TOWNSEND — More than 100 people turned out for “A Night of Peace” at Memorial Hall during a recent Friday night.
Hosted by Squannacook Elementary School teacher Fred Goldberg and his fourth grade class, the event was a resounding success according to one of the night’s organizers, Jen Melanson. “I only wish it had lasted longer,” she said.
The guest speaker was Nana-Fosu Randall, who for 30 years was chief financial officer for the United Nations. Today she travels the world raising funds for Voices of African Mothers, or VAM, which she co-founded with friends, and the John William Montessori School in Ghana, which she established.
In a recent interview, Randall said her work with the UN inspired her to found VAM and the two causes are now her life’s work.
“Nana’s speech was very well received and her student intern, Jonneke, who also spoke, added a note of youthful enthusiasm to the evening,” Melanson said.
Melanson and those parent-partners who work with Goldberg on the class project that sparked the event have also launched a fund-raising effort to help VAM. Outside the classroom, the group is selling VAM-made African jewelry and other unique items, such as T-shirts inspired by Nana’s African art collection.
On Friday night, they raised $378 for VAM and took in $200 in donations to help support two orphaned children who live at the John William School. The group plans to keep up the good work.
Music was provided by Tony Vacca and Steve Leicach, members of the world-renowned group African Rhythms, who donated their time and talent. They played for over an hour and folks who attended said it was an exciting and memorable performance.
“We were dancing in the aisles,” said Goldberg. “It was an awesome evening.”
Deborah Anne Mayer is one of the parent-partners in the group that co-organized the event, along with Melanson, Sherril Massida and Tracey Berg. Mayer came with her daughters, Rachel 9, and Katie, 10, who is also one of Goldberg’s students this year.
“Meeting Nana was an incredibly emotional experience for me,” said Mayer, who hosted a reception for Nana at her home Thursday night. “She was warmly received by many Townsend residents and felt at home immediately,” she said.
Mayer said the speech Nana gave at Memorial Hall Friday night was moving and included stories of her world travels, from Afghanistan to Liberia, Africa, where she has witnessed “many atrocities” done to women and children who are the victims of war and poverty.
“Nana loves children,” Mayer said. And when Goldberg’s class sang a song of peace, the guest speaker stood up, in tears, and personally thanked each child with a warm handshake, she said.
She added that musicians Vacca and Leicach “lit up the stage with captivating rhythms and beats.”
It was, she said, “an incredibly moving evening, filled with emotion and energy.”