February 20, 2008
By Tracey Hackett, Contributing Editor
U2 lead singer Bono has described her as â€œone of the heroesâ€ for her response to the African AIDS pandemic.
Agnes Nyamayarwo is the leader of the Mulago Positive Womenâ€™s Network, an organization started in January 2004 to address the special needs of HIV-positive women in Uganda.
August 28, 2006
By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
On Aug. 25, 2005, the St. Petersburg Times in Florida warned its readers about the possible dangers of Tropical Storm Katrina. "While not a hurricane, it is a reminder of how quickly storms can develop and threaten the state," the paper wrote.
Just a few days later, residents in Louisiana and Mississippi learned how quickly storms could develop into a threat when Hurricane Katrina struck. The devastation that followedâ€”caused directly and indirectly by Katrinaâ€”would, according to the Discovery Channel, kill 1,836 people, mainly in Louisiana and Mississippi. Hundreds more still remain unaccounted for.
The millions of survivors were left without homes, schools or businesses and were evacuated to locations all across the country. As the pictures and stories flashed across televisions, newspapers and magazines grew more and more grim, many were left to wonder if the region, particularly culture-rich New Orleans, would come back.
"It is a live culture," is how the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. describes the city. Taking its character from the various groups that have settled in the city (including French, Spanish and African), the city has become renown for its music, food and lifestyle.
After Katrina, though, it seemed that those things could be lost forever. In addition to funds being raised to rebuild the physical structure of the city, money was also needed to bring the cultural life back to New Orleans.
"New Orleans is a crucible for great music," The Edge told Rolling Stone last November. "The idea that it would be just a place of history for music is awful to me. Coming from Dublin in the ’70s, when music was something you had to search out, I’d never dreamt that somewhere like New Orleans could exist. Music was coming out of the walls. It seemed not just a form of escapism, but like it was weaved into everybody’s life."
That idea led The Edge to join forces with MusiCares, the charitable arm of The Recording Academy, music producer Bob Ezrin, Gibson CEO Henry Juszkiewicz and Guitar Center CEO Marty Albertson to create Music Rising, an organization designed to aid musicians impacted by the hurricane.
"My recent visit to New Orleans gave me a first-hand look at the devastation which tragically destroyed the lives of thousands," The Edge said at a press conference unveiling the organization. "The area’s rich and spirited culture must be restored and can be by assisting those musicians affected by the disaster, which in turn will bring back the essence of the regions. Providing replacement instruments through Music Rising will not only help the professional musicians to regain a foothold on their future, but will also ensure that one of the Gulf Coast’s greatest assets, its music, will rise again."
Since its inception, Music Rising has given $1,000 grants to musicians to buy new instruments and equipment at cost. The Edge has been able to hand over the new instruments himself at a variety of Music Rising events, including the reopening of Preservation Hall in April during JazzFest, where he also played with Dave Matthews Band and The New Birth Brass Band.
"While I was walking around at the jazz festival, four or five musicians came up to me and said, ‘Thanks for the new amp, man, it’s got me back on the road,’ or ‘Thanks for the guitar,’" The Edge told The Independent. "It was really inspiring, an amazing feeling, and it showed that this really is making a difference."
The organization is also getting noticed. Music Rising received the Gold Cause Marketing Halo Award for Best Transactional Campaign at the fourth annual Cause Marketing Forum conference in June and will be honored at the Billboard Touring Awards this November with its Humanitarian Award.
Music Rising has raised more that $1 million for musicians in New Orleans the Gulf Coast region through a number initiatives, including the sale of a limited-edition Gibson guitar, painted in Mardi Gras colors and made with woods from the affected areas, that is exclusively sold at the Guitar Center. The Edge signed a handful of the guitars that were later sold for $10,000 each.
The organization also sells a logo T-shirt worn by The Edge at this year’s Grammy Awards. Ticketmaster has established a series of auctions where winning bidders receive four concert tickets and an Epiphone guitar, with net proceeds benefiting Music Rising.
The Edge also hit the pavement to seek out donations, appearing in a public service announcement that ran on channels including VH1, as well as doing numerous interviews. In an interview with CNN, The Edge discussed a documentary he was making about Katrina and Music Rising.
A year after Katrina hit, Music Rising is still working to bring music back to New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf Coast. Through its website, which includes a blog and bulletin board, the organization takes donations, accepts grant applications from area musicians and shares some of The Edge’s experiences with Music Rising. The organization is also branching out to help schools, churches and community organizations, the places where, Edge once explained, the music really lives.
"Other parts of America have music scenes, but it really is a completely self-sufficient music culture in New Orleans," The Edge told The Independent. "It’s like the city is one giant music academy: everyone is into music, everyone’s learning how to play from other musicians. And with Katrina, that whole system has been completely shattered."
Music Rising is helping to bring that system back together.
For more information on Music Rising, visit its website.
