The University of Maryland and the Nyumburu Cultural Center have formed a partnership to increase awareness and understanding of diversity, particularly concerning race and culture. Nyumburu is Swahili for “freedom house”. The Nyumburu Cultural Center has served the University community for 27 years. Nyumburu’s productions and activities include lectures and seminars, art exhibits, workshops in the dramatic arts, dance, music and creative writing. Academic courses in blues, jazz, gospel music performance and creative writing are also offered.
The Nyumburu Cultural Center is dedicated to advancing and augmenting the academic and the multi-cultural missions of the university by presenting a forum for the scholarly exchange and artistic engagement of African Diaspora culture and history. All programs are open to the entire university community and are open to the general public.
The Joint Service Project is a new program that has been created within the Nyumburu Cultural Center. This community service program, created by Toby Jenkins, Coordinator of Campus/Community Outreach & Public Relations, focuses on issues affecting the Black community as well as join together groups of various ethnicities, race and cultures.
The program has addressed the issue of homelessness through working with Sasha Bruce Youthworks. This agency provides various services for youth runaways, abandoned children, and children given to the center upon parental request. The program provides shelter, meals, tutoring programs, cultural trips, etc. The University of Maryland has sought to create a unique connection with this group in providing physical labor support, tutoring and mentors, as well as providing transportation and invitations to campus events. The goal is to expose youth to a higher education environment so they will choose to pursue a college education.
Through the Friendship House, the program provides family support services including welfare to work programs, daycare centers, tutoring programs and teenage employment programs.
The Joint Service Project also serves the student community at Maryland. It is important while students pursue degrees and careers, they simultaneously are exposed to issues for which these degrees and their education could potentially help.
The Joint Service Project consists of diverse groups coming together on several Saturdays during the semester to focus on an area of service, travel to the site to perform the service and then reflect on the service over lunch. Nyumburu provides transportation, food and the service site. Each Saturday focuses on a different community need. The first Joint Service Project was held in November 2000, at the Friendship House in Washington, DC. Twelve student organizations participated as well as several individual students.