February 21, 2019 by Lori Lerner, MD
From the moment over 100 guests, volunteers, and event partners walked through the doors of the Hingham Community Center on Feb 9thto support Pothawira Village in Malawi, they were introduced to a wonderful experience! This special evening, A Night of Africa, was created to bring the colors, flavors and sounds of Africa to friends and neighbors; to share knowledge of the culture; and to give people a real taste and feel of that faraway continent that some of us will never have a chance to experience otherwise. In the main room, tables were adorned with hand carved items from Malawi and tasty tidbits from Nigeria and Ghana. Smells of Ehtiopian food prepared by Yosef Haile of the Blue Nile wafted through the air. The surrounding ambience of African music curated by DJ Larry Love and the conversations of people in English and Malawian Chichewa, swept guests into the unique sensory feel of A Night of Africa.
A short walk to the bar took guests through a hallway “jungle” of balloon trees, coconuts and monkeys, all made by Lee and Maggie Brusa of The Balloon Platoon, and Erica Cordeiro of Bella Decorations Party Design. At the bar, options of Ethiopian Honey Wine, varieties of South African wine, and imported beer from Nigeria and Kenya were served.
A turn to the right and African art, beautifully displayed, showcased the life and craft of citizens of Malawi. With glass in hand, guests browsed the paintings and carvings of Malawi artisans that were for up for auction, the majority of which were framed by South Street Gallery. The auction was further elevated by Hingham artisans Valerie Mine, Barbara Nicosia, Kathi Lesko and Julie Kembel, who created custom paintings, glasswork, fused glass abstracts, and a decorative wall quilt with African themes and colors. Each auction item was linked to a Child Ambassador from Pothawira Village, celebrating the benefactors of the fundraising effort. Raffle and sale items completed the offerings, nearly all paying homage to the theme of the evening – Africa.
Highlights of the evening included entertainment by Mohammed Kalife and Ed Sorrentino with their African drums, The Roxbury Center for Performing Arts with African dance performances by a group of Boston teens, presentations, and a movie showing life at Pothawira Village and Salima. After dinner, sweet treats made by Hingham resident Victoria Donnelly of Cakeology, and members of the New England Malawi Association, were paired with African coffee and tea. Guests were sent home with African continent cookies made by Lori Lerner’s husband, Damian O’Brien, a baker by trade who put his skills to work for the event. Brusa’s balloon animals, and take out containers allowing guests to bring some food home, helped guests share some of the night with those that couldn’t come.
The event raised $17,000 for Pothawira International. Raised money will be used towards supplies for the Hingham High School Construction Club’s project in Africa this summer, and surgical supplies for a prostate program. This first event was just the beginning and the group is already looking forward to next year, with new items to be collected by the volunteers headed to Pothawira this summer. Hope to see everyone at the Second Annual Night of Africa next year!