June 12, 2006
By Ali Ficklin
Keep a Child Alive was founded in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002 by Leigh Blake after a mother and child walked into the AIDS Research and Family Care Clinic, a center funded by one of Blake’s previous campaigns, seeking anti-retroviral medicine. The mother knew that without such treatment her son would die but, unfortunately, due to the high cost of the medicines, the clinic couldn’t supply the drugs he needed. The mother had no intentions of leaving the facility without treatment for her ailing son.
Blake had compassion for the strong-willed mother and offered to personally pay for her son’s medicines. Word soon spread about Blake’s good deed and her friends and others, including Alicia Keys, wanted to help sponsor children as well. Not long after that, Blake and Maz Kessler co-founded the Keep a Child Alive campaign, allowing anyone to donate a dollar a day to provide the anti-retroviral drugs to the children at the organization’s treatment sites.
On November 3, 2005, Keep a Child Alive held its annual Black Ball fundraiser. Bono joined Keys via satellite to duet on a special rendition of Peter Gabriel’s "Don’t Give Up" called "Don’t Give Up (Africa)." The song was released exclusively on iTunes on World AIDS Day with all proceeds going to benefit Keep a Child Alive and was co-produced by Keys, the charity’s global ambassador, and longtime U2 producer Steve Lillywhite.
Of the song, Blake, who serves as the organization’s president, told U2.com, "It felt like a song meant to be recorded for Africa and I had been thinking about it for years. I knew this duet was going to be something special but true magic happened in that studio when Alicia and Bono came together. It came from their hearts directly to the African people and you can really hear that compassion in the song."
Keys shared her feelings on the song and charity with U2.com, saying, "I love this song. And I love Bono. I really respect what he has done for Africa and how he has used his fame to do good in the world. I hope I can do half as much in my life. Keep a Child Alive is my passion and my heartfelt mission. I believe AIDS is the most important issue we face, because how we treat the poor is a reflection of who we are as a people. I urge everyone to recognize the extreme disaster Africa is facing and step up for the Motherland."
Other musicians such as Dave Matthews, Coldplay, 50 Cent, Simple Plan and Rod Stewart also support the Keep a Child Alive campaign and can be seen on the foundation’s website, as well as voicing their support in the organization’s commercials that can be seen on MTV and various other cable networks.
For more information on Keep a Child Alive, visit the organization’s website.
May 22, 2006
By Jennifer B. Kaufman
"Educate a man, you educate the individual; educate a woman and you educate a family, a nation"
Cameroon, on the western side of the African continent, is a beautiful country with lush greenery and warm, loving people. It’s also a poor country where most girls spend their days doing the household chores and looking after younger siblings, often missing out on an education most America children take for granted. This is changing, however, for the 300 students of St. Joseph’s Girls Vocational High School in Bafut, Cameroon.
St. Joseph’s offers girls and women between the ages of 13 and 24 a comprehensive education in math, reading, writing, science, history and religion. Students also learn life skills like hygiene, sewing and cooking. It’s St. Joseph’s goal to have these girls use their education and skills to support their families and communities. The success of St. Joseph’s depends on the devotion and compassion of some very committed people. One of these people is Mary Rose from Milwaukee.
Rose learned about St. Joseph’s from a nun friend who’d been to Cameroon. The friend told her about the school, what it was doing to help the girls and the challenges it faced. Rose’s interest was instantly awakened. She was ready for a change in her life, the chance to make a difference. She’d also always been interested in African culture so when the friend asked if she’d like to come along on her next trip to the school, Rose responded, "I’m packed. Just tell me when."
Rose didn’t know what to expect when she visited Cameroon and St. Joseph’s. "I had no idea what I was getting into, other than I was open to their world and open to God’s plan," Rose said. Initially, she was shocked at the lack of amenities at the schoolâ€”the students have to share an outhouse and have only a spigot to wash up. She recalled the stench of the thin foam mattresses the students had to sleep on and the lack of proper school supplies. One of her first missions was going into the village to buy new mattresses. However, she was also greatly touched by the students who were overjoyed about getting an education. She remembers the enthusiasm the girls showed as they went about their daily lessons and tasks. "The beautiful part is they are so eager to learn," she said.
All images courtesy of Mary Rose
At first, the students were shy around Rose but soon responded positively to her warmth and generosity, bestowing her with the nickname Mama Rose. She brought art supplies with her and taught the students origami. Most of the students had never seen a glue stick or stickers, items that any American grade-school student would have no problem identifying.
Rose, who stayed in Cameroon for a month, initially thought of starting a pen-pal project between St. Joseph’s students and students back home in Milwaukee. When she asked the students who would like to be pen pals with American girls, all 300 hands shot into the air. However, Rose was so inspired by everyone at the school that she knew her involvement had to go beyond getting the girls pen pals. "You really leave your heart there," Rose said about the school, and she vowed to the school’s principal, Sister Theodosia, "I will do your work back home."
