18-year-old cellist Patrick McGuire, a From the Top alum and current student at The Juilliard School, is co-organizing an arts outreach trip to Tanzania in May called the Arusha Arts Initiative. The group will be traveling to the Umoja Youth Empowerment Center in the city of Arusha to help strengthen community-building and leadership skills in impoverished students aged 14-26.
We asked him to tell us a little more about this great new project:
FTT Green Room: Can you tell us about your project?
Patrick: We are a group of six actors, dancers and musicians from the Juilliard School traveling to Arusha, Tanzania for two weeks to conduct arts workshops and create a collaborative performance with impoverished students at the Umoja Youth Empowerment Center. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world and is suffering enormously from HIV/AIDS. 1.6 million people in the country (8.8% of the population) are currently living with the disease. Many of the students at Umoja have lost their parents to HIV/AIDS, and none of them can afford to attend school. Umoja offers free vocational classes for the students to help push them into the working world and to overcome the poverty that they are facing. Our mission is to provide the community at Umoja with access to the performing arts. We aim to use the creative and collaborative skills utilized in the arts to guide the students in their personal development and to promote Arusha’s goal of empowering students to create change in their communities. Working on a performance together will show the students that, even after we leave, they still have the skills and ideas needed to express themselves through the arts.
FTT Green Room: How did this get started?
Patrick: The origin of our project is an interesting story: we were originally going to Peru. Our friend, Varinia, is from Peru and was looking to organize an outreach trip to Lima this summer. Unfortunately, something came up and she was no longer able to attend. Members of the team had already been to Europe and Asia, so we decided to search “outreach in Africa.” We found the website of Ujamaa, a hostel in Arusha that hosts international volunteers in the area. We e-mailed them and they referred us to Umoja. Reading through Umoja’s website, we found that their goals are very closely matched with our own. We got in touch and began the project.
FTT Green Room: What made you want to do this?
Patrick: I have been interested in doing outreach projects my entire life, but never really knew where to start. It turns out it’s a lot easier than I thought! All we had to do was send an e-mail, and everything was all set up. The more that I read about the students at Umoja and about the local area in Tanzania, I became more and more dedicated to this cause. Many of the students at Umoja have lost their parents to HIV / AIDS, are fighting poverty, and none of them attend school. When I really sat down and imagined myself in that situation in comparison to my own, I felt spoiled and over-privileged. I want to give these students everything that I can possibly offer.
FTT Green Room: What have been the biggest challenges so far?
Patrick: Of course, organizing a trip like this comes with its challenges. Ours is currently the budget! Travel costs and health precautions are much more expensive than I could have imagined when we started plans for the project in Megan’s dorm room. We have estimated that our trip is going to cost $15,000! Fortunately, we have been able to apply for a grant from Juilliard, which could help to cover part of the cost. It is up to us to raise everything else on our own.
FTT Green Room: How can other people get involved and help make this happen?
Patrick: Many people have asked us to join in on our trip, but there is limited space and limited money. However, everyone and anyone can help us out by donating what they can (every $10 donation really adds up!) and by spreading the word about our project. The more people who know about it, the more supporting hands we have to distribute the weight and hold it up. If you are interested in getting more information about the project and about how you can help, please visit the blog at http://arushaartsinitiative.wordpress.com. You can also check out our Facebook group to get project updates and learn about our upcoming fundraising events in Boston and NY.
FTT Green Room: What advice would you give other young musicians looking to start or get involved in similar projects?
Patrick: I strongly encourage everyone to reach out in their communities and help wherever they can. You would be surprised to find how appreciative people are for things that we take for granted. Also: think big! If you really dedicate yourself to a project like the one that we are doing, you can make a huge impact.
The Arusha Arts Initiative has two upcoming fundraisers:
1. AAI Benefit Concert in Westord, MA!
Saturday, March 14, 2009 7:30pm
Admission – FREE
Westford Bible Church
32 Graniteville Road, Westford, MA
2. AAI Fundraiser at The Park Penthouse!
Thurday, March 19, 2009 9pm-midnight
Admission – FREE
The Park Penthouse
118 10th Ave @18th Street, New York, NY
Profits from the evening split between Arusha Arts Initiative and Soulforce NYC