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New Orleans non-profit unites shared cultures for good cause

22nd January 2018   ·   0 Comments

By Jade Myers
Contributing Writer

On January 13, rhythm met cuisine for the inaugural Les Enfants d’Abord’s Fête d’ Hiver, which brought together Senegalese and New Orleans cultures to raise money for children in Senegal at the Art Garage on St. Claude Ave.

The cultural event kicked off with live music from Afrissippi, a Senegalese Mbalax band from Oxford, Miss. Attendees participated in a silent auction and raffle, while savoring Senegalese food and drinks, to match the cultural theme of the event.

Les Enfants d’Abord, a non-profit established by Jaryd Kase in 2016, a local resident who is a native of New York, focuses on providing supplemental youth education and community health programs to underserved children and their families in Senegal. Although a vibrant West African country, Senegal has low literacy rates. Hosting fundraisers like these, Kase said, would help continue to build the existing programs that Les Enfants d’Abord offers, such as using the scientific method to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills for children. The non-profit’s fundraising also helps to purchase necessities to educate Senegalese children, supports training qualified teachers and staff, and provides school supplies and nutritious meals for students.

“I think schools in Senegal would love to incorporate the skills I want the children to have, and I think it’s something they would want to do down the line,” Kase said. “But there are a few steps that need to be taken first,” Kase added.

Kase has hopes of one day expanding Les Enfants d’Abord to assist other countries, but for now he said he wants to focus his organization on Senegal. Kase did extensive research and observations for how to improve the education of Senegalese children while living in Senegal.

As of 2018, the non-profit has worked with 50 children and their families in Senegal and he hopes to have enrollment that exceeds 100 students in 2018. The primary goal of hosting events like this one was to raise money for this organization, but also to spread awareness so people realize that these issues aren’t just taking place in Senegal, but throughout the world, Kase explained.

“People don’t realize where a lot of their history comes from. It was a surprise to me how much of a connection that Senegal and Louisiana have, and I love to share that with people,” Kase said.

“If you can have fun celebrating another culture and learning about another culture, then it’s a great thing,” Kase added.

This fundraising event seemed to have a deeper meaning than what was set out, local residents said. Besides introducing the attendees to the Senegalese culture, it also showed the similarities that these two cultures both share, and how culture brings people with different backgrounds together, said Derrick Mullins, a local resident and Xavier University student, who attended the event to learn more about the Senegalese culture like their art, music and food.

“Attending this event has become a learning experience for me, I was intrigued to learn more about the Senegalese culture, and was shocked to learn about the similarities that the New Orleans and Senegalese cultures share,” Mullins said.

Unity, said Dr. Ibrahima Seck, a board member of Les Enfants d’Abord and academic director at the Whitney Plantation, is one of the tools needed to solve these current issues. Seck, who was born in Senegal, knows firsthand of the current problems that the country faces, like their low literacy rates and limited access to adequate health care.

“Culture brings people together, and when you have unity, solidarity and help, fewer people will suffer,” Seck said. “There are so many people suffering in Africa, but once they get this help, they may be better off,” Seck added.

This article originally published in the January 22, 2018 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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