Akwaaba Ensemble is a high-energy group of performers, mostly from Ghana, that since its founding in 2002 has toured internationally and been the recipient of arts awards from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New England Foundation for the Arts. Their leader, Theo Martley, is in addition an accomplished teacher of African drumming, songs and dance. He has extensive experience working with children, engaging them in African rhythms, songs and dance, while at the same time helping them understand the underlying cultural significance. The Ensemble’s in-school workshops and performances have been supported by the New Hampshire State Art Council.
One of the surviving Lost Boys of Sudan, Ayuen escaped ravages of civil war at age 5 years, beginning a 1200-mile odyssey on foot first to an Ethiopian refugee camp, and later having to again flee for safety back through South Sudan then to Kenya. One of an estimated 20,000 displaced Sudanese children, Ayuen witnessed countless thousands of deaths from starvation, attacks by rebels and wildlife. This genocide continues to take the lives innocent people, including members of Ayeun’s family and friends. After immigrating to the U.S. as a teenager, Ayuen competed high school and received a Bachelors degree from Temple University and Masters in International Peace and Conflict resolution from Arcadia University in Philadelphia. Ayuen currently is undertaking graduate studies at Cornell University. His expertise and engaging classroom presence chronicles Conflict and the Quest for Peace in Sudan, The Republic of South Sudan: The World’s Newest Democracy, and The Impact of the World Bank on Sustainable Development and Human Rights. He has worked closely with Gertrude’s students in their annual Walk for Water awareness and fundraising activities.
Abdullah is a native of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, who now lives with his family in Philadelphia. He brings cross-cultural perspectives on life in these two countries, and engages students in open, probing discussions about history, religions, language, heritage, culture – including women’s issues, food, arts, music and more. Especially, he encourages exploration of stereotypes –why they seem so pervasive, and how damaging they can be especially to young people in both countries. As Director of Arab Programs at Global Education Motivators, Abdullah has been instrumental in establishing a partnership with Effat University, which is the first women’s college in Saudi Arabia. Among the workshops he has presented are Arabs in Media, from Aladdin to Terrorists; Personal Perspectives on Saudi Arabian Politics and Culture; and The Post-911 Shift.
A certified eco-tourism guide and educator based in Quito, Ecuador, Fernando has traveled and provided eco-educational tours throughout rain forest and agricultural environments to groups of all ages. In the classroom he leads students in discussions on subjects including: The Biodiversity of Ecuador’s Amazonas Rainforest, Economic Factors Compromising the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and A Sustainable Model of an Indigenous Women’s Village.
Dr. Kingsley Kabari, D.C.
An advocate for health and education, Kabari was born in Nigeria in the midst of upheaval and civil war. After years of living in a refuge camp, he immigrated to the United States at the age of 15, where he attended school for the first time while also working to help support his family. Overcoming odds, both academic and financial, Kingsley eventually gained admission to the Plymouth State University, where he graduated with honors in Exercise Physiology. After several years as a physical trainer, he enrolled at the New York Chiropractic College, completing his studies in 2014. He has shared with many audiences his Tale of Survival, and also speaks about Environmental, Social, and Political Degradation by Big Oil in Nigeria. Inspired by working with children in Gertrude’s classes, together they founded the Education Prevents Recruitment project, which provides educational opportunities for Ogoni children of southeast Nigeria.
Denis F. Okema
An advocate for Human Rights and Peace, Okema was born in Gulu, Uganda. He was abducted at the age of 9 and spent six months in captivity as a child soldier before escaping. One day he and several other orphaned children were found by Abitimo Odongkara, herself a Ugandan refugee, who had returned with the hope of founding a school. Denis was among the first students in what later became the Upper Nile Institute for Appropriate Technology School (UNIFAT) and has worked closely with Gertrude’s students in helping support this school. A motivational speaker working with Civil Society, Okema shares expertise on The Effect of War on Children, Using Social Media for Social Change, Justice and the African Experience, Methods of Conflict Resolution, Effects of Conflict on Economic Empowerment and Sustainability, The Oral Traditions of African Folktales.
Roxey Ballet is a world class, all-inclusive contemporary ballet company that uses dance to build community and cultural bridges. In addition to a full season of professional performances, the company presents inspirational dance programs that show the interconnectedness of the arts with understanding human rights issues and abuses. Themes include the Holocaust, bullying, respect for diversity, the civil rights movement, people with disability, and substance abuse. Outside of performances, members of the troupe work individually with students, incorporating their writing into kinesthetic exercises, thereby bringing themes and understanding alive and personal.
Ms. Ramos, Director and Manager of Educational Services for Young Audiences of Rochester, is well known as an animated, uplifting and enthusiastic Latina, performing original and world tales spiced with dance, mime, a cornucopia of voices, and love of people. Ramos is a professional storyteller who uses stories to examine themes such as diversity, racism, bullying, multiculturalism and our environment. As a workshop leader, Ramos combines her skills as a performer and teacher to encourage participants to listen, use their language, to tell stories and, above all, to develop their own story. Her performances and presentations aimed at younger audiences entertain, teach and inspire children to reach their full potential. Working closely with Gertrude’s classes, students were immersed in figurative writings that later were presented at the annual Ripple of Hope Gala supper.