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Uganda's schoolchildren.

F For several months parents and teachers had worked hard to pay for visas and airline tickets by saving money from their salaries and selling handicrafts. When the Ugandan delegation of 19 students-from three schools in the Kampala area-and seven teachers and chaperones finally arrived at Dulles International Airport, Dr. Valencia Campbell was waiting for them. She had arranged for their stay at Howard University, her alma mater. As president of the Prince George's County Drug Policy Coalition in Maryland, she also held a fundraising event to partially offset the housing charges.

The festival was a dream come. The children learned new approaches to art, sport, and creative education. Kibuuka Mark, 11, said, "I like the way children from other countries express their culture. It is an opportunity for me to learn more about their background."

Students from the Namilyango Junior Boys School changed into traditional attire before stepping on the World Stage to perform. They wore bark cloth adorned with cowrie shells, feathers and whistles. They carried African drums and shakers. They danced with their music.

They also danced away with the award for best musical performance and a $1,000 cash prize. The children jumped. Music director Isingoma Felix was ecstatic. ICAF and Melody Street, a multimedia entertainment company, organized the competition, and Melody Street provided the prize money.

"The judges couldn't imagine how drums and shakers could produce unbelievable music. Our music was original, from the heart of Africa," said Ssembiro Mike, the group leader and ICAF representative in Uganda.

Matovu Martin, 13, recited a short poem at the festival. Later he said, "I realize that Americans and Africans are equal, however different they might appear."

The delegation also met with Uganda's ambassador to the U.S., Perezi Kamunanwire, who told entertaining stories of his childhood and how he came to be an ambassador. When the group returned home, hundreds of parents, teachers and well-wishers greeted them at the Entebbe Airport.


SSEMBIRO MIKE is ICAF representative in Uganda
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Author:Mike, Ssembiro
Geographic Code:6UGAN
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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