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Under African Skies

Arts education from Anno's Africa
Arts education from Anno's Africa

Yorkshire laid on its best weather to celebrate this sold-out event at Choppards Mission. Those attending were inspired and moved by guest speaker Bee Gilbert who talked about the charity Anno’s Africa, set up in memory of her son Anno Birkin, a young, gifted writer and musician who died in a car crash in 2001 just one month short of his 21st birthday. Since 2006, Anno’s Africa has provided alternative arts education to underprivileged children in Kenya and has recently extended its activities to Malawi. With classes in six major disciplines (art, creative writing, dance (including ballet), drama, music and circus skills) delivered by local performers trained by the charity, thousands of children now have an opportunity for future careers in the arts and a means to escape from the poverty trap in to which they have been born. Bee then showed a wonderful film compiled from the performances of the children showing the amazing talent that can flourish as a result of their projects.

After a drink from our well-stocked fair trade bar, we were then served a sumptuous vegetarian meal with a bewildering array of pulses, nuts, grains, peppers, sweet potatoes, mangoes, and other delicacies all prepared by a team of Fair Trader volunteers using recipes from North and East Africa. On top of this there were uniquely authentic and delicious soups and other dishes kindly prepared by Elisabeth who is from Eritrea.

Thoroughly sated, the diners were then treated to a fascinating talk from CART (Christian African Relief Trust) volunteer Fay Douglas about our local charity who collect and refurbish personal, educational, vocational and first aid items from the community and send them out to Africa. They also raise funds from their Lockwood shop sales and fund small sustainable self-help projects with known partners in Africa. Started in 1982 in a Lepton chicken shed, they now send out at least six containers a year whilst funding boreholes, chicken hatcheries, beekeeping, sewing and carpentry classes and many other projects in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, Cameroon, Tanzania and other parts of Africa. All this is achieved entirely by volunteers putting in their time, expertise, energy and commitment to make a difference.

All those attending thoroughly enjoyed the evening and Fair Trader hopes to work together with both these great little charities in the future. Ideas include collecting musical instruments, sewing machines and garden/workshop tools at our recycling facility in the shop; helping establish small co-operatives for artists to sell their work ; and providing technical and financial support to new African community co-operatives with the potential to supply our shop.

Mark Lewis, 16 May 2018

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