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Facing up to a challenge

FACE Africa founder Saran Kaba Jones with Matthew Jones of the Ecohomes Liberia project (left) and Tennesee Titan Rennie Curran at the Taj. FACE Africa founder Saran Kaba Jones with Matthew Jones of the Ecohomes Liberia project (left) and Tennesee Titan Rennie Curran at the Taj. (Photos By Bill Brett for The Boston Globe)
By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
March 28, 2011

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FACE Africa founder Saran Kaba Jones understands the power of Twitter. Last year, the executive director of the Cambridge organization — which works to bring safe drinking water to villages in Liberia and to create economic opportunities for Liberian women — sent fashion designer and former MTV reality star Whitney Port a message on the social network, telling her that she might be interested in helping with the FACE Africa cause. Within a week, Kaba Jones and Port were having lunch in New York. Within a few months, Kaba Jones was taking Port, Port’s parents, and Port’s sister Paige through Liberia so the family could see first-hand how scarce water can be in the African country.

Port, who was one of the special guests at Saturday night’s FACE Africa second annual Clean Water Benefit at the Taj, said her participation in the cause was a no-brainer, especially when Kaba Jones explained that she wanted to partner up with women in the fashion industry. “I immediately called her,’’ said Port, who brought Paige and her parents to the party and donated $1,000 in merchandise from her fashion line to the night’s silent auction.

Other big names at the event included celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson, who was honored for his work with UNICEF, his model wife Maya Samuelsson, former Liberian ambassador to the United States M. Nathaniel Barnes, former NBA player Dikembe Mutombo, City Councilor Tito Jackson, Matthew Jones of the Ecohomes Liberia project, event diva Marilyn Riseman, and Tennessee Titan Rennie Curran. But the star of the night was Kaba Jones, who greeted her 200-some guests in a gown by Haitian-bred Boston designer Prajje Jean-Baptiste. “He dressed me last year,’’ Kaba Jones said, beaming. “He’s one of my best friends.’’ A note on Paige Port: She worked for the Red Sox in guest services while taking summer classes here.