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Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars Spread Joy And Raise Awareness Through Music

Bonnie North

The easing of the Ebola crisis in Africa comes as a relief to public health officials around the world, but even more so to the people in the African countries affected by the crisis - places such as Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The situation in that country is being watched closely by a musical group that's been essentially stranded in the United States since the crisis began.

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars emerged from a refugee camp where its members had ended up in the wake of the country's brutal civil war.  

A pair of filmmakers discovered the group and told its story to the world, and their popularity took off. Three original albums followed, along with collaborations with western bands and concerts around the world.  

The group is still waiting to go home - but is using its extended time in the United States to raise money to support efforts to fight Ebola. They played a benefit concert at UW-Milwaukee this month, and several of their members dropped by WUWM to speak with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich and play some music.

Band member Reuben Koroma has traveled to many cities in the United States, but says no matter where he goes, poverty is a relative term.

"From what I Africa they have physical poverty, but they have emotional happiness. And here, they have physical riches, but they have emotional poverty," Koroma says.

The band's main mission is always to spread joy through music. "I believe that music is a way to comfort the soul...and it's also helping us right now," he says.

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.