen Stephanie Stephens and her coterie of female impersonators. He explains that raising general awareness about the organization is the most difficult obstacle. “Even if people come out just to enjoy the show, they’ll also learn something in the process as well. They’ll have a good time, but it’ll be an education for them.”