Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 12, 2004

Multicultural celebration to fight poverty in Africa

A group of University of Guelph students is organizing a multicultural celebration March 26 to 28 to fight poverty by raising funds for a trio of African community development projects.

Under the banner “Women of the World,” the committee will host the OJO AYO Multicultural Day of Joy 2004 to benefit three causes: the Zebulon International School in Nigeria, the community of Nzulezu in Ghana and Save the Children’s efforts to help women and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Kenya. “Ojo ayo” is an Yoruba (an ethnic group in southwestern Nigeria) expression for “day of joy.”

All proceeds from an educational forum and African gala March 26 at the Arboretum Centre will go to the Zebulon school, which is located between two rural villages in the Osooro region of southwestern Nigeria. It provides quality primary education for 66 local children as well as workshops for children, young people and women.

The fundraising event, which runs from 6 p.m. to midnight, will begin with the educational forum and then feature Afro-Cuban-inspired drumming and dancing, local and international musicians and a video presentation on the school. People are invited to bring drums and join in the music-making, says Manon Germain, co-ordinator of the OJO AYO events.

The second-year international studies student has a special attachment to the school, which she helped found in 1998 with the support of a Canadian non-profit organization.

“For me, it’s been amazing to be a witness to watch people who choose to be catalysts for change,” she said of the fundraising efforts on behalf of the school and other projects. “My vision is to help people realize that collaboration is something with a lot of power.”

On March 27, a “Building Awareness” event will be held in Room 1200 of the Thornbrough Building from 6 to 9 p.m. to raise funds for Nzulezu, which is built entirely on stilts in the western region of Ghana. The event will showcase the multiculturalism that exists on campus and in the local community through music, dance and dress, Germain said.

Funds generated will allow volunteers to buy a power generator for the village (currently it has no electricity) and to develop the primary school structure and facilities.

On March 28, the focus is on “Celebrating Communities” from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the University Centre courtyard. This event will feature a drumming and dance show for the University community (children are welcome), with all proceeds going to Save the Children Canada’s Case for Kenya project, which helps women and children affected by HIV/AIDS. There will also be a multicultural marketplace with more than 20 vendors and drumming and dancing workshops.

Later this year, Germain and four other students — Nadia Barakeh, Tyler Demers, Ramindeep Dhami and Kerri Wright — are planning to visit Africa for six weeks to put the funds raised to good use.

Beginning May 9, they will travel to West Africa, stopping at Nzulezu to install the generator and restore power to the village, as well as build tables and chairs for the primary school. Then they’ll go on to the Osooro communities in Nigeria to work with the students and staff of the Zebulon school to clear land for a new school complex. They’ll also provide educational workshops.

Ticket prices for the OJO AYO events vary. For more information, contact Germain at 824-9317 or e-mail

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt (519) 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982.

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