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Givology concert raises money for Uganda school

Givology Spiders held a concert and raffle on March 20 that raised $10,000 for a Peace School in Uganda.

The event lasted from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the band Kreta Cano kicked off the concert portion. There was an a cappella sing-off in which Choeur du Roi, The Octaves and The Sirens each sang three songs, and the audience could buy raffle tickets for $1 each to vote on a winner. The Sirens won the sing off.

"I liked the enthusiasm that went into the performances and winning the a capella contest itself," said Emily Silkaitis, a senior who attended the performance. "Yeah, they were singing to win, but they were also doing it to help poor kids in Uganda."

Between performances, footage was played of the Circle of Peace School in Uganda, whose student body has recently grown to 250 students. The school was founded by Joanita Senoga, an employee of Boatwright Memorial Library who fled Uganda in search of greater opportunities in the United States. Senoga, Iria Jones, another library employee, and Joyce Meng, the founder of the national Givology organization, visited the school this past winter to reassess the needs of the students.

"They went in order to bring back footage and sketches by students, and also to take down the old, dilapidated classrooms and replace them with temporary classrooms," said senior Eunice Kim, president of Givology Spiders. "But they are still in need of funding to build a new school, which is why Givology Spiders exists."

Givology Spiders is working to raise the $60,000 necessary to build a permanent structure for the school, which will include more classrooms and housing for the 30 AIDS orphans at the school.

The event began to come together when Don Stevens, owner of the local jewelry store Stevens Jewelers, met with Senoga and offered to donate $5,700 worth of jewelry. The group decided to hold a raffle, accompanied by a concert, and sold tickets for $10 each.

"These fundraisers were a huge undertaking for such a small organization," Kim said. "We planned and coordinated both events in about seven weeks."

The event raised $5,000, which was matched by an anonymous donor and will go directly toward the $60,000 needed to rebuild the school.

The national Givology organization, which serves as an umbrella for various charitable projects, also hosted a weeklong fundraising event for the Peace School in New York City from March 26 to April 1. The event was called "What Would You Buy With $50?" and was based on sketches done by over 100 children in Uganda illustrating what they would spend $50 on. The sketches were compiled into an exhibition and were sold for $50 each, which will go directly toward the school.

The sketches featured items as diverse as school fees, a banana tree and a laptop, but they all served as tangible illustrations of the challenges children face in Uganda. Senoga, Jones and Kim traveled to New York City for the opening event because several of the sketches being sold had been displayed at their concert and raffle.

Noteworthy people were present on opening night, including representatives of the Permanent Mission of Uganda to the United Nations and the Uganda American Association of Greater New York, and Senoga, as she is the original founder of the school.

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Opening night attractions included a live auction of the sketches, contemporary Ugandan music and an after-party at a local lounge.

Funds raised by the week-long event will contribute to the $60,000 goal Givology Spiders set to help the Peace School.

The national Givology organization allows Givology Spiders to accept online donations of any amount, independent of fundraising events. Givology Spiders is also in need of volunteers because many of the current members, including Kim, are graduating seniors.

"I was really impressed with how many people were willing to help us out," Kim said. "That's including Student Activities; our MC, Greg Montine, who MC'd for the first half; and Daniel Bidwell and Perry Bentley, who did the second half; as well as University Facilities, the music department and student volunteers.

"It has been such an experience creating this chapter on campus and I really hope we can continue to grow and have an even more successful event in the years to come."

Contact staff writer Maria Ribas at mariaelisa.ribas@richmond.edu

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