ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — This October, an air hanger just outside the sleepy medieval town of St. Andrews on the east coast of Scotland will once again play host to the Xavier Project’s Bongo Ball, a night of music, dance and celebration of African culture.
Tash Dunk, Executive Director of this year’s Bongo Ball, told The Borgen Project more about the ball and the charity which it supports.
“Ed Page is a St. Andrews alumnus who founded the Bongo Ball in 2008 after returning from Kampala, Uganda, where he had volunteered at a school. A large influx of Congolese refugees had resulted in a poor distribution of basic services—especially education. Ed saw that there were many refugee children who lacked even basic levels of education and who were struggling to integrate into the community,” said Dunk.
“When Ed returned to St. Andrews, he organized the first ever Bongo Ball, raising 1,500 pounds (roughly $2,456) to pay for the education of these children. Ed’s charity, the Xavier Project, was developed after this event and focuses on funding education and micro finance projects as well as improving the quality of refugees’ lives. That’s where the money from the Bongo Ball continues to be sent,” she continued.
The Bongo Ball is now established as a highly anticipated event on the St. Andrews social calendar, which is already full to capacity with fashion shows, white tie reeling balls and traditional Scottish Ceilidhs.
“What’s so unique about Bongo Ball is that from such a low budget, we are able to raise so much money for charity; it really is so impressive,” said Sophie Capaldi, Head of Press for Bongo Ball.
“We keep all expenses to a minimum and focus on our primary goal, which is to raise money for the Xavier Project.”
“African meets Black Tie” had previously been the tagline for Bongo Ball, by which the organizers intended to bring together the African vibe of the night, through the Zambula band and bright prints adorning the venue, with the ball culture of St. Andrews. The aim had always been to create a truly unique event and embrace the culture of those the Xavier Project aims to support.
Unfortunately, some individuals have in the past misappropriated this idea and there have been questions raised about negative stereotyping, rather than viewing the ball as a celebration as it is intended.
Dunk is determined that the ball is a positive force; she told The Borgen Project: “This year we want to highlight the positivity of the ball, encouraging guests to embrace the freedom to wear what they want.”
Bright colours and bold prints are suggested and the committee are encouraging guests to buy Rafiki fabrics, which are printed fabrics straight from a micro finance project of the Xavier Project in Kenya, which provides refugees with a source of income and employment through production of these handmade fabrics.
“The Xavier Project helps to give refugees back their freedom and the Bongo Ball reflects this with its fun, upbeat vibe. Anyone accusing the ball of stereotyping should take a step back and look at what it achieves for the charity year on year,” said Dunk.
Page, who now lives in Nairobi, Kenya, got in touch with The Borgen Project to tell us how the money raised this year would be used.
“The money this year will pay for the school fees of our students in Uganda. We have 78 altogether in Uganda and every year we fund their education through Bongo money. Our students in Kenya are sponsored by individual donors. It costs £100 (roughly $163) per year for all expenses for a primary student and £400 (roughly $655) for secondary and currently we have 67 in primary and 11 in secondary. This number might go up next year if we raise enough money,” he said.
Page, Dunk, Capaldi and the rest of the team are passionate about the Ball and have a highly positive outlook for the success of this year’s event.
Capaldi, who is organizing a promotional video for the ball in a forest near St. Andrews, added, “Our promotional campaign has already been so strong, we’re aiming to smash last year’s total of £10,000 (roughly $16,375) and since this year’s Bongo will be bigger than ever, I have every confidence that we will!”
Details for the event and the charity can be found at The Bongo Ball and the Xavier Project.
– Charles Bell
Sources: Personal Interview, The Bongo Ball, Xavier Project