By Matthew Waldrep
A Saturday evening of art, music, dancing, and fun can do more than ease the tension of the bygone week. GRCC student, Kara Apodaca, showed Eastown that it also can raise money and awareness for struggling women in regions of Africa.
Billy’s Lounge in Eastown was the setting for a benefit show and fundraiser organized by Apodaca to raise money for the Camfed Organization.
“Camfed is a nonprofit organization that sends girls to school in Africa,” Apodaca said. “They pay for girls to go to school, pay for uniforms, cover the cost of supplies, and room and board.”
Camfed has created a mission to improve the quality of life in countries like Zambia, Tanzania, and Ghana through the education of young girls and women.
“Educated women in Africa are less likely to contract HIV/AIDS, and from the population that they’ve sent to school, 20 percent earn a higher income after education,” Apodaca said.
Last year, Apodaca had the experience of studying in South Africa guided by GRCC geography professor Mike DeVivo for the Sustainability in the Face of Globalization course. Apodaca recalls firsthand accounts of what impoverished women face in regions of Africa.
“Before we left to return to the U.S., we came across a woman asking for donations,” Apodaca said. “We followed her to a center for single mothers and orphan children. They helped raise money for food, education, and safe-sex, and acted as a sort of support group.” The experience encouraged her to become more involved in combatting problems facing women in Africa.
DeVivo introduced Apodaca and other students to the charity organization Camfed. Apodaca, along with Adrienna Ozinga, Brian Woodin, Sarah Nusbaum, and Lindsey Harris, began actively raising money for the organization. They began by selling T-shirts that help raise awareness of those suffering in Africa, as well as posters made from photos taken while studying abroad in South Africa.
When the idea of throwing a fundraiser came about, Apodaca said it was originally going to be simply an Art show. However, with the help of GVSU professor Benjamin Hunter, who has strong connections with local musicians, it was clear that something larger could be done.
Hip-hop artists SUPPORT, Venson, Trav Waylaa, hip-hop band LOMOBB, and more turned out to Billy’s Lounge on Saturday, March 31 for the Camfed benefit show. The show kicked off around 9 p.m. and rolled well into the night. At one point, the dance floor was cleared for break-dancers to take turns on the floor led by hip-hop artist, Trav Waylaa on the mic, and DJ Dean Martian spinning some fast-paced old school beats. LOMOBB capped off the evening with Eastown J leading the band and DJ Dean Martian, along with special guest, Dante Cope near the end of their set. It wasn’t just a performance, it was a party.
But the music wasn’t the only attraction at the Camfed benefit. Live painting by various local artists was scattered about the bar. The finished paintings and artwork that sold went to raise money for Camfed. A silent auction was also held in the back of the lounge.
“The silent auction in the back was mostly local art,” Apodaca said. “All money went to Camfed. The auction lasted from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m..”
Apodaca explained that $300 raised was enough to send a girl in Africa for an entire year through Camfed. The benefit raised over $2,700, enough to send nine girls to school, over shooting the organizer’s prediction of raising enough money for five.