Booth at international fest aims to help Ugandan children

Thet Thet, 12, of Thailand waits with fellow dancers for her performance to begin at the International Festival in Bowling Green on Saturday.

Ella Burnside

Hundreds of Bowling Green residents flocked into downtown Bowling Green on Saturday for the International Festival.

Each year, on the last Saturday in September, Bowling Green’s Circus Square Park becomes a one-stop, international marketplace. People of all different ethnicities come to share their culture and heritage with residents through music, dance, authentic foreign foods and activities that educate children about the different cultures represented.

The festival, which began at 9 a.m. and lasted until 7 p.m., was a flutter of activity. People lined up outside the fence to get into the festival, families walked from booth to booth, and children performed the dances of their culture in traditional clothing. Those running the booths and serving food spoke to one another in their countries’ native language.

Louisville freshman Leah Brown described the festival as a miniature representation of the diversity of America.

“The United States is called the ‘Melting Pot’ for a reason,” Brown said. “We are a very diverse country and it’s cool to see all of that diversity in one place, at one time, and have it be something that is celebrated.”

Within the melting pot of the international festival was one booth that stood out to many of the festivals attendees. The booth was squished between the Costa Rican stand and the stage where young Burmese dancers performed a line dance together. It was run by Elizabethtown-based non-profit organization “Fields of Dreams Uganda.”

The executive director of Fields of Dreams Uganda (FoDU), Michael Warneke, spent the day talking to festival attendees about his organization and the work they do to help children in Uganda. The mission of FoDU is to provide hope for the orphaned and vulnerable children of Uganda through the vehicles of soccer and education. Volunteer and WKU alumni Rebecca Redd joined Warneke.

Redd graduated with her bachelor’s in social work in 2008 and her master’s, also in social work, in 2010. While at WKU she was a member of Phi Alpha and was a homecoming contestant in 2008.

Redd became involved in FoDU when she met Warneke through an organization called Sweet Sheep. She has been to Uganda twice.

“The people of Uganda lack almost everything we have, but they have this intrinsic joy that we will never have,” she said.

Warneke said FoDU wouldn’t have been at the International Festival if Redd hadn’t told him about it.

Redd said it was a great opportunity to make many people aware of the work the organization was doing to help children in Uganda. She’s been attending the festival for four years.

“I love the International Festival,” Redd said. “I look forward to it every year.”