African Community Care Team celebrates local successes and diversity

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The local African dancers, as well as other cultural dancers and musicians, will perform Wednesday night at the fifth annual International Evening and Benefit.

— Daouda Adama's son turned one year old last month, but Adama has not met him yet.

He moved to the United States from Mauritania six years ago to seek asylum, and once he secures American citizenship, his wife and son can join him in Steamboat Springs.

Adama moved here to pursue the American dream.

"It's just about education for me. I just think education helps people to be accomplished human beings and I think all Africans should dream about it," he said. "Once you are in the U.S.A., you have a lot of opportunity. It's not just a dream. You can make it a reality."

Adama is one of about 30 West Africans currently living in Steamboat, who have been supported by members of the African Community Care Team such as the founder Matthew Barmann and his wife, Nicole Goode.

They are hosting the fifth annual International Evening and Benefit from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Olympian Hall to celebrate the diversity in our town and highlight the situation in West Africa.

"A lot of these guys are victims of violence or torture and have been kicked out of their country," Barmann said. "There are refugees here in town, living with us from across the world."

The event will entail ethnic cuisine, live traditional entertainment and educational, service and country information tables.

Phil Gazley, training coordinator for World Advocates, will be the keynote speaker.

One of the topics Gazley will address is the issue of slavery and human trafficking occurring in Mauritania.

"It is the last known country in the world that still has old style slavery in its culture - where ownership of individuals continues through generations," he said. "Human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry behind drugs and is what I would describe as the disposability of people. Both of these things are still going on."

Gazley said one the main reason these West Africans are in Routt County is as a result of the race riots in 1989 that were created by the government in an attempt to remove some of the population.

"When I left the country, they were having a civil war," Adama said. "A lot of black people left Mauritania and went to Senegal to live in refugee camps and were trying to get to the U.S. or Europe."

Adama's wife and son now live in Senegal. He is grateful for the African Community Care Team for helping him to find a job so he can send money home to his family. They also help with translation services and complicated paperwork.

"They do too much for us. These people are really wonderful," he said. "I don't want to ask people to help me. The only thing I just want is to get to know them. That is the most important thing."

- To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204

or e-mail aplean@steamboatpilot.com

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