Last year, The Weehawken Reporter followed the story of a local musician who was raising money to support a struggling community in Africa, particularly a 16-year-old boy named Solomon Kembo.
After years of political turmoil and a severe drought in 2008, the village of Mudzi ADP in Zimbabwe, a community of roughly 500 people, was in disrepair. Aid had been cut off and famine gripped the village.
But with the help of Weehawken musician Joi Veer and many others who donate to the World Vision organization, the village has endured the food shortage and is now taking steps to better their community.
Recently, Veer and others got a special letter.
“I’m happy to write this letter to you,” said Solomon in a handwritten letter sent to Veer two months ago. “This year’s drought has made us suffer from hunger.”
According to a separate letter from World Vision from mid February, money from Veer and others has greatly improved the community, stating “Mudzi ADP is a success story.” Construction of two new health clinics and two classroom blocks has already been completed, in addition to food storage granaries constructed in the community.
“I send warm greetings to your family,” Solomon said in his letter to Veer. “How is your family and kids? Please send me pictures. Our family also says hello.”
How it started
Last year, after years of donating $30 a month to the organization, Veer decided to do more. With the release of his CD Unsung in March of 2008, Veer donated proceeds of it, along with two other CDs, to the organization. Veer’s music, which is geared toward TV and film, has been featured in the 2008 Bejing Olympics, the 2006 Torino Olympics, as well as on a number of TV shows like The Late Show with David Letterman, and American Idol.
“I just saw that world hunger is really unnecessary,” Veer said last August. “This crisis in Zimbabwe, the crisis of drought, became quite an issue. They depend very heavily on the rains, which they get December, January, and February. [In] January [of 2008], I found that the rains were not coming, and I said to my wife, ‘You know what? Let’s release [the CD]. We’ll send whatever we make to Zimbabwe to help their effort.’ ”
“It was so surreal because before you meet them you only have pictures.” – Joi Veer
Back in 2001, Veer and his wife Tara planned a three and a half week trip to Africa and wanted to visit Solomon, whom they were paired with by the World Vision organization 12 years ago. After the events of Sept. 11, the trip was postponed until early 2002.
“When I saw him, I just wanted to hug him,” Veer said. “It was so surreal, because before you meet them you only have pictures.”
Later that year, Veer and his donations financed a $1,000 pump for the well and extra school books for the children.
“Solomon was a typical 10-year-old boy [at the time],” Veer said, “shy and a little awkward. We didn’t realize that we would get to go into his classroom and meet his friends. They had a writing assignment, and 12 kids gathered around Solomon’s desk and all shared one piece of paper. It was unbelievable.”
Veer ended up staying the night in a hotel and took Solomon to school the following morning. Leaving was heartbreaking for Veer.
Making a difference
Now that his music and money have helped make a difference, Veer is considering a similar donation drive when his next release, tentatively titled Re-Charge, is finished next year.
“I considering doing something similar next year,” Veer said, “if another severe crisis hits. After taking the last year off to focus on [the donation drive], it’s been really nice to get back to writing.”
Veer has already finished 15 tracks for his upcoming CD, which he will begin recording this May.
For more information on Joi Veer or to sample songs on any of his three CDs, please visit: www.cdbaby.com/cd/veer/3.
Sean Allocca can be reached at email@example.com