Charity founder gives hope to thousands
UI psychology student conquers greed with compassion
An incoming college freshman ends up with enough scholarships and financial aid to go into his first year with a surplus of money. He has $2,000 in his pocket he didn't realize would be there.
The possibilities of what to spend the money on are endless — a trip to a music festival, a mini-fridge for the dorm with a party budget to last until next summer, the latest and greatest laptop, or even a shopping spree for an entire new wardrobe.
Tristen Beaudoin, now 21, had a different idea.
"I wanted to donate it to something good," he said.
So "good" is what he did, by founding a humanitarian charity organization called Curing Wendigo.
"I came upon Charity Water, which was the first cause we supported and they can sponsor a whole well for $6,000," he said. "I started out trying to find businesses to match my $2,000 donation."
While Beaudoin didn't have luck finding businesses to donate to the cause without some sort of advertising in return, he quickly put together an event which would help him reach his goal.
"That first summer (2014), I put together Concert for Compassion," he said. "We only had a couple of months to plan so there was little advertising, but we still raised $6,400, enough for the well, and we supported another charity."
Beaudoin organized the inaugural concert in Lewiston, but he feels the community has been more receptive since last summer when he moved the concert to Moscow.
Last year's concert raised $7,600, primarily going to Charity Water, which operates water projects around the world. Curing Wendigo also had enough money to donate to Planting Peace, which supports orphanages in Haiti and has a deworming initiative for children with parasitic worms; and Action Against Hunger, which works to solve starvation.
"This year is a little different - I was approached by Bishop Joseph, who oversees humanitarian aids in a region in Tanzania," Beaudoin said. "There's a pretty big refugee camp, about 150,000 people fleeing from crises in Rwanda and Burundi and East Congo."
The goal of this year's Concert for Compassion is to bring clean water to the camp.
"We're going to donate all the proceeds in hopes that we can sponsor a full water well, and if not we will at least be able to afford a large rainwater tank for rainwater harvesting," Beaudoin said.
Bishop Joseph even invited Beaudoin to Tanzania to see the refugee camp during his winter break this year.
The idea of charity and spreading wealth has been compelling to Beaudoin since he was in high school. After he graduates with his bachelor's degree in psychology from the Department of Psychology and Communication Studies in the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Idaho, he plans to go into the Peace Corps.
The spring of his freshman year of college, Beaudoin wrote a research paper about the greed in America and he learned about the term "Wendigo."
Wendigo originated from Cree Native American culture, essentially describing the mental illness of greed. Beaudoin said it was viewed as a form of cannibalism.
"Instead of stealing flesh from another, you steal life from another — money or food or any sort of wealth is another person's livelihood," he said.
"The idea of having our name as Curing Wendigo is that there is an underlying, more subconscious form of greed that exists within this disparity of wealth from nation to nation around the world. Developed nations have so much wealth, we don't even understand anymore."
Beaudoin explained how many suffering lives could benefit if that wealth was dispersed a little differently.
"You could spend a quarter of the military budget of the United States for one year and feed every malnourished person in the world for that year," he said.
"I don't mean to blame people, I think that's why I started the charity, just to spread awareness," he said before pausing and gesturing to the drink in front of him. "This $3 cup of coffee could deworm 300 children, possibly save their lives."
Beaudoin said the idea of Curing Wendigo is to help people learn how to decrease unnecessary spending and put savings toward something good.
"You can make a difference right now, today. I don't need to realize that when I'm 30 or 40. ... I just don't feel like there's enough time to wait, really," he said. "I know that sounds crazy, but we've already helped thousands of people in two years that may not have been helped otherwise."
Other members on the Curing Wendigo board are Cynthia Bell, owner of Eclips Salon and Day Spa in Clarkston, and Brandy Cay, graphic designer at Schweitzer Engineering Labs.
Since June 2014, Curing Wendigo has raised more than $17,000 for international humanitarian causes. The 2016 Concert for Compassion took place noon-5 p.m. Aug. 6 at East City Park on Third Street. Dionysus & The Revelry headlined the concert. Other performers included Mother Yeti, Samdelic Bluegrass, Dan Maher, Clayne Zollinger and Luciano Marazzo.
By Caitlin Hites, Moscow-Pullman Daily News staff writer. Used with permission.