War Child breaks new ground with Battle of the Arts

Written by Alex Murphy on March 2, 2010

Fredericton students show off their dance moves at War Child Battle of the Arts competition.With the organization of two Battle of the Arts events, the local chapter of War Child made a strong public debut this month. The Fredericton group formed in order to organize two competitions that sought to promote “art that makes a difference.”  In total, they raised about $1000 for War Child Canada, a registered Canadian charity dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance to war-affected children around the world.

St. Thomas University student and musician, Saa Andrew Gbongbor grew up during the civil war in Sierra Leone. “I came here myself as a war child after being forced to flee to Gambia, a country that was not my home.” Saa Andrew has been connected to War Child for some time and has donated music for an upcoming War Child compilation album. He wanted to organize a War Child community group in order to spread awareness about international humanitarian efforts.

Gbongbor decided to start with the Battle of the Arts because he wanted to give young people the chance to use their own talents to help children in need. “They have ideas and talents, and I wanted give them the opportunity to express themselves and develop confidence.” Students from George Street School, École Sainte Anne, Fredericton High, Leo Hayes, and STU performed in the events and helped to organize them.

Gbongbor was touched by the outpouring of youth who wanted to get involved. “It’s easy to organize when you have so many people around you’” he said.  Fredericton High School student and War Child organizer Daniel Nasr was impressed by the audience turnout, “There were over 170 people at the first event. That’s not bad for the first time that War Child has done something in Fredericton.”

Around 20 performers participated in the first round of the competition on February 6 at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre. From there, 15 performers were chosen to compete in the final round, which took place on February 13 at STU. Ranging from middle-school aged to young adult, the four judges scored performers on self-confidence, performance, and connection to the War Child cause. After the final round, the judges and organizers met and decided on the winner. Fredericton High School student Nari Kuikel won first place for her Nepali dance performance. “I am happy to get the opportunity to speak to so many different people in my first year in Canada,” she said. “I would like my dance to bring a smile to the face of children who are affected by war.”

The organizers are encouraged by their success.  “We want to continue this event every year,” Gbongbor said. “We also want to get more youth involved and see what else can be done.” Nasr is also looking forward to future initiatives. “War Child is definitely a cool organization. I’m really happy that I was introduced to it and it’s in Fredericton. It’s definitely going to grow from here.”

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