Sunday, January 30, 2011

Up with People program coming to Grand Bahama

By K Nancoo-Russell
The Freeport News - Host families are being sought to house some 70 members of the Up with People Program who are expected to visit the island in the next three weeks.

Up with People is a non-profit organization that provides young people between the ages of 18-29 with an international and intercultural experience that teaches service leadership and uses the performing arts to deliver messages of hope and goodwill throughout the world.

The full cast that will be visiting Grand Bahama from February19-25 is made up of nearly 100 persons from 20 countries and more than 25 U.S. states, but promotion coordinators Shawna Reed and Brandon Serna have been on-island for the past three weeks and were able to secure host families for some of them already.

Serna explained that the group's visit to Grand Bahama was initiated when the general manager at the Pelican Bay Resort Magnus Alnebeck saw the group perform and became interested in finding out how the group could visit the island.

After some communication, Grand Bahama was added to the tour. The visit is sponsored by the Pelican Bay Hotel with support from the Grand Bahama Youth Choir and The Bahamas Weekly.

During their week-long stay, the cast members will do volunteer work with several organizations on the island, and their visit will culminate with their performance on Thursday, February 24 at the Jack Hayward Gymnasium at 7 p.m.

"It's international song and dance, it's about two hours long, it's really high energy, with lots of lights and colours.

"It showcases our cultures, but also has that undertone of peace and understanding and civic engagement and really is a call to action, asking the audience to use their talents and gifts, whatever they may be, towards the betterment of their communities," explained Reed.

"It's a fun show, we've got some hip hop, we've got some R & B, we've also got some Japanese songs, Chinese songs, and in the end we see that music is the universal language, that no matter where we come from, we all feel it. You're going to see a song in Japanese or from Africa and you're going to be like, 'I don't know what they're saying, but I like it,' and so that's what brings us together in a sense," says Serna.

Proceeds from the show will go toward the Grand Bahama Youth Choir.

"We're hoping to send two students from the Bahamas to travel with our group in July to represent their country, and be ambassadors and travel the world with us and perform with us so we're pretty excited about that," he said.

Host families are asked to provide breakfasts, most dinners, local transportation and a place to sleep for their guest.

"That doesn't mean a nice bed, it could be a hammock or a sleeping bag or a couch," says Serna, who counts among his experiences sleeping in a barn in Thailand.

"That is all part of the one of a kind experience," he notes.

Although the cast members will be gone during the day participating in community service and show preparation, most evenings they will be home with the family to participate in their activities and interests.

"Even though it's just five days, it's really amazing how you develop a strong relationship with them (hosts)."

Reed said the interaction with the families help cast members to learn about the country and develop long lasting contacts, and benefits the host families as well since they are exposed to their guests' cultures.

"It's such a cool opportunity to share your culture as a Bahamian.

"For many of the cast members, this is their first time to the island, so what they take back from the island is going to be how it's presented to them."

Host families receive two free tickets to the show.

Persons interested in hosting a member of the Up with People Program can contact Reed at sreed@upwithpeople.org or by calling 533-6857.

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