The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Bachelor of Social Work Program will present an evening of “Community, Friendship and Hope” when it hosts the Mwika Musicians for a special community reception on Friday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m. in the Auditorium at Wieden Hall. This reception will include demonstrations of the group’s traditional Afrikan music through stories, song and dance. The event is free and open to the public and donations will be accepted at the door.
The Mwika Musicians, a delegation of 12 student musicians from Stefano Moshi Memorial University College in Mwika, Tanzania, their choral director, and the college’s principal, are visiting Maine for two weeks for the international cultural exchange of a lifetime. During their visit, they will share their culture, traditions, and music (which is in Kiswahili and is arranged to reflect the group’s Christian faith—Stefano Moshi is a Lutheran college), experience the culture and music in the U.S., and build upon existing collaborations between UMPI and the Tanzanian college. Members of the group are experiencing many “firsts” on this international adventure—most did not have passports before preparing for this trip, few have traveled out of Tanzania, and only three have ever been in an airplane.
“We are very much looking forward to this event and encourage everyone to join us for it—music is a universal language regardless of the place of our birth or the names of our ancestors,” Shirley Rush, UMPI Associate Professor of Social Work and director of the BSW program, said. “Building together a better tomorrow through friendship and community benefits all.”
For this trip, the group will fly from Kilimanjaro to Boston, spend a week at UMPI between Sept. 20 and 26 visiting local classrooms and teaching various community groups about their traditional music and dance, and then travel to Orono and spend Sept. 26 to Oct. 2 at the University of Maine, hosted by UMaine’s International Student and Scholar Services, to conduct similar cultural exchange activities there. The group will have the chance to visit other spots in Maine, including the Maine State House and Maine State Museum in Augusta, before flying back to Kilimanjaro.
During their visit in Presque Isle, the group will connect with the community in many different ways. They will have the opportunity to visit with several UMPI classes, drum with Micmac drummers, do a library lunch event at Northern Maine Community College, and observe music education activities and teach students Tanzanian song and dance at Fort Fairfield Middle High School.
This visit is one of the most ambitious undertakings Rush has helped to organize as a result of her University of Maine System Trustee Professorship that she completed in Tanzania in Fall 2013. The purpose of her professorship was to teach on the campuses of Stefano Moshi Memorial University College and work to develop the infrastructure and relationships needed for a reciprocal international exchange effort. That work has resulted in UMPI students traveling to Tanzania to complete coursework, service learning and clinical rotations. To ensure the exchange is reciprocal, though, Rush has been working to bring the Tanzanian musicians to Presque Isle.
She and others have been working for 18 months to plan for the visit, make arrangements, line up passports and visas, and see to the hundreds of other details to make an exchange event like this happen.
While fundraising has been done to cover the costs of passports and visas, ground transportation to and from Boston, and other expenses, community and individual donations are still needed to cover the airfare for the group to travel to the U.S. and back.
“In the helping professions, we are often deceived by thinking that we are the ones who ‘give’ through our service and our monetary gifts, but, in fact, it is through the humble act of giving that we learn to receive the beauty of character that cannot be purchased,” Rush said. “A small donation goes a very long way among those whose lives are transformed by learning about Aroostook County, the State of Maine, and the USA.”
For more information about the Mwika Musicians’ visit or to make a donation, please contact Rush at 207-768-9427 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations also can be sent directly to UMPI, c/o Shirley Rush-Mwika Musicians, 181 Main St., Presque Isle, ME 04769. Updates about the visit can be found at www.facebook.com/MwikaMusicians.