Irish folk dancing, break dancing, and Middle Eastern and African tattooing were among the highlights of a Saturday event at Hoover’s Veterans Park to raise awareness of hunger, disease and illiteracy in developing countries.
The event drew nearly 1,500 visitors and raised $95,000 to combat those problems, said Hamidah Premjee, a Birmingham volunteer with the Aga Khan Foundation USA.
Aga Khan is a nondenominational, Washington-based group that is part of a network established by the 49th hereditary imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
Visitors learned about the foundation’s Milk and Hope program, a partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide milk as an incentive for students to attend school in developing countries.
The Reviving Hope Hospital, another exhibit, demonstrated treatment for malaria.
Other exhibits highlighted the foundation’s microfinance program, which provides small loans to promote self-sufficiency, such as nets for fishermen and sewing machines for seamstresses.
The foundation “gives people tools and loans to start their own businesses,” said Premjee, who grew up in Pakistan and came to the United States about 10 years ago at age 18 to continue her education.
She said that health programs help develop strong minds and bodies, while educational programs and loans help people become vocationally self-sufficient.
Roberta Stamp, of Westover, and a member of the Birmingham Irish Set Dancers, said her group was invited to contribute to the event’s cultural diversity.
Lynn Maxfield, a leader of Brownie Scout Troop 1316, which meets at the Joseph S. Bruno Montessori Academy in Shelby County, said several of the girls came because a member of their troop is from Pakistan and told the others about Saturday’s event.
“They have learned about other cultures and the health needs of other cultures,” she said.