Global community activist and Oscar award winning actor, Sean Penn and Robin Wright Penn visit UAACC/KUJI

Arusha Times correspondent

July, 2005  Imbaseni Village

Pete O’Neal and his wife Mrs. Charlotte Hill O’Neal and KUJI Foundation founder Mr. Geronimo ji Jaga, recently hosted Oscar winning actor Sean Penn and his family at the United African Alliance community Center UAACC, located in Imbaseni Village, Arusha, Tanzania.
 

Sean Penn, who won the Academy Awards Oscar for the 2004 hit movie, Mystic River and is currently starring with Nicole Kidman in the block buster thriller, The Interpreter, was in Arusha, Tanzania to support the work of UAACC and the KUJI Foundation, a community organization founded by former political prisoner and human rights activist, Mr. Geronimo ji Jaga.  UAACC and KUJI have formed a strong partnership which has resulted in several successful projects serving the people of Tanzania including the Imbaseni Community Water project and the Spirit of the Panther community bus service.


From left to right:  Sean Penn, Brother Geronimo and Mzee Pete during visit to UAACC


Mama Charlotte shows Sean, Robin and their children the joint UAACC/KUJI Imbaseni Community Water project


Brother Ngongoi, a Maasai youth, explains to Sean and Robin along with UAACC/KUJI volunteer Gaidi Faraj, about his unique, vibrant culture during visit to his village in Maasailand


Brother Geronimo, Brother Sean and Brother Pete relax at George Mavroudis Safaris luxury camp in the Serengeti

O’Neal, formerly Chairman of the Kansas City Chapter of the Black Panther Party, founded the UAACC in 1991 in order to provide an educational center for the youth and elders in Imbaseni Village, the rural community located outside of Arusha, that he and his wife, Charlotte have lived in for nearly three decades.  Pete O’Neal founded the Heal the Community exchange program in 1995 which provides cultural immersion activities for ‘at risk’ youth in cities across America.  DeLaSalle Education Center located in Kansas City, (one of Arusha’s Sister Cities), has been selecting youth to participate in this positive life altering program since its inception.


Sean Penn, who arrived in Arusha July 19, was accompanied by his wife, Robin Wright-Penn, also an accomplished actress and movie star and their two children. The Penn family visited the Arusha region for one week, taking in the rich cultural offerings of the local community. However, their primary purpose was to witness the work of KUJI and UAACC, so that they can “serve as ambassadors of goodwill back in the United States, sharing the success stories of these organizations with others in the film and entertainment industry”.

During their visit, the Penn family were able to visit a remote Maasai village; participate in an ngoma (traditional dance) ceremony lead by the African Traditional Dance Group; toured the campus, enjoyed delicious meals and visited with students and volunteers at the UAACC; went to a local orphanage and village primary school; assessed the feasibility and needs of several new projects initiated by KUJI, including a plan to bring solar power to the local village around UAACC and KUJI headquarters, as well as a joint venture with Arusha Node Marie ANM (a non profit internet service provider) to increase the bandwidth and service of Elimu on Line, ANM's community service component which offers free Internet service to qualifying schools and community organizations.
Pete O’Neal also organized a unique adventure to the world renowned Serengeti National Game reserve with George Mavroudis Safaris, one of the top luxury safari companies in the world.  The Penn Family accompanied by O’Neal, ji Jaga and UAACC/KUJI volunteer Gaidi Faraji, were able to get a birds eye view of both Mt. Kilimanjaro, (the tallest point in Africa) and Mt. Meru plus several active volcanoes in the area, as they flew in a chartered plane to the Serengeti. They later drove through the midst of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest, zebras, elephants and other animals on their annual migration to greener wilderness.

 While this was Sean Penn’s first visit to Africa, Robin Wright Penn has visited Africa before, spending time in Senegal, West Africa. “Our time here in Tanzania has been absolutely magical”, Mr. Penn said before departing, “and we will definitely be back!”

To learn more about Pete and Charlotte O’Neal’s work at the United African Alliance Community Center go to www.uaacc.habari.co.tz

To learn more about Geronimo ji Jaga and the KUJI foundation go to www.kujifoundation.org

To learn more about George Mavroudis Safaris go to www.gmsafaris.com

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