Dancers and musicians spanning several genres performed at the Unity Gala on Saturday night in the Shepherd Union Ballrooms.
Unity: An Evening of Music, Dance and Art was the latest effort to raise money for a women’s center in Mozambique, a class project known as Mozwoc.
Kylie Peterson, a child and family studies major at WSU, produced Saturday’s event. She said she drew from her experience performing dances for charity to come up with the idea.
“I’ve been able to see where these types of events can raise a lot of awareness for the different causes.” Peterson said that once word got around, she had to turn people away because she had so many who wanted to perform.
Peterson said that when she proposed the idea to Joanne Lawrence, the dance professor involved in the class, she gave the go-ahead. Lawrence said Peterson put the event together basically by herself.
The project combines the efforts from students from a WSU class and No Poor Among Us, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit organization. The class titled “Mozambique: Place, Gender and Dance” is an interdisciplinary class combining geography, dance and gender studies to teach students abut Mozambique.
“Because the women are so oppressed in Mozambique, it will provide them with the place where they can learn and grow and where they can have hope, because these women don’t have any hope,” said Julie Rich, geography professor at WSU. “(The students are) gaining a better grounding and understanding of the country of Mozambique by looking at these different parameters.”
In May the class will travel to Mozambique to put the finishing touches on the center and do projects to improve the lives of the people of Mozambique. Rich said that by the time the students arrive, the center will be 90 percent complete.
The students will write messages of inspiration on the walls of the center for the women who go there. The center will be built in Boane, a town right outside the capital city of Maputo.
The projects will include teaching the women to raise chickens so they can sell the eggs at the local market, teaching crafts and math, and bringing health and hygiene kits over.
“Their lives will be improved, (the lives of) their children will be improved, so the trajectory of the entire country is upward,” said Rich of the women of Mozambique.
The group targeted $50,000 to build the center. The class reached $47,000 before the event Saturday. Once the goal is reached, the excess money will be used to help students pay for the trip.
“I wanted to get the strength of the university behind this nonprofit organization to achieve this difficult goal of building a woman’s center,” Rich said.
Cassi Serrano, a dance major at WSU, said she is excited about the chance to experience a new culture.
“The dancers that are going down are hoping to learn a few dances they can bring back to Utah,” she said.
The performers displayed several styles throughout the night, including folk music, belly dancing, a Russian shawl dance and a female Michael Jackson impersonator.
Rachel Fox, a performer, said she jumped at the opportunity when she heard about the cause.
“I like to perform in general and share the skills that I have, and for a good cause like this, it makes it all worth it,” she said.
The class raffled off and sold items at a silent auction to help raise money at the event as well.
Rich said it’s been fascinating to see her class tackle such as big project and watch as the students learn problem-solving skills to come up with solutions to raise the money for the center. Peterson said this whole project goes to shows that it’s possible to bring so many people to together to collaborate on a project that will make a difference in the world.
Those who wish to learn more about the center or how they can help can visit Mozwoc.blogspot.com.