OGDEN -- Encouraged by its success in raising money to provide a well for a village in Ghana, a local group now wants to start an orphanage in Liberia.
Kathy Gambles said she loves the way she feels after spending a couple of hours playing African drums. She and a group of friends drummed once a month through last winter and spring at the Eccles Community Art Center and raised enough money to build a well.
Now the group, associated with the nonprofit Africa Heartwood Project, is hoping to raise enough money to build an orphanage in Liberia, which would help orphaned children return to their native home from Ghana.
The Jan. 20 drum circle was the first of three. Others are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on the third Fridays of February and March at the art center, 2580 Jefferson Ave., to raise funds for the orphanage.
It's free to participate, but donations are accepted.
At the first drum circle, grandparents, parents with babes in arms and parents with teenagers filed into the art center, some with their own drums and others with African-style bracelets to sell after the event.
Some wore authentic African clothing, while others wore blue jeans and T-shirts.
Deja Mitchell teaches the drumming class along with Andy Jones, who founded the Africa Heartwood Project in 1999. The group became an official nonprofit in 2008.
Now, there are donors from all over the world and groups that travel to Africa to help with the many challenges the people face there.
Jones lives in Salt Lake City but comes to Ogden for the drum circles.
"It's a great community feel here," Jones said. "I can't quite explain it, but it's something special."
Raising funds by conducting drum circles provides a relaxed environment, he said.
"It's not like a gala. When you walk away, you've done something for someone else, but you've gained something," he said.
Gambles agrees. She has been involved with the Africa Heartwood Project for three years and has also been involved with the drum circles.
She tells all her friends and family to come and enjoy an evening of "good feelings."
Gambles has been working to raise awareness of the drum circles and of the Africa Heartwood Project in the Ogden area. She said she caught the vision of the Africa project and wants to raise as much money as possible for the cause.
"Andy is like holding hands with the circle of people in Africa. That money is really focused right to them," Gambles said.
She has found the therapeutic side of the drumming to be irreplaceable because "it feels so good to experience the joy of the drums and know you are benefiting kids at the same time."
She said she has seen miracles arise from the Ogden drum circles.
"You look around and wouldn't have believed we raised $1,000," Gambles said of the group's effort for the well last year.
Once that much money was raised, work got started on the well, and more money rolled in to complete the project.
Gambles hopes that same spirit of giving will exist this year.
"It feels so good knowing you are making a difference."