Almost 6,500 miles from Seattle, snuggled between Senegal and Sierra Leone on Africa’s west coast, lies Guinea, West Africa. Although the nation is approximately the same size as the state of Oregon, its population is much more abundant; 10 million people call Guinea home, compared to Oregon’s four-million residents. And of those 10 million, approximately half of Guineans live in or around the capital city of Conakry.

Unlike many of its neighboring African countries, Guinea is not plagued with deforestation and drought but instead boasts fertile regions of agriculture and rainforests. It is also rich with bauxite, which is considered to be the most important aluminum ore. Guinea is the world’s fourth-largest supplier of bauxite, and it is believed that the nation holds almost half of the world’s reserves.

Despite these natural resources, Guinea is still a developing country, and therefore nearly all its residents live in poverty. Malnutrition and insufficient healthcare services are rampant among Guineans.  Most are without essential services such as running water and electricity. And because they also lack an effective educational system, this is a reality that is unlikely to change.

Unfortunately, this is the mask of Africa that we all know too well. We Americans grow up with the image of a poor, hungry, overpopulated, disease-filled Africa. And unfortunately for us, we so rarely are allowed to glimpse the real face of Africa. Few of us know what it is like to be inspired by Africa; even fewer get the opportunity to experience Guinea’s most excellent resource – her people.

Imagine what your life would be like without the benefit of a solid education. Which menial tasks would suddenly become burdensome chores? Would you be able to count proper change at the grocery store? Would you be able to catch the correct bus to work? Perhaps you might be able to handle one or both of those tasks. But could you complete a job application? Or would you know the importance of good hygiene?

The Guinea Kids Health & Education Fund makes an impact. Statistics show that each year a child spends in school in a developing nation increases their earning power by 10-percent. And we agree with author Ben Sweetland’s summation on the strength of education, “We cannot hold a torch to light another’s a path without brightening our own.”

Learn more about Guinea here

In 2019, Guinea Kids Education Fund (GKEF) restructured it’s mission, vision, and board to add healthcare as an integral component of supporting a more robust, healthier Guinea. You can read more about the Guinea Kids Health & Education Fund Board of Directors here. 

Marissa was inspired to start GKEF when preparing to take her first trip to Guinea to study traditional dance in 2007 with Karim Koumbassa. She was inspired to give back in a meaningful through music and dance. As a teacher that values their children and education, she saw an opportunity to make a connection with the children.

Since 2007, Marissa has been bringing the flavor of her rich travel experiences to World Dance. Having twice spent a month studying traditional dance in Guinea West Africa and 20 years in Seattle classes, this is by far her area of specialization. An avid traveler, Marissa has also journeyed to Greece, Turkey, Ireland, Bali Indonesia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hawaii, often studying dance where she ventures.

As a dance instructor for young children, Marissa passionately believes in giving children exposure to a greater awareness of their global community through sharing dances from around the world. She has studied many dance forms since 1976. West African dance has been her primary passion since 1993. Polynesian and Cuban dance have been new passions since 2016. 

Marissa has studied Creative Dance and Brain Dance with Anne Green Gilbert and Terry Goetz and Creative Movement with Eric Johnson. She is a member of the Dance Educators Association of Washington and National Dance Educators Organization and values attending conferences for continuing education. Marissa has taught children’s ballet, tap, jazz, and creative dance. She currently teaches World Dance classes for preschool through the 2nd grade. 

Marissa is a student of cultural dances and is deeply grateful to her many teachers. She highly encourages all her students to learn more about these dances from experts, especially ones from the dance’s culture.

You can learn more about Marissa here

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