Over 40 InterPlayers have visited Malawi with Masankho Banda, a California-based InterPlayer and peacemaker who was born and raised in Malawi. Masanko was given political asylum in the United States in 1987. His father, Aleke K. Banda, was imprisoned from 1980-1992 by the president of Malawi who ruled as a brutal dictator for 30 years, and it was unsafe for Masankho to remain in Malawi. After getting degrees in Theater and Dance Arts and in Creation Spirituality, Masankho chose to devote his life to using dance, music, drumming and storytelling to bring about peace, healing, and cultural understanding. He received the Unsung Hero of Compassion Award from His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 2001. (See ucandanc.org to learn more about Masankho and his work.)
Three Seattle InterPlayers – Liz Lang, Louise Petrasek, and myself – were members of the first small group that Masankho brought to Malawi to learn about African culture and to stay in the ancestral village where Masankho had learned the arts of African dance and storytelling as a boy. It was grounding, affirming, and deeply spiritual for me to be in Africa where humanity and dance and song were born and where dance and song are still interwoven into the fabric of everyday life. We travelers were deeply moved by the warm-hearted, welcoming people who lived in the village and the surrounding area. We danced and sang with them, toured their homes and fields, and learned firsthand of the challenges these people face on a daily basis. This trip changed our lives. We could no longer sing and dance and live in Seattle without remembering and feeling our connection to these dear people. Liz, Louise, and I committed ourselves to raising awareness and seeking donations to help fund projects that would address issues of poverty and help the villagers we’d met become more self reliant. We were grateful that a small non-profit organization, the Kunyanja Development Organization (KUDO), had been created in 2004 by Aleke Banda. We have been helping raise funds for KUDO ever since 2006 and we also helped bring Emily Chintu, the volunteer director of KUDO, to Seattle in 2007. (See kudomalawi.org for more information about KUDO projects.)
I have returned to Malawi two more times, once with a large group of over 40 InterPlayers (including my daughter, Meghan), and more recently, with my husband. Each visit deepens the connection that was formed in 2006. I continue to share stories about Malawi with individuals and groups who would like to learn more, and I continue with fundraising efforts. If you are interested in having a Malawi presentation with a freewill offering for KUDO, contact me at email@example.com. Contributions of any size make a BIG impact in rural Malawi. No donation is too small. From June 21st – September 21st, 2010, there is a Summer Solstice Matching Campaign that will match (and double!) donations that are made to KUDO. I am really excited about this, but donations are welcome at any time of the year. To make a donation, visit the KUDO website, kudomalawi.org.