Since her return to the United States, Rose has done just that. She joined forces Milwaukee’s St. Ann’s Center to develop a foundation for St. Joseph’s called the Cameroon Fund/Educational Development Center to raise funds for the school. She has spoken to the members of her church about her mission to an enthusiastic response. She hosted "Arts in Action" at her condominium, featuring the artwork of local artists for a small fee. She even spoke to several classes at her granddaughter’s school and the students were so moved that they helped raise $500 for St. Joseph’s. Last Christmas the foundation sold a Christmas CD to raise funds and will sell the CD again this Christmas.
This spring, Sister Theodosia will visit Milwaukee where she will give a presentation about the school to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation in hopes of raising more funds. Rose says Sister Theodosia can best tell the story of St. Joseph’s because she lives it every single day.
Getting involved with St. Joseph’s has been life changing for Rose. It is like a full-time job, or better yet, a calling. "When I came home [from Cameroon] I said, ‘Here we have 300 young women that can make a difference; we can help them,’" she said.
The school faces many challenges that Rose is working to address. It lacks up-to-date books and adequate supplies. The conditions are unsanitary. Often the girls don’t have enough money to attend the school and some of the families in Bafut consider education unnecessary for young girls because the culture is patriarchal. The school is also challenged by the problems plaguing the African continent, including poverty and AIDS.
Rose has also dealt with challenges back home. She said the biggest obstacle she faces is getting people to take this situation seriously, explaining that some people only want to keep their donated dollars in their communities and that others don’t understand the magnitude of problems Cameroon faces.
Rose takes a clear look at these challenges and works on finding solutions. She feels it’s her mission to get people to care and it’s her passion that often makes people want to help the school. She’s currently working with someone to develop a Power Point presentation that she can use at her talks in the community and a website is forthcoming. Rose knows in her heart that we can all work together to make a positive difference in the lives of these students and, therefore, change their world.
Both St. Joseph’s and Rose have many goals. The school’s goal is to have adequately equipped classrooms with updated books, abundant supplies and technological equipment. The school also needs sanitary living conditions in its dormitories. In September, Rose will return to the school to survey the progress it’s making, see if living conditions have improved and learn of what else the school needs. Financially, she’d like to raise at least $1 million. As St. Joseph’s develops and educates its students, she wants to discuss the idea of having its graduates come to the United States for additional education and then go back to Cameroon to teach at the school. She’d also like to send recent American college graduates to Cameroon to teach at St. Joseph’s.
Though the school’s conditions are challenging, Rose ultimately finds St. Joseph’s joyful. Like students everywhere, St. Joseph’s students are filled with dreams and promise. They have shown abilities in many subjects, including mathematics, nursing, tailoring and graphic arts. Rose knows that by educating these amazing girls, many of Africa’s problems can be alleviated. "I so believe in what I’m doing," she said. "It’s not about me; it’s about co-creating with people who really want to get involved in helping the women of Cameroon." These dynamic and smart young women can help solve problems plaguing Africa including AIDS, poverty and hunger. They can help handicapped and sick children and can assist the elderly. They can also foster economic growth within their communities. Rose is convinced that if we all work together, we can help heal what is broken.
Ultimately Rose believes, "By helping these girls, we can make a lot of change in the world."
You can help make a difference for the students of St. Joseph’s Girls Vocational High School. To make a donation or to learn more, please contact:
Cameroon Fund/Educational Development Center
2801 E. Morgan Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53207
Inspired by the good U2 has done in the world, Interference.com is looking to profile people within the U2 fan community who are doing their part to make the world a better place. If you know someone whose work and cause deserve a little attention, please e-mail email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
January 30, 2006
By Brenda Clemons
In June of 1992, the four members of U2 climbed aboard a Greenpeace ship to protest the Sellafield nuclear reactorâ€”a British reactor whose contaminants are believed to be responsible for numerous health and environmental problems in communities along the Irish Sea. Dressed in radiation suits and wading knee deep through freezing, possibly contaminated water, it was clear what lengths the band and Greenpeace members would go to in order to protest the reactor’s poor safety record and the building of another plant.
Whether it is an end to nuclear threat, the protection of ancient forests and oceans or safe, sustainable trade, Greenpeace uses non-violent, creative confrontation to bring media attention to expose problems and demand solutions.
Greenpeace had its beginnings in 1971 when a small group of activists (including an Olympic athlete, a law student and a U.S. Navy deep sea diver, among others) set sail in a tiny fishing boat in an effort to protest the United States government conducting underground nuclear testing in Amchitka, Alaska. The boat was intercepted before it reached its destination but the flurry of media attention helped put an end to nuclear testing in an area that was later declared a bird sanctuary.
This group of activists became know as Greenpeace when an onlooker gave them the peace sign. Greenpeace became a foundation in 1972 and has since grown internationally with activists in 125 countries and territories. The organization relies on private donations and fundraising events and does not accept money from corporations or governments.
Though a non-violent organization itself, its activists are often met with hostility by local police and governments. Activists are often arrested, prosecuted or even killed.
The organization does offer many less hands-on opportunities to become involved, including e-zines, action forums and blogs. To learn more about Sellafield or other campaigns led by Greenpeace, visit www.greenpeace.org.