In the Belmont community, there are many ways to get involved with causes that can help change the world.
Students all across campus participate in organizations and are members of groups that bring awareness to issues that not only reach nationally, but touch the entire world on an international level.
One such student, Robert Kelly, has found his own way to make a difference in the lives of people around the world through his passion for music and his passion for the children of the world.
On Tuesday, March 3, Kelly and his band performed a benefit show in the Curb Cafe that helped raise awareness of and funding for an upcoming trip to Africa this summer. They will travel to Congo, Rwanda, and Kenya to work with music-playing kids for two months.
“In these countries, we’ll be working with a choir and an accompanying band, as well as working in ‘Internationally Displaced Persons’ camps with children and families who have been displaced from their homes by war, thus unable to create income and living in terrible conditions,” Kelly said. “Part of our fund-raising is for buying things such as soccer balls and food for a lot of people in these camps.”
Senior Ben Whalen attended Kelly’s show at the Curb to support his friend and to support his trip to Africa. “I think it is a commendable thing Robert is doing,” he said. “He has been to Africa before and fell in love with it and I’m happy he is going back to show love to the forgotten.”
Kelly’s first trip to Africa was to Kenya in 2008 with a summer camp in Texas, his home state, called Sky Ranch.
“We were there for a month, and put on a summer camp for 80 kids each week,” Kelly said. “Most of the kids were from a tribe called the Maasai.”
On his trip, Kelly painted and played relay games and football – what we know here as soccer – with the kids, and he talked about the love of Christ with the people he encountered.
“On this trip, we thought our mission was to go and teach the kids about Jesus, and it turns out they taught us a whole lot more than we could have imagined.”
On one of the first days Kelly was in Kenya, a high school student asked him to play a song when they saw his guitar.
“I scrambled for something to play, but I couldn’t think of anything, and wound up making up a song with a few Swahili words I had learned,” he said. “As we all jumped and sang this song, I saw that I was in the presence of a beautiful people who were truly alive, and full of an abounding love, joy, and hospitality that I had never witnessed in the United States.”
Members of Kelly’s band include David Supica, bass guitar and Adam Bokesch, percussion. “They’re amazingly talented guys,” Kelly said.
Kelly’s show involved great crowd participation and energy on the part of the band. Bokesch was on the floor playing various instruments during the set, and did not limit himself to just the drums.
“The band really wanted an African feel to the show, so they had Bokesch playing various types of African instruments,” Whalen said.
A crowd favorite was a cover of Bob Marley’s “One Love.”
“The whole cafe was singing by the end of the song,” Whalen said. “And the show was intimate and fun for all those who attended.”
The band will play shows in Nashville, Texas, Los Angeles, and Alabama, to name a few, in the coming months to benefit their trip.
“We’re about to start raising money by sending out tons of support letters,” Kelly said. “However, I really enjoy getting to play shows to raise money, as it’s just beautiful for the two things I’m passionate about to support each other.”
Donations and support from family and friends will allow Kelly and his band to make the trip this summer and will allow the love of music and Christ to be shared with children in Africa who might not otherwise get to experience it.
“It’s not hard to put money in a little cardboard box and send it to help a person you know nothing about, but it is hard to pack up your things for a few months and live over in Africa while trying to make an impact on individuals,” Whalen said. “Robert is putting his words and love into action, and we really must applaud that and respect him for what he will do this summer.”
And for Kelly, “The opportunity to empower musicians who can make a difference in their society is the greatest honor to me. I think we can change the world through love and music, if we want it bad enough.”