Sheraton Hotel- New York City , NY– September 22 , 2009
Taia Peace Foundation ("Taia Peace"), a non-profit organization co-founded and chaired by acclaimed actor Jeffrey Wright, held its inaugural fundraising event to help raise monies for the rehabilitation of an eighteen-mile stretch of road in Kailahun District, eastern Sierra Leone. Mr. Wright and Kevin Jackson, also of Taia Peace Foundation, joined former District Counselor for Penguia Chiefdom, Lucy Jibila; current District Counselor for Penguia, Daniel Mangar: Chief Patrick Dauda-Kowa of Woroma Section, Penguia; and Chief Tamba Lahai of Konobendu Section, Penguia Chiefdom on stage with the 42nd President of the United States of America Bill Clinton to publicly state their commitment to the project at the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on Friday September 25, 2009.
Just prior to President Barack Obama's speech at the opening plenary session of CGI, Taia Peace welcomed guests-Ben Stiller, Jessica Alba, Jonathan Demme, and Alicia Keys among them-to the Sheraton New York Hotel for an afternoon of live music from Sierra Leone's own Bajah + The Dry Eye Crew, a keynote speech on Rethinking American Engagement with Africa by Nobel Prize-winning former Chief Economist of the World Bank Joseph Stiglitz, and an award ceremony honoring individuals who have exhibited extraordinary leadership in their public roles relating to Africa.
Formed in 2007, Taia Peace Foundation, the charitable arm of Taia, LLC, began with a focus on Sierra Leone but with the intention of expanding its reach throughout the Continent. Out of an awareness that many African countries are rich in natural resources but often are lacking the economic development commensurate with such natural abundance, Taia Peace derived its mission: to assist rural African communities in overcoming the so-called "resource curse."
Honorees at the New York City event included the President of Sierra Leone, His Excellency Ernest Bai Koroma; former Finance Minister of Nigeria and current World Bank Managing Director, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; and posthumously, former Paramount Chief of Penguia, Sahr Francis Kabba-Sei. Late Paramount Chief Kabba-Sei first introduced the founders of Taia Peace to his chiefdom, and for this reason, the future Taia Peace Foundation Award will be named after him. Accepting this year's award on behalf of the late Paramount Chief were Penguia representatives Jibila, Mangar, Dauda-Kowa, and Lahai, whom the Foundation invited to the United States from Sierra Leone. The chiefdom representatives returned later in the program to convey their personal perspectives of life during the Sierra Leone Civil War and of life without a functional road network in a post-conflict setting.
Donated by Tiffany & Co., The Taia Peace Foundation Award is a 7.5-inch Revere bowl which is filled with kola nuts in tribute to the life-giving work of the honorees. Part of the travel of the Sierra Leone visitors was made possible through the generosity of Virgin Atlantic Airways.
The Taia Peace Foundation so far has raised $75,000 to be used for the critical restoration of the road leading from the town of Manowa to the town of Sandaru.
Later that week, Mrs. Jibila, Counselor Mangar, Chief Dauda-Kowa, and Chief Lahai traveled to Washington, D.C. with Mr. Wright to attend the Congressional Black Caucus' Annual Dinner, which Mr. Wright co-hosted. There, the Sierra Leonean representatives had the opportunity to hear President Barack Obama speak, and later received a rousing welcome from the 4,000 guests at the Dinner when Mr. Wright introduced them from the podium during the evening's program.
Their week in America culminated with a private tour of the U.S. Capitol Building and a visit to St. Albans School for Boys, where the Penguia representatives had the opportunity to address some of the students. Earlier in the week, in Brooklyn, New York, they also had the opportunity to speak to a group of students from the Saint Ann's School.