Members of the Popoleko Balkan Women’s Choir perform at the Akonjo fundraiser at The Hub Thursday.

Members of the Popoleko Balkan Women’s Choir perform at the Akonjo fundraiser at The Hub Thursday.

Artists come together to help Kenyan villagers

The Popoleko Balkan Women’s Choir hosts an event to benefit the Akonjo Community Enhance Society.

The Popoleko Balkan Women’s Choir will be filling downtown Vernon’s The Hub Arts Collective with their spine tingling melodies and intriguing harmonies in a benefit concert for the Akonjo (Kenya) Community Enhancement Society, Thursday.

Rounding out the program will be guest performers, songstress/guitarist Jayme McKillop, Enderby guitarist/vocalist Murray MacDonald, and local musician Daniel Stark on sarode, accompanied by Paul Langois on percussion.

The choir, whose members range from Silver Star Mountain to Sorrento and Ashton Creek, have been supporters of the Kenyan village of Akonjo for many years.

The collaboration began when choir director Cathy Stubington met a young community developer and actor Jimmy Ouma during a visit she made to Nairobi to attend a conference.

Ouma impressed upon Stubington his concerns about the youth, and especially the young girls, of his village (Akonjo.) Impoverished due to the loss of their parents through the AIDS epidemic, many of these orphans were unable to attend school. The girls faced an even more crippling obstacle since the lack of sanitary protection forced them to forego attending school during their monthly cycle, resulting in many giving up entirely.

When Stubington brought this news home to her Enderby-Shuswap community, many people were galvanized into action. Popoleko held their first fundraiser for Akonjo village in 2006 at the Piccadilly Mall in Salmon Arm, raising more than $500 to purchase sanitary supplies to send to Africa.

Since then the Akonjo project has blossomed purely through grass roots fundraising and the project now includes a scholarship fund, health education, water sensitization, and a farming initiative to name but a few. In addition to the obvious practical assistance benefitting Akonjo village, the project has continued to seek ways to exchange cultural information, knowledge and artistic practices between Akonjo village and the communities of the Enderby-Shuswap area. This has resulted in local events featuring water awareness, songs, a mud house building workshop and a play portraying Akonjo and the Shuswap through a visitor’s eyes.

The Hub concert will feature a creative display with hand-made puppets from Runaway Moon Theatre’s Puppet Museum portraying an African village, as well as artwork and school projects from the children of Akonjo village.

Admission is $10 at the door, with desserts, drinks available for sale and a toonie raffle for a giant gift basket! Artists will perform for no charge and all profits directly benefit Akonjo. Doors open 7 p.m. Program starts at 7:30.

The Hub is located at 2906-30th Ave., next to the Towne Theatre.