“That’s McDonald’s or Starbucks for us, for a snack or a latte; that’s extra,” he said. “We have way more than that. Taking a little bit of what we have and trying to help other people and change their lives — that’s the premise of it.”
A U.S. to Africa concert at the school Saturday, May 19, kick-started the fundraising with $3,500 from donations, T-shirts and auctioned student paintings. The concert featured African music by a choir of about 180 students, a Nicholasville Elementary ensemble and a group from Eastland Church of God in Lexington; it was attended by between 300 and 400 people.
Sanders said the partnership between students, teachers, parents and the parent-teacher organization had been crucial to the success of the event.
“It was really an amazing community-building event, to sense that we were a part of something together,” he said. “This is not the Matt Sanders show; this has to have everybody involved in it.”
The concert will be an annual event, Sanders said, and fundraisers earlier in the school year will also help inch closer to the goal. He said he hopes a school could be built in Mali within three or four years; it would be named after the Jessamine County elementary school that raised the funds to make it possible.
“You end up having a sister school in Mali, on the other side of the Atlantic,” he said.
But the school structure in Africa is not the end goal, Sanders said; he hopes students in Nicholasville will be able to communicate with their counterparts in Mali and learn from their sister school while helping eradicate poverty.
And while the curriculum Sanders teaches is tones and rhythms, he hopes students learn something even more important from the project.
“When they’re my age, they’ll have forgotten a lot about the music things that I taught them — unfortunately, I just think that’s the way it’s going to be in many cases,” he said. “But if I can affect their heart and I can help them to learn that giving away and sharing with other people and serving other people is really where some of the greatest joy comes from in life — if I can affect them in that way and shape their character — then I think I will have made an even bigger difference than I would just teaching them music.”
For more information or to give to the project, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on African Sky, visit www.africansky.org.