Julia Amaral: Recorders for the Batwa | TheUnion.com

Julia Amaral: Recorders for the Batwa

Other Voices
Julia Amaral

A few weeks ago, The Union newspaper alerted our generous community about efforts to donate new and used recorders to the Batwa (pygmies).

We have received 166 recorders, and for that we are sincerely thankful. For those of you who have not yet donated, the Kellermann Foundation may accept additional recorders through Labor Day.

The Bwindi region of Uganda is much like Nevada County in its passion for music, and the Batwa (pygmies) have a rich tradition of drumming and dancing. However, the only instruments they have are drums and their voices.

We believe recorders will be enthusiastically embraced and hope you will give new or used recorders to the Kellermann Foundation for distribution to the Batwa.

Recorders are lightweight, portable, inexpensive, easy to care for, and relatively easy to learn to play. A nonprofit organization called "Recorders without Borders" has agreed to provide an instructor to go to Bwindi and teach the local teachers and ministers. All we need are recorders. With the many musically-inclined people in Nevada County, we are hoping citizens will be willing to give new or spare recorders to the Kellermann Foundation, so they can be distributed to the Batwa.

In 2004, my husband Mark and I joined Scott and Carol Kellermann in Uganda. We enjoyed driving in the countryside on one-lane dirt roads in their Land Rover, outfitted as an ambulance. As soon as we stopped under the shade of a large tree, people materialized out of nowhere wanting to see the doctor. It was amazing to see how far Scott's reputation had spread in only one year.

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Carol and I spread a tarp on the ground, unloaded a box of wound care equipment, sat down and were immediately busy. Children lined up while Carol and I scrubbed, applied ointment and bandaged one wound after another. Meanwhile, Scott put on his white medical coat and stethoscope, grabbed a three-legged stool and sat down. The line of patients was quite long. Hours flew by and, finally, we were the only ones left on the roadside. We felt exhausted but joyful. How much more meaningful could a day be?

The next day we drove out again and stopped at a path leading uphill to a village. We lugged all the gear up the hill and were instantly surrounded by the entire village. Everyone, young and old alike, broke into spontaneous drumming, dancing and singing. Word of Scott's healing efforts had spread here too and the people were thrilled with his medical attention. We all danced quite a while before Scott bid the music be stopped. He said a prayer that was understood only by us, but felt by everyone present.

After several hours of attending the villagers, we stumbled back down the hill to the vehicle. Again, we felt exhausted, but joyful. I was beginning to understand why the Kellermanns were in Uganda serving these abandoned people. For Scott and Carol, there was meaning, purpose and joy. For the Batwa, there was thankfulness and joy in receiving care and attention. Wherever we went on that and subsequent trips, the Batwa spontaneously sang and danced.

Now there is a fine hospital, nursing school, and grammar and high schools served by Ugandan doctors, nurses and teachers. There is improved health for the Batwa, increased childhood survival, and fewer deaths. The dedication and support of the citizens of Nevada County has contributed greatly to these successes.

Dr. Scott Kellermann, Dr. Jean Creasey, Mark Strate and I are part of a team heading to Bwindi in September and will carry as many donated recorders as possible. Please contact me at 274-1040 to arrange pickup. Or, you may deliver them to the Music in the Mountains office on Searls Avenue in Nevada City, to Dr. Scott Kellermann's office at CoRR, or to Dr. Jean Creasey's dental office on Pine Street in Nevada City. Our deadline to accept donated recorders is Labor Day.

The Batwa have been enriched in many ways. Please help us enrich their musical heritage as well. Thank you in advance for your compassion and generosity.

Julia Amaral lives in Grass Valley.

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