'Heart for Congo' fundraiser features auction, films, performances
The Democratic Republic of the Congo -- a vast, resource-rich, yet underdeveloped and war-torn nation in central Africa -- is one of the poorest countries in the world.
A Pittsburgh couple with deep ties to the region, Becky and Jeff Cech, have decided to do something to help. "Heart for Congo" is a cultural event and fundraiser supporting a teaching project in the Congo, featuring a silent auction of art, Congolese snacks, crafts, short films, and a performance by the Wacongo Dance Company, a traditional Congolese dance and music ensemble. The event is Saturday at the Paramount Pictures Film Exchange, a historic building in Pittsburgh's Uptown neighborhood.
The silent art auction features donated works from primarily local artists, including James Simon, Christo Braun, Tim Oliveira and Pat Perry. Proceeds benefit the Congolese Advocacy Memorial Project (C.A.M.P.) Fund, which supports a rural nursing school, medical aid organization and teaching projects.
This year, C.A.M.P. is collaborating with a Congolese university on "The Jitoe Project," which seeks to help build Congo's professional class. In Swahili, Jitoe means "give of yourself," an expression that describes gifts of time, service and talent The Cechs will contribute their professional skills for a year in the Congo. Jeff Cech, who recently earned a master's degree in journalism and media arts from Duquesne University, will teach classes at the Universite Chretienne Bilingue du Congo (UCBC) in broadcast journalism and media ethics.
Becky Cech, a Ph.D. student at the University of Pittsburgh, grew up in a rural area of the Congo, where her father was a hospital administrator and headmaster of a nursing school. She plans to teach writing and African literature at UCBC.
"Heart for Congo" will last from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday. The Paramount Film Exchange is located at 1727 Boulevard of the Allies, with an entrance on Miltenberger Street. Admission is $5. Details: www.congostory.org.