NORTH CANTON Walsh University students in the Blouin Global Scholars Program held a concert Nov. 4 to raise money for the people of Gulu, Uganda. After only two months of preparation, students and a crowd of about 150 people welcomed the alt-pop band Foreign Figures to the stage.
In total, it is estimated $3,000 was raised in the hopes that students attending the University of the Sacred Heart in Gulu will have a similar opportunity at a better education.
"All proceeds go to the improvements in the buildings, textbooks, technology, and anything else. Giving them money allows them to do what is best for their community," said Kathryn Paul, a junior Blouin Global Scholar at Walsh University and brains behind the concert fundraiser.
The University of the Sacred Heart has a mission to "to contribute to personal and social healing, growth and holistic development of Uganda and the world community through provision of quality education, training and research and community outreach."
The Christian-based university is currently seeking approval by the National Council for Higher Education for Accreditation.
The concert also aimed to share the story of Acholi people, an ethnic group in northern Uganda, and their struggle with genocide and civil war for more than 20 years. The students’ work started last December when a cohort of 15 visited the Gulu region for 10 days.
"When we were there, we met with cultural leaders who told us ... we have the ability to share their story with the world," said Paul.
During the civil war, the Acholi were caught between the Ugandan government and the rebel group called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) led by Joseph Kony. The LRA fought government oppression with its own horror of techniques including child soldiers, mutilation, and slavery. About two million people were displaced and many ended up in the government’s refugee camps ostensibly for safety. Malaria and AIDS plagued the camps, and raids were conducted by the LRA and government forces. Kony has since been forced out of the area, but the people remain in poverty with much of their society destroyed.
Paul noticed that the people are using a nonviolent approach to reconciliation despite their trials and the violence thrust upon them.
"We think the only way to fight war is with war," she said. "That is not the mentality of the Acholi people. They know the importance and value of the human person."
After she went to Uganda, Paul realized she knew more about the Kardashians than she did about the war and atrocities that were still going on in the area.
"We don’t pay attention to it," she said. "If you want good information on these topics, you have to actively pursue it. It isn’t in the media like sports and entertainment."
Paul said the scholars wanted to give back to the people they interacted with.
"Even though they’re living in poverty or sick or still recovering from the war, they are the most hospitable and friendly people we’ve met," she said. "When we came back, we were very eager to come up with a project to do something for them."
Initially, Walsh students set up a GoFundMe page seeking $5,000, which is still accepting donations, and nearly half of the money was raised before the concert. When the idea of a concert fundraiser came up, the scholars immediately contacted Foreign Figures through their website. The Utah-based band agreed to perform and donated $1,000 to the cause.
Formed in 2014, Foreign Figures takes special interest in philanthropy.
"We do a lot of work with the Huntsman Cancer Foundation a various other charities," said Lance Lowry, the band's creative director. "When we saw it was for such a great cause, we knew we had to make it work. We rerouted our tour to make it up in Ohio. We played in Columbus the night before."
The band hopes to take their music to Gulu in the near future with Walsh University students.
"This rekindled the fire we have to share our music all over the world and not just the places we can drive to," Lowry said. "It was good to hear from the Ugandan presenters that the music connected and would connected with the people of Uganda. We strive for a world sound and it’s good to know that translated."
Tickets sold for $15 for general admission and $10 for students with IDs. The concert opened with a presentation on the history of northern Uganda, the war, and the reconciliation process.
Sophomore Blouin Global Scholars will be going to Gulu this December. Paul hopes these students will see the efforts from the fundraiser come to fruition and that the underclassmen will learn the difference one group of people can make in another’s lives.