Kucheza Ngoma! This Swahili phrase meaning “dance” was the theme and title of the International Student Organization’s (ISO) fundraiser last weekend, which raised over $400 for Harrisonburg High School’s Peer Leader Program.
“The main theme this year … was juveniles, specifically the juvenile program that Harrisonburg High School runs to help keep juvenile immigrants from getting in trouble with the law,” said Junior Emmanuel Kampagna, one of the ISO co-presidents. “The program helps them find out about what’s going on with the law and the country, and it forms some sort of society between them, people they can trust and people they can learn from.”
The fundraiser was held in Martin Chapel on the evening of Saturday, April 8. Tickets for students cost $5, while non-student tickets cost $10 and family tickets cost $15. All of the proceeds from ticket sales went straight to the Peer Leaders program, which several members of the ISO have been involved with recently.
“I work with the Peer Leaders at Harrisonburg High School,” said CJP graduate student Kajunga Mturi, who has been instrumental in connecting EMU with the Peer Leaders program. “That was the starting point [of the fundraiser]: Two guys met as African guys, they found out they have the same gift, and decided to use that gift to support the Peer Leaders organization.”
The Harrisonburg Peer Leader program is a collaboration among James Madison University, Harrisonburg High School, EMU, and Church World Services designed to provide peer support for adolescent refugees moving into the community. According to an article published by EMU News last month, the program currently has approximately 40 student participants, all of whom have a refugee story of one kind or another.
“We were so happy for Peer Leaders and ISO to know each other,” said Junior Felix Kioko. “They’re going to be their mentors. They’re like big brothers to them. To get such a support from Arnold and Emmanuel, people who have been here for longer, that’s so important.” Kioko, a Kenyan working on a Peacebuilding and Development degree, is just one of many students and faculty from EMU who have helped facilitate the program this year.
Further donations to the Peer Leaders program can be made to a GoFundMe campaign entitled “H-burg Refugee Student Support,” begun by the ISO. Kampagna, along with fellow co-president Sophomore Arnold Muthoki and the rest of the ISO leadership team, has organized several ISO luncheons over the course of the school year in addition to a few game nights and the notable International Food Fest in September.
“The dancers were students from Harrisonburg High School who are involved with the program and happens [sic] to be those that also won the Harrisonburg High School annual talent show,” said Kampagna. “We figured, why not? Dancing can send a message sometimes, and I think it sent a pretty strong message.”