In the Shuswap, going to high school is free and accessible to most young people of both genders. Not so in some communities in Kenya.
As part of an ongoing cultural exchange between the Shuswap and Akonjo Village in Kenya, Shuswap residents are helping enable girls to complete their education, girls who otherwise would not. In Akonjo it costs about $600 per year for girls to finish high school, and girls are generally not encouraged to do so.
On Saturday, Feb. 18 an evening of music and dance will be held at SAGA Public Art Gallery to further the Canadian/Kenyan cultural exchange and to raise funds for the youth empowerment project.
This will be the fifth consecutive year for this event, which once again features a wonderful selection of world music and dance.
Murray MacDonald of One Camel Short, one of the organizers and entertainers, has visited Akonjo Village.
“I think the Akonjo Project is really worthwhile – all monies raised go directly to Kenya to projects that happen in the village,” he says. “I saw how people live, and saw the need for the kind of help we can give. I also feel we can get working on cultural relationships and can get a lot out of it ourselves. We have a lot to learn – there’s a lot to learn from African culture. As a musician that’s one of my interests, and it’s been good for me to be part of this.”
Cathy Stubington, artistic director of Runaway Moon Theatre, and Jimmy Ouma Okello, who lives in Akonjo Village, met several years ago in Kenya. The exchange grew out of their friendship and work for social change.
Okello came to the Shuswap last year when he participated in several projects including a large-scale theatrical production focusing on water. In Akonjo, projects from the exchange have included a sewing project whereby girls are provided with sanitary pads so they don’t have to miss school, youth health educators visiting area schools, football (soccer) tournaments for girls, a water awareness project, youth farming projects that have produced cash crops, micro revolving loans for women, and the scholarships that have allowed girls to complete their secondary school education. One girl is now in her second year of nursing training.
MacDonald says he finds all the projects worthwhile, but the secondary school education for girls is the one which particularly impresses him.
“If the girls stay in the village, they’re more likely to get married and start having children at a very young age… School breaks the cycle as well as giving them the opportunity to follow their dreams.”
One Camel Short consists of MacDonald and Dick Owings, who perform world music – African, Middle Eastern, South American, featuring a blend of guitar, violin, vocals and percussion.
Also featured will be Popoleko Singers, who sing a haunting blend of a cappella Balkan music.
Dance instructor Kristy Christian will perform Middle Eastern dance, while local group O Nosso Amor, will blend in spicy music from Brazil. For more active audience members, One Camel Short will lead a dance from Akonjo Village that Jimmy Ouma Okello taught when he was here last year.
Doors to this celebration open at 7 when the public can bid on silent auction items and enjoy delicious desserts. Entertainment starts at 7:30 p.m.