Children Beyond Our Borders hosts free salsa lessons to improve education in Colombia


The sound of Cuban music was all you could hear on SW 1st Avenue in downtown Gainesville on Wednesday night. Dozens of people danced in the middle of the street, which was closed to traffic, as the music blared.

Children Beyond Our Borders hosted a salsa dancing event on Wednesday night to raise funds for its local and international programs. The nonprofit’s mission is to improve the quality of life and education of students in Latin America, particularly in Colombia.

“My coworker told me about this, and I came,” said Maddie Schneck, who attended the event. “We’re just here to have a good time and dance. It’s nice that it’s going to a good cause.”

The event, titled “Dance for Good: Havana Nights Edition,” ran from 6 to 9 p.m., attracting people of all ages and cultural backgrounds.

“Salsa in Gainesville is apparently a really big community,” said Jade Troy, manager at The Bull. The downtown bar provided the location for Dance for Good.

The event featured a free one-hour salsa and bachata lesson taught by an instructor at Salsa Mundial and live music by Elio Piedra. The Bull provided drinks and snacks.

Dancers smiled as they learned the basic steps to bachata and salsa. Later, they were able to put their new skills to the test as Piedra played classic Cuban salsa hits and modern bachata songs by Prince Royce, Zacarias Ferreira and other popular artists.

“There are no places in Gainesville to dance to Latin music,” said Juan Vega, who attended the event with his family. “So, this is a good opportunity to come over and dance.”

Attendees were encouraged to donate $10 upon arriving. According to Maria Eugenia Zelaya, the executive director of Children Beyond Our Borders, this money will go towards the many local programs the organization offers, including free health clinics for the Hispanic community, academic tutoring for children and English classes for adults.

Donators were gifted hand-made bracelets made by a young girl in Colombia. (Amy Galo/WUFT News)

“It’s a great cause, so definitely anything we can do to help that very special cause, we will be willing to do so,” said Vega, who made a donation.

Everyone who donated was gifted hand-made bracelets made by a young girl in Colombia.

The non-profit organization was founded in 2003 by Colombian students at the University of Florida who wanted to give back to their homeland.

“We work with children in Colombia and underserved populations in rural Florida, so this event really helps us raise money for a lot of our initiatives within the larger umbrella of Children Beyond Our Borders,” said Choeeta Chakrabarti, co-director of the organization’s Crossing Borders Through Conversation program.

Elio Piedra, the local entertainer who performed at Dance for Good, said he was moved to be part of such an impactful event. He said he is passionate about supporting organizations like Children Beyond Our Borders that strive to make a difference.

“My mission is to support Children Beyond Our Borders and bring the ‘fiesta’ as I always do to my people,” Piedra said. “This is a very important and wonderful cause that we are trying to bring awareness to… you have to just go for it if you want to make a difference in the world.”

Chakrabarti shares Piedra’s love for the cause, as well as the people involved with it.

“It’s great to see students from UF and other universities really donating their time for such a great cause,” Chakrabarti said. “They’re really making a difference.”

About Amy Galo

Amy is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing

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