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Grammy winner creates haven for kids

By Jessica Moskowitz, CNN
March 26, 2012 -- Updated 1856 GMT (0256 HKT)
Thulani Shabalala works with children at Umuzi Kababa Performing Arts Center in Umgababa, South Africa.
Thulani Shabalala works with children at Umuzi Kababa Performing Arts Center in Umgababa, South Africa.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Grammy-award winning singer builds a community center from scratch in South Africa
  • Photographer, singer document Umuzi Kababa Performing Arts Center's progress
  • Thulani Shabalala: I ... felt like we had to do something for the people

(CNN) -- One member of the Grammy award-winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo garners praise for more than just his rhythm.

iReporter Lulis Leal saluted singer Thulani Shabalala for his dedication in building the Umuzi Kababa Performing Arts Center in Umgababa, South Africa.

"His community performing arts center helps provide a safe haven to many high-risk neighborhood children with nowhere to go after school and nothing to do to occupy their time," she says. "The center promotes traditional Zulu singing and dancing and gives children a sense of pride and inspiration for a better life."

This photographer, who's married to the musical group's manager, Mitch Goldstein, has known Shabalala for more than 20 years. The two filmed an iReport video to highlight Shabalala's efforts to empowering children in this small community with music and art.

Singer Thulani Shabalala with photographer Lulis Leal at the Umuzi Kababa Performing Arts Center.
Singer Thulani Shabalala with photographer Lulis Leal at the Umuzi Kababa Performing Arts Center.
Children dance and sing with a member of Grammy-winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Children dance and sing with a member of Grammy-winning group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Shabalala has worked since 2009 to build the center. \
Shabalala has worked since 2009 to build the center. "I felt I should give back to the community," he says.

CNN spoke with Shabalala about his effort to create the center and his hope for the future.

CNN: What inspired you to start building the Umuzi Kababa Performing Arts Center?

Shabalala: In sing with the group, I saw a need. I saw the people who support our music and felt like we had to do something for the people. My father (Joseph Shabalala, founder of Ladysmith Black Mambazo) has been trying to build a school for kids. He said it was going to be very easy for me since it's not too far from where I live. I saw the kids there. Some of them don't have money to go to school or even for food. I felt I should give back to the community. We have done some of the things for the community but I wanted this to be personally coming from me.

CNN: How has the center evolved?

Shabalala: I started working in 2009. The area had a broken house with no windows and no doors. There was nothing. I had to build the stage starting from scratch. So far, we have done a number of things. We've hosted workshops. We've done a month-long celebration for women and children. And we've had a ceremony with artists: Ladysmith Black Mambazo sang, and my brother's group sang as well.

CNN: What has been the response from the community?

Shabalala: Parents come and thank me. Kids are always around playing.

CNN: How can others help?

Shabalala: Through this work, we started a (non-governmental organization). If there are people who want to reach out and help the kids now, we are going to send children to go to school. We've already made a website for anyone who wants to help send kids to school.

What are you doing to Impact Your World? We want to hear your story about how you or someone you know is making a difference in the lives of others. Go to CNN iReport for details.