Students experience Uganda during visit

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by TaLeiza Calloway

It will be hard for Aliyah Price to forget the beat of the African drum and the voices of the Spirit of Uganda.

The 12-year-old student ambassador at Talahi Community School was one of more than 100 students who witnessed a performance by the 22-member performance troupe Feb. 16 at Talahi.

The 22-member group from Uganda, gave students a preview of their next-day performance at the College of St. Benedict. Price was glad they came.

“I liked the performance,” Price said. “I thought it was really unique . . . this is the type of things you remember.”

What 11-year-old Ian Miller will remember most is the different musical instruments used during the performance. The fifth-grade student ambassador’s favorite was the xylophone.

“I thought it was fun,” Miller said of the presentation Feb. 16. “I think it’s cool that they came from a different country to see us.”

Visiting with the students is not only apart of the College of St. Benedict’s fine arts programming outreach efforts but is an important part of the Spirit of Uganda’s mission.

Spirit of Uganda is the public face of Empower African Children, a non-profit organization dedicated to transforming the lives of orphans and vulnerable children through a holistic care program and education, said Alexis Hefley, founder and president of Empower African Children.

Peter Kasule, artistic director for Spirit of Uganda, trains every year with about 40 students who are a part of the organization’s holistic care program. Of the 40, 22 are selected to tour in the United States. Some of the criteria to tour includes if they are a team player, are ambassadors for Uganda and do well academically and socially, Hefley said.

Spirit of Uganda is just one of the nonprofit’s programs. Empower African Children also has a scholarship program that allows students to study at universities in the U.S.

“The difference between our program and others is that we invest in the students as if they were our very own child,” Hefley said. “It’s a scholarship not a sponsorship program.”

The scholarship program is for students who have lost one or both parents to AIDS, lost parents to the rebels in Uganda or those who are in vulnerable situations where education is not possible.

Education is at the forefront of the organization as audience members not only get to enjoy the singing and the elaborate dancing, but get to learn more about Ugandan culture.

Exposure to this lesson for her students is what excited Talahi School Principal Paula Foley. Building connections for students while introducing them to something new is what Foley hopes students took away.

Author: TaLeiza Calloway

TaLeiza Calloway is a professional journalist in Central Minnesota. Her byline has appeared in the St. Cloud Times and Central Minnesota Women Magazine. The Ohio native moved to Minnesota about four years ago. She joined the St. Joseph Newsleader staff as a reporter in November 2011.

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