Extraordinary/Ordinary Person of the Year
Larry and Judy Kendall Backgrounder
April 04, 2008
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Larry and Judy Kendall are the recipients of Gitana's "Extraordinary/ Ordinary Person of the Year" award.
Gitana Productions - 2008 "Extraordinary/Ordinary Person Award"
Volunteers for African Refugee and Immigrant Services
The Kendalls have been helping Africans in St. Louis for nearly five years, volunteering with the African Refugee and Immigrant Services (ARIS) which provides assistance with housing, employment, education, furniture, food and legal referrals.
ARIS’s greatest strength, according to Larry, lies in the strong personal relationships and trust established between caseworkers Sheiknur Hassan and Khadija Osman, who are former refugees, and the refugees they serve.
Both of the Kendalls are ARIS board members and Larry is secretary/treasurer. His greatest concern is the organization’s tenuous financial situation, which continually threatens continuation of the many important services ARIS provides.
The Kendalls are most closely involved with Somalia refugees in St. Louis. They make sure that home visits are made to nearly every new family, then quietly go about procuring furniture, household products and connections in the community.
Working cooperatively with the Community Education Program of St. Louis Public Schools, Larry developed and supports an after-school program for Somali teenagers to inspire a love for learning and help them develop communication, reading and writing skills. Many of the students come from countries with no written language, or where girls are not allowed to attend school.
“This program provides skills that many of the students missed in their native countries,” said Larry Kendall. “We love to see them so eager to learn and to uncover what’s on the next page.”
A classroom instructor and a strong group of university students serving as tutors provide expertise, enthusiasm and motivation for a rewarding educational environment.
The Kendalls are passionate about sharing the rich and varied African cultures with the larger community. Through ARIS, they were instrumental in creating an annual African Thanksgiving dinner, where Africans from many countries share cuisines and cultures with other Africans and with St. Louisans.
Working with Africans in St. Louis since 1995
The Kendalls became involved in Africa and Africans in 1995 as a result of their initial association with the parents of slain Fullbright Scholar Amy Biehl and the Amy Biehl Foundation Trust. The Kendalls were inspired by the Biehls, who involved people involved in their daughter’s death in an unimaginable reconciliation effort to build barriers against violence in townships near Cape Town, South Africa.
The Kendalls have hosted Amy Biehl’s mother Linda Biehl along with Ntobeko Peni and Easy Nofemela at numerous speaking events in St. Louis, providing opportunities for them to share their story of forgiveness, reconciliation and rebuilding as a provocative model of dealing with pain and injustices. Linda, Ntobeko, and Easy remain very active even though Amy’s father Peter succumbed to colon cancer in 2002.
“The Amy Biehl Foundation has given us a greater awareness about what refugees face,” said Larry Kendall. “I agree with Linda Biehl who said, ‘If you are more aware of other cultures, you can become a better citizen of your own country.’”
Larry says that South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu taught the Kendalls the meaning of “ubuntu,” described in a Beliefnet interview as “the essence of being a person.” Larry believes this philosophy ties in well with a quote by Lila Watson and a group of Aboriginal activists which states, “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But, if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Larry is retired from Purina Mills. Judy is a language arts teacher at Mary Institute and Country Day School and plans to retire this spring. They have three children and eight grandchildren.
Gitana events bridge the gap
On April 27, 4:30 p.m., Gitana Productions will present “Faces of Darfur,” a hauntingly beautiful collection of photographs by award-winning journalist, photographer and humanitarian relief worker Gina Bramucci. The photos, many of them portraits, capture Bramucci’s relationships and interactions with the Darfuri people and shed much-needed light on the crisis in Darfur. The exhibit at St. Louis City Hall will run April 27 through May 3.
“Complacency of Silence: Darfur,” an original play by St. Louis playwright Lee Patton Chiles, dramatizes the humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan, Africa. The play provides insight into the lives of the Darfuri people such as mothers struggling to feed their babies, children eager to go to school, and young men and women looking towards marriage and family.
Performances of “Complacency of Silence: Darfur” run from May 23 through June 8 at the Saint Louis University Theatre. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under (parental guidance is suggested). For tickets, call Metrotix at (314) 534-1111 or or Gitana at (314) 721-6556, and visit www.gitana-inc.org.
Gitana Productions, Inc. is a not-for-profit arts and education organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural awareness and collaboration by bringing international music, dance and drama to the St. Louis community. Gitana events present a rarely seen diversity of international and local artists exhibiting an array of traditional and innovative artistic expressions. For more information, visit www.gitana-inc.org or call Gitana Productions at (314) 721-6556.
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Media Contact: Mary Schanuel
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