Students run Freedom Music Fest to raise funds for Kenyan bakery

Brigit Benestante

The Freedom Music Fest will be on campus, but the cause it supports is 9,000 miles away in a small orphanage. 

Students for Wema, the organization in charge of the festival, is raising funds for a bakery in Bukembe, Kenya, in the hopes that the bakery will provide the village with a sustainable source of income and halt the growing sex trade in
the area.  

The festival will take place on the Main Mall on Saturday. 

“[The village] needed something that would teach the children business skills but also give them something they need,” said Madison Gove, president of Students for Wema. “It was a win-win situation.”

Students for Wema, which is dedicated to helping the Wema Children’s Centre in Kenya, was previously on campus in 2011 but disassembled after the head of the organization graduated. Gove, business honors and government junior, took part in restarting the organization in 2013. 

“I heard about it from a friend and was just coming into college, and I thought it would be really cool if we restarted it,” Gove said. “We worked pretty hard last year just to get it up and running again.” 

Gove and other members started allocating funds to build a bakery in Bukembe. Currently, the nearest bakery available to the village is over 30 miles away. Although the Freedom Music Fest is free, attendees can enter a raffle by buying a $5 ticket. All funds from the raffle ticket sales will go to supporting the bakery. Six bands will perform at the festival, as well as the Longhorn Circus and other student organizations.

Business honors sophomore Farahn Seibert-Hughes is the director of marketing and public relations for Students for Wema. Seibert-Hughes said she started looking for bands last spring.

“We wanted to get a greater cultural enrichment, something that’s good for the students but that also would help us raise funds at the same time,” Seibert-Hughes said. “Everyone likes music, and it’s free. We’re not only trying to help others, but providing entertainment in the process.” 

The Sky Divided, a San Antonio-based alternative rock band, is one of the bands performing at Freedom Music Fest. David Casarez Jr., lead vocalist and guitarist for The Sky Divided, said the band members have been on three mission trips to Haiti and were interested in participating when they heard about the initiative to help the orphanage.

“A lot of times in the music scene, it’s a really selfish vision,” Casarez said. “We always look for who we can team up with for a bigger cause. Teaming up with the Students for Wema, it’s kind of just a perfect fit.”

Seibert-Hughes said working on the music festival was empowering.

“I feel I’ve really changed as a person,” Seibert-Hughes said. “I felt really passionate because I realized I could utilize my time for something that would help others, not only myself.” 

Gove said she and Seibert-Hughes felt out of place before starting the organization, but it has since shaped their experiences in college for the better. 

“We’re really interested in nonprofits, so, coming into McCombs, we didn’t really feel like we had a place,” Gove said. “This organization and this festival have made us feel like we can use business for good and combine our skills for our passion. It’s also shown us that other students have the exact same passion — this has brought it out of people. It’s just
really inspiring.”