DJOLE African Dance and Drum Company
Djole (jo-lay)
adj. or n.
    1. Much dance
    2. Spirit dance
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NEWS RELEASE

For Immediate Release
August 21, 2007
Jessica Munday
(843) 216-0442

ORGANIZATIONS PARTNER TO BUILD CENTER FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN AFRICA

Charleston, SC -- Gethsemani Circle of Friends, a North Charleston nonprofit organization and the Family Services Research Center at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) are partnering with Nkabom Artist and Craftspeople Association of Accra, Ghana to build a center in Okurase, Ghana that will provide arts-based skills training and formal education for the community and improve the lives of women and children impacted by HIV/AIDS. The center is called the Nkabom Centre, from the Ashanti word meaning "come together." The effort is being conducted under the name Project OKURASE.

The three organizations have come together for the single mission of helping save children from the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa by getting children off the streets and helping women develop job alternatives. To date the land for the center has been purchased, additional land has been donated and the local community in Okurase is in complete support of the project and willing to help in whatever way possible. Construction of the first building will begin next year following an October 27 fund-raising event in Charleston.

The goal of Project OKURASE is to develop a model that can be replicated in communities around the world with the central focus for the center being on green design, sustainable architecture, job and skills training, family and village-based formal education, and a family-based model for caring for children impacted by HIV/AIDS.

"The relationships that have set Project OKURASE in place grew out of a neighborhood project that was a partnership between Family Services Research Center at MUSC and the Union Heights neighborhood of North Charleston. Together we have expanded our work to a global extent to address the needs of children impacted by HIV/AIDS in Africa," says Dr. Cynthia Cupit Swenson, an MUSC psychologist and associate director at the Family Services Research Center.

Services at the center will include formal education for street children, many of whom are orphaned due to HIV/AIDS and who will live at the center, and other local children in nearby villages. Arts-based skills training will be provided to women, older street children and vulnerable teens by master craftspeople, visual and performing artists from Nkabom and the Craftspeople Association of Accra, Ghana. Education in information technology and English as a second language will be available for adults to make them more competitive in the global marketplace. Seminars will be conducted to inform the local community about malaria and HIV/AIDS. Children orphaned due to AIDS will have the chance to grow up in a home with a family on the grounds of the center, and students from colleges around the world will be given opportunities to intern, student teach and work at the center, local orphanages, the children's hospital.

"It is very heartbreaking and sad to see so many starving children without clothes or shelter even though they have the talent and strength to create a better life for themselves and become great community leaders," says Samuel Nkrumah Yeboah, director of Nkabom Artist and Craftspeople Association. "Project OKURASE is guided by my similar experiences as a child and the wisdom of the village elders, community leaders, and the children. Many organizations and agencies are concerned with finding the best ways to support children and vulnerable adults. We believe the best way to help children is to help them provide for themselves through marketable skills training to foster their talents so that they can make a living. We will be empowering children and women through Project OKURASE. Together we can all make it happen." Yeboah, known in Ghana as Powerful, is the visionary behind Project OKURASE and its design.

The hope is that after the first three years of operation, which will be supported by grants and fund raising, the center will be self-sustainable through the work of the artists, services and research activities. This work includes tours, selling goods, a recording studio, and student and adult exchange programs.

An African gala and photo exhibition of global outreach in Africa will be held on October 27, 2007 at the Francis Marion Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina in the U.S. to raise money to build the center. The event is being put together as a collaborative effort of the three partnering organizations, volunteers and community businesses.

For more information about the gala please contact Cynthia Swenson at (843)876-1800 or swensocc@musc.edu or Powerful at projectokurase@yahoo.com. For information about the partnering organizations, visit www.projectokurase.org.

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