KARACHI: For American singer Mary McBride, her audience for the concert on Sunday could not have been better.
Around a dozen people were already dancing by the time her band of five musicians finished the first song. Four of them even joined her on the stage and sang with her. The only difference was that the audience was physically and mentally challenged.
McBride was performing in Dar-ul-Sukun, an orphanage at Kashmir Road. She is in Pakistan as an exchange visitor for the ‘American Festival of Arts’.
Rubina, 48, was complaining about not getting colour pencils and books distributed by the US Consulate at the event. But as the evening progressed she forgot about them and danced with the crowd.
“The audience was extremely enthusiastic throughout,” said McBride. “The feeling of playing for people with special needs is very satisfying.” Her band immediately termed “food and people” as the best things in Pakistan. They related Islamabad and Lahore to Washington, and the mad paced Karachi to New York.
Amanda Claudwell, the US press attaché in Karachi, was also present at the concert. It was her first visit to a Pakistani orphanage. “These kids are having more fun than the concert last night,” she said, referring to the concert held at the house of US consul general on Saturday night. She said that the American festival has been going on since last spring and will continue till winter. “It brought about the exchange of visual artists, performers and comedians among the two countries,” she said.
The visitors also saw the artwork made by the residents of the orphanage. The art project is called ‘Artpreneurs for change’ and is aimed at enabling, engaging, and empowering mentally and physically challenged people with creative and artistic expression. Experienced art therapists, students of clinical psychology, and educational institutes help with the project.
According to the in charge of Dar-ul Sukun, Sister Ruth Lewis, the orphanage has a staff of around 50 people to look after its 195 residents. “The needs of these people are so diverse that no amount of attention is ever enough,” she said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2011.