By Kate Camargo.
As a relatively new member of the African Sky family, I was honored to be able to attend the organization’s ninth annual banquet and silent auction on October 17, 2015. Although I have been volunteering as African Sky’s administrative director for a little over a year, it was the first time I had the chance to meet most of the African Sky leadership team and board members in person. These long-term African Sky volunteers have made the annual event the cornerstone of African Sky’s fundraising efforts over the past decade. To sustain an event like this for such a long period of time, it’s essential to have dedicated, energetic, and passionate volunteers—and this passion for African Sky’s partnerships with Malian communities was certainly on display that evening.
As Scott Lacy, African Sky’s executive director, announced during his update on African Sky activities, the last year has been one of great growth for the organization. With a large group of new volunteers and board members, a new strategic plan, and exciting projects on the ground in Mali, including the opening of a new literacy center, there was much to celebrate. Scott also talked about the importance the silent auction holds for the overall financial well-being of African Sky—last year, the silent auction accounted for one-third of overall revenue.
With dozens of silent auction items on display, a live auction featuring a stay at a vacation home in South Carolina, and a giving tree that allowed attendees to purchase essentials for Malian families, including school supplies, goats, and chickens, attendees had many opportunities to support African Sky’s work. With almost 95% of last year’s revenue going directly to projects on the ground in Mali, the funds raised from the silent auction would be put to good use in the coming year. As Scott Lacy explained to attendees, upcoming projects include field recordings of grassroots Malian music, solar panel installations at community health clinics, and increased partnerships and cultural exchanges between US and Malian schools.
A highlight of the evening for me was the energetic West African drumming and dancing provided by Olu Manns and HeartBeat Afrika. Three generations of the Manns family provided a strong beat for dancing, and a good portion of the crowd joined the African dancers on stage to learn some new moves.
The 2015 silent auction was another successful event, bringing in just over $10,000 for African Sky. But more importantly, it allowed supporters to come together to learn more about African Sky’s work and to celebrate its accomplishments. I hope I’ll be able to attend again in future years.