Global Activism: Chicago area drummer's music helps Guinean villagers

June 12, 2014

Photo by Helen Bond
School built in Guinea's Sangbaralla Village through donations from the Motherland Rhythm Community's Benkadi Project

Helen Bond was an IT Project Manager. On the side she enjoyed playing the djembe, a Guinean drum. Being part of Chicago’s “West African Drumming scene” inspired her to quit Corporate America. Helen and drumming partner, Amy Lutz, for years have gone to Guinea to learn from Drum Masters. after many trips, they discovered the enormous needs of the people there. Helen and Amy will tell us how drumming transformed their lives and the lives of people in Guinea’s Hamana region. We’ll also speak with Guinean Drum Master, Fode Camara. He’s in Chicago to teach djembe drumming.

Helen told us how Motherland Rhythm Community’s Benkadi Project was born:

In December 2001, I traveled to Guinea. Amy Lusk traveled to Guinea in January 2002. After my trip, I met with Amy to help her prepare for her trip. When Amy returned we met again to discuss our experiences.

We traveled to Guinea, West Africa to study traditional hand drumming. We discovered the great joy of playing music in community. We also saw the deep suffering of the Guinean people due to lack of economic development, poverty, lack of educational opportunity and access to clean water and health services. When we returned to the United States, we began talking about life in Guinea at my drumming events and with our friends and families. Eventually, we co-founded the Benkadi Project to respond to these challenges. Benkadi means “To live together is very good.”

Today, the Benkadi Project is working to provide clean water to people in Guinea, West Africa, one of the poorest countries in the world. In Guinea, people often drink from polluted streams and contaminated wells, causing serious and recurring illness and even death from cholera, dysentery, typhoid and E. Coli bacteria.

Something as simple as clean drinking water can literally save lives in Guinea. Our organization builds and delivers innovative biosand water filters to homes in Guinea to address this problem. We employ community members to construct the filters and teach residents how to use them.

Last year we delivered 64 filters to families near Conakry, Guinea. As a result, 640 individuals now have access to clean water. People who used the filters reported a dramatic reduction in illness and improved health and well-being. Each filter proves clean water to 10 people for 10 years, at a cost of just $300 per filter or $30 per person.

We do our work person to person, hand to hand, heart to heart. We have:

  • Food, medicine, school, repaired wells Provided food, agricultural assistance and medicine, constructed a school and repaired wells in remote villages.
  • Clean water In the last two years, we have developed a Clean Water Initiative in Guinea focusing on water filter systems for individual households. 
  • Biosand Filters These filters have already changed the lives of 600+ hundreds of people in Guinea.
  • Demand is great - we’re ready to scale our project out and ultimately hope to travel to villages to delivery the filters.
  • We’re not a big operation, we’re a conduit for friendship, resources and for collective efforts to create a more humanistic world. Together, we’ve seen the power of individuals to make change.