Annie Casciani

In its second year of existence, Miami University’s chapter of Ambassadors for Children is pairing with its national headquarters and the Malawi Project, Inc. to help build a new educational center and library in Malawi, Africa.

And in order to raise the funds for its projects, Ambassadors for Children is hoping that Miami students will be able to get their dancing shoes on.

A fund-raising event is scheduled for March 29, titled “Dancing for a Change,” and hopes to raise funds for the facilities in Malawi.

According to Marissa Hirsh, a member of Ambassadors for Children, the event will be from 5-9 p.m. and will be broken up into four segments where different dances and music will be performed and played.

“We have instructors lined up for 15-minute lessons at the beginning of each hour so you get a kind of crash course in the dance genre and the rest of the hour will be filled with food, music and the opportunity to ask questions about where the money is going,” Hirsh said.

Instructors will range from Miami students to Leigh Bradshaw, a salsa instructor at Cincinnati’s Best of Ballroom dance studio.

Eleven students from the organization will be traveling in May to an orphan’s village in Malawi, where the children are left without parents primarily due to HIV and AIDS, according Hirsh.

“We will be putting on different educational workshops as well as helping the library just be set up,” Hirsh said. “Our chapter is planning on bringing a big donation of books to put on shelves or we may be putting up the shelves.”

Students at Miami became involved in the national nonprofit organization when assistant Miami professor Karen Montgomery and two students collaborated with the national group. They wanted to see if affiliating with the organization would help meet their dreams of aiding children around the world, Montgomery explained.

Miami was the first university to create an on-campus chapter and since then 27 other chapters have been founded across the country. Kelly Campbell coordinates many of the major projects for Ambassadors for Children and first offered the chance for Miami students to visit Malawi, which the organization has been doing since 2006.

“We took our first trip to Malawi last June,” Montgomery said. “It impacted us and hopefully impacted them.”

The Miami chapter pairs the national organization in order to create sustainable projects in places such as Malawi because donated items, such as coloring books and toys, are useful but they often have an expiration date. However, long-term projects make it possible for the people to help themselves long after Ambassadors for Children has left the area, Hirsh said.

Malawi is the third poorest country in the world and is lacking severely in educational programs, according to Campbell. However, Ambassadors for Children is also coordinating efforts in to build schools in Uganda, Guatemala and Serbia, among other countries.

“Ambassadors for Children chose to pair with the Malawi Project Inc. because their headquarters are both located in Indianapolis, Ind., and they connected because their purposes are so similar,” Montgomery said.

Ambassadors for Children is hoping to inform the student body about the event through word of mouth, the other organizations students participate in and several methods of advertisements on campus including table tents.

The coupling of dance and fund raising was inspired by the popularity of dance right now, including the television show Dancing with the Stars.

“Dance media has captured the popular imagination,” Montgomery said. “What could be better than a combination of helping those in need and having fun?”

According to Hirsh, each participant will be asked to give a $3 per hour donation fee and will be able to choose how many of the four segments they would like to attend.