Fundraiser held to save orphanage

The Student Athlete Advisory Committee held a benefit dance Friday night to raise money for an orphanage in Africa created by the Africa Heartwood Project.

All proceeds will help the Refugee Orphan Home, located at the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, relocate to Liberia.

Africa Heartwood Project founders Andy and Kayla Jones first opened the orphanage in 2008 and houses about 50 Liberian children.

According to Kathy Gambles, who spoke about the relocation efforts, these orphans are a product of Liberia’s 17-year civil war.

“Liberia is now settled,” Gambles said. “Ghana is not a safe place.”

The dance included a live DJ, a raffle, an African dance performed by Britta Stump, and a video about the orphanage playing on mute on a loop until the end of the event when Gambles discussed it and played it for the audience.

Stumpp began studying African dance three years ago after her belly dancing teacher said she was teaching an African dance class at WSU, where Stumpp worked in the library.

“It was hard at first, but once you get into it, then it’s a spiritual awakening in your body,” Stumpp said.

The video discussed how children help support themselves by making things such as hats or bracelets made from recycled glass and bags, some of which were sold at the fundraiser. Each item had the name of the child who created it attached. As well as making items, the children also formed a group to sing, dance and play drums to raise money for the orphanage. Not only are donations accepted for the orphanage, but people may now sponsor children.

“I like to think of it like we are all holding hands,” Gambles aid.  “The only thing between me and the kids is Andy.”

One hundred percent of the money donated goes the relocation effort.

“In one of the SAAC meetings, we threw some ideas around about how we could entice the most number of the community to come,” said Zach Perry, the SAAC president. “It’s a benefit dance, but at the same time, it’s an information thing about the Africa Heartwood Project.”

Due to the number of events that were happening the same night as the fundraiser, Andrea Lauritzen, the WSU athletics academics adviser who gave SAAC the idea to raise money for the Africa Heartwood Project, went around with donation cans so the people at other events could also donate.

“This is a great opportunity to make a difference,” Lauritzen said.

Lauritzen said she encourages people to go online, like the Africa Heartwood Project on Facebook and subscribe to its YouTube channel to help get the word out.

There is also an ongoing online auction to raise money. The auction started on Friday and will end on April 6. Handmade quilts, signed Olympic pins and pictures by Lindsey Anderson who competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the steeplechase event, and gloves and a football signed by Denver Broncos’ Tim Toone are all being auctioned off. All the memorabilia came from former WSU athletes.

“We can learn from these children,” Gambles said, “to create joy and happiness no matter where you are.”