District 28 raises $2,600 to help build schools in Africa
Eleven-year-old Colin Hanus warms up with his band, "Wavelength," during the sound check before Friday evening's "Concert for Africa" fundraiser held at Northbrook Junior High School. | Brian O'Mahoney~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 8, 2013 6:44AM
NORTHBROOK — The Northbrook District 28 PTO Council’s Concert for Africa, a fundraiser to help build schools for Kenya orphans, brought in more than $2,600 this year.
The Jan. 25 concert featured several student bands, including 7 Cents, Wavelength, and The Micky Dees.
The $10 admission price included water and pizza for the audience who gathered at Northbrook Junior High School.
This was the ninth in an annual series of concerts, which has raised about $45,000 to support Spurgeon’s Academy, one of the poorest schools in Africa, and build a high school for female students so they can learn skills to earn a living.
“I have a daughter who was working on a degree in African studies. She had been to Africa three times and wanted me to go with her, but I wouldn’t go as a tourist. We had to find something to do there together,” said Susan Vaickauski, a retired Westmoor School secretary who lives in Northbrook.
“It happened that Fred Outa, who is trying to educate children there, was visiting Northbrook because a Presbyterian church was to fund him. We met with him and he invited us to work at his school, Spurgeon’s Academy in the Kibera Slum.”
Vaickauski spent eight weeks there in the summer of 2004. The slum, which is one square mile, is the largest in Africa. It holds one million people with 500,000 under the age of 15, of whom 100,000 are orphans, she noted.
“If a student didn’t show up at school, two ladies who are like counselors go into the slum to find out why. The school is the only place they get food, so if they don’t show up, something has to be wrong,” Vaickauski said.
“When we walked through the slum, we would see children so hungry they would be eating the dirt. That haunts you.”
When Vaickauski returned home, she heard that congress had passed a bill in the mid 1990s encouraging U.S. schools to adopt a school in a third world country.
So Vaickauski asked the school district to adopt Spurgeon’s Academy and hold fundraising concerts to help support it.
“Through private donations alone, we’ve paid about $30,000 for the land to build the high school, and $76,000 for the building,” Vaickauski said.
“I’m now trying to raise $30,000 so we can have six classrooms, three on the bottom and three on the top.”
Outa is hoping to start with 200 students. However, when he opened a preschool in his home village, 800 children showed up for its 20 spots, she added.
“Because he was a street boy, Outa takes total orphans first, then partial orphans,”
Chris Laughlin, owner of the Christopher Laughlin School of Music in Northbrook who has children in the district, organized this year’s concert.
“I got involved because my son’s band has played in the concerts, and my daughter’s band did so last year,” Laughlin said.
“When I found out the event might not be continued any more, I thought I’d step up and see if it might be continued with me running the show. It’s a good event.”
Julia Laughlin, Chris’ 12-year-old daughter who played the drums for the all-girl band, 7 Cents, said she wanted to be part of the benefit because “it’s a very positive thing and a good charity.”
Meredith Schneider, a 13-year-old singer who also played auxiliary percussion, added that “by helping out, we not only made other people happy, we made ourselves happy.”
“We were excited to know that something we love to do can benefit other people,” said Maggie Mullen, 12, who played guitar.
Caitlin Schneider, 13, a keyboard musician, said she wanted the girls to know through their support that they should never stop working toward their goals despite adversity.
And Erin Rosenfeld, 11, who served pizza at the concert, said she volunteered because it’s very important that everybody has a good education.
“Those who are able to have a good education should come together and help those who don’t,” she added.