Aid for Uganda Through Music

By Talia Whyte
Special to Global Wire

Jim Logan is using his musical talent to make a difference in the world. The jazz guitarist and Berklee college alum will be travelling to Uganda on Thursday for three weeks to perform in at least four internally displaced people (IDP) camps and two townships. These concerts will also provide much needed health services.

“I am really excited about this opportunity,” he said. “This is an incredibly experience and I am really looking forward to it.

Logan first traveled to the east African country in 2004 under a grant from the US Embassy to perform with a band of local musicians at a barely
sustainable camp for internally displaced peoples in the northern part of the country. UN Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland has called the plight of these people as “the largest neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.”

Conflict in the northern parts of the country continues to generate reports of abuses by both the rebel Lord's Resistance Army and the Ugandan army. Torture continues to be a widespread practice amongst security organisations. Attacks on political freedom in the country, including the arrest and beating of opposition Members of Parliament, has led to international criticism, ending in May 2005 in a decision by the governments worldwide to withhold part of its aid to the country.

In addition, while the country has seen a decrease in HIV infections in recent years, Uganda still has among the highest rates in the world.

Knowing that this was a good opportunity to make people aware of their health, Logan invited non-governmental healthcare organizations to deliver services from tables around the edges of the audience during his 2004 performance. Logan believes that his performance eased the stigma of people getting tested for HIV. To prove this Logan says that 100 HIV testing kits were brought to the performance, believing that not many of them would be used. After the performance all the kits were used, leaving a demand for more.

“There was a relief of the stigma that night,” he said. “The music makes people feel more relaxed and the fear of HIV testing is reduced.”

This time Logan is returning to Uganda with 2,000 HIV kits as well as malaria testing kits and mosquito nets donated by Abbott Pharmaceuticals. He is also receiving help from The Berklee College of Music Alumni Grants Association, Christian Aid and Save the Children Uganda. Doing tour preparation in Uganda is the Concerned Parents Association, an organization of parents whose children have been abducted and forced to be child soldiers.

“My partner, Stefanie Pollender, had a lot of great connections with these organizations that are helping us out," Logan said. “She is very involved with the British Quakers Association. She has made a phenomenal contribution to this project.”

Traveling with Logan and Pollender will be Berklee assistant professor Herman Hampton, a bass player and Roxbury resident. Logan also hopes to return to the US with a young man named Godfrey, a piano player he met while living in Uganda two years ago who has been accepted to Berklee College but faces obstacles due to the lack of funding for full tuition. The situation is more complicated as the Ugandan is currently raising his own three children and the three children of his brother, a noted Ugandan musician himself, who died of AIDS.

“We applied and he was accepted,” Logan said. “He got $50,000 scholarship that will be distributed equally throughout the four years. But obviously this is not enough to pay for tuition. We are raising funds through my organization to get him through school.”

Logan formed his Cambridge based organization called CARAVAAN to support further exhibitions combining music and health service delivery in Uganda. CARAVAAN is the acronym for cultivating art and realizing alternative ventures for aid to the African nation. Its mission is to use live music as a way of delivering health services to disenfranchised Ugandans. This includes HIV testing and counseling and other health initiatives. CARAVAAN also has an endowment for outstanding
African artists to attend colleges in the US.

Reminiscing about his last tour of Uganda, Logan said, “It was the most
significant musical experience of my life. We made a difference in the
lives of many people that day.”


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