One Person Making a Difference: Mary Rose*

May 22, 2006


By Jennifer B. Kaufman
2006.05

"Educate a man, you educate the individual; educate a woman and you educate a family, a nation"
—African Proverb

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 school—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
(414) 977-5000

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 carrie@interference.com or devlin@interference.com.

Making a Difference for Bono’s Birthday*

May 10, 2006

By Julie Cook
2006.05

It’s another birthday for the world’s favorite lead singer, Bono. This year, he’s also one of TIME magazine’s People of the Year and a Nobel Prize nominee. He’s an extraordinary (Bono’s favorite word) man who means something different to everyone. Pick your favorite phrase:

Mover and shaker
Ubersexual
Renaissance man
Irish drinking buddy (what is his favorite whiskey, anyway?)
Grandiose policy wonk
Man who never sleeps
Human(itarian)

Higher than the sky We know Bono’s in no danger of lacking an ego (he admits to it, "megalomania started at a very early age") but for those of us who’ve met him, he seems as normal and average as any one of us. Perhaps that’s part of his appeal, 50 percent untouchable rock star, 50 percent guy next door. But where does the superman factor fit in?

Not your average rock star Bono has that rare ability to communicate effectively with so many people on a multitude of levels. It’s an (here we go again) extraordinary gift. The only other famous person that immediately comes to mind who possesses that same gift is former President Bill Clinton. And when you have a gift like that, you have to use its full capacity. I often wonder if Bono recognized this early on and that’s why he has used the currency of his celebrity carefully and only when needed.

A man melts the sand so he can see the world outside These days, Bono’s May 10th birthday has become something of an event in the U2 fan world. In 2002, he was one of the subjects of an MTV "Diary" episode that followed him and former Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill to four countries in Africa. Most of you reading this have probably seen it, it was great television. Somehow a few of us found each other in cyberspace, all profoundly affected by the stupidity of some of the things we saw on that show. After we met "Mabel" and TASO and then watched Bono doing his own African dance steps, we knew something had to be done. Could we make a difference?

The end is not as fun as the start We were all floundering around on the internet somewhere wanting to do something more. We thought, OK, let’s see if we can raise enough money to build a well. The MTV "Diary" show had highlighted the story of a well being built in Uganda for around $1,000. That’s a feasible goal, let’s go for it. And so the The African Well Fund was born.

We set out to form a partnership with an established non-governmental organization (NGO). We needed to partner with an organization that had a credible history, its feet on the ground in Africa and a solid infrastructure, yet was intimate enough that we could personalize our efforts. After several weeks of research and communicating via a Yahoo group, an agreement was drawn up. Now we just had to get the fans on board to make this happen.

Someone had the idea that we should do something centered around Bono’s birthday. The first fundraiser in 2003 was totally by the seat of our pants. In all honesty, the second one was, too. We had only a handful of people coordinating it and the bigger it got, the more there was to do. Still, the first year AWF raised $10,000. The second year we raised $15,700. Last year, with Vertigo in full swing, was a banner year with almost $30,000 raised. We’re currently awaiting a fundraising total for this year’s fundraiser that ran from March 22nd to May 6th.

Won’t you tell me something true, I believe in you About a year ago, a few of us were in Boston for the Vertigo concert. Bono was appearing at a book signing nearby. A few of our board members lined up with a group of other lucky fans with T-shirts that plastered the lyric "Where You Live Should Not Decide" (AWF’s limited-edition t-shirts to coincide with the Vertigo Tour). The meeting with him was short (bookstore employees trying to hurry them out) but Bono took time to talk with each of them (one got a kiss on the hand). He was both aware and appreciative of the birthday fundraiser and was sincerely humbled by the effort of U2 fans in general.

The big idea This year’s Bono birthday fundraiser continued just as before. We racked our brains to come up with something new and different. We ran a design contest that resulted in an awesome T-shirt design that has been selling on CafePress.com to benefit the fundraiser. Then, divine intervention fell into our lap. A U2 fan named Phil came to us with a brilliant idea—an auction featuring pictures from one or two well-known fan photographers to benefit the Bono birthday fundraiser. That one or two turned into seven or eight photographers and over 90 prints. Before we knew it, there was a full-fledged online eBay fundraiser in our midst. "Photos 4: BBW4," which ran from April 17th to April 24th, raised $11,000.

Happy birthday, Bono.

What else is happening in 2006 for AWF? In years past, Zimbabwe had improved its access to clean water to almost 82 percent and sanitation to 57 percent. However, a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report in 2003 advised that recent environmental disasters, such as cyclones and drought, coupled with internal migration caused by the country’s fast-track land reform program, had eroded progress made in the extension of these basic services. As a result, thousands of people in rural areas were left without access to safe water and sanitation, leaving them open to epidemics of cholera and diarrhea, in addition to skin and eye infections.

Zimbabwe will be the fourth country that AWF has assisted in building water projects (previous projects have helped communities in Uganda, Ethiopia and Angola). U2 fans and other donors have raised enough funds for over 40 clean water projects, including hand-dug wells and protected springs. This year, we’re focusing not only on clean drinking water but improving sanitation as well. Look forward to AWF’s complete report on how this new project is going to improve many aspects of people’s lives, not just clean drinking water.

Julie Cook is a member of The African Well Fund, a registered non-profit 501(c)3 organization founded by a group of U2 fans in 2002. AWF has held four campaigns to build a well for Bono’s birthday and has raised over $150,000 since its inception. AWF believes that access to safe consumable water isn’t merely a basic human need but a basic human right.

Donations to AWF are used by its partner Africare, a leading private, non-profit charitable U.S. organization assisting Africa, for their clean water projects in Africa.

Review: ‘U2itude: The Ultimate Handbook for U2 Fans’ by Petronella and Sorgie*

May 8, 2006


By Devlin Smith, Contributing Editor
2005.05

Being a U2 fan is a nerdy thing. Sure, the band is the world’s biggest and best, and the guys are super-cool rock stars, but there’s still a nerdy element in following the band and cataloging all of its moments.

I will freely admit that I’m a U2 nerd. I love reading all the books and interviews, eating up the hows and whys of 30 years of band history. I recite seemingly mundane to casual U2 observers, most of whom have no clue why I’d care who Larry Mullen Jr.’s drum tech is or where U2 played its first LA-area concert.

But all that amassing of information, analyzing, collecting and so forth is fun, it makes me enjoy my nerdiness. The authors of "U2itude: The Ultimate Handbook for U2 Fans" (AuthorHouse) get that and that’s what makes their book so fun to read.

There isn’t much to "U2itude," it’s more a friendly debate on the merits of U2′s musical output than the all-encompassing guidebook its title suggests. Authors Salvatore Petronella and Christopher Sorgie (known as Sal and Sorge throughout the book) have been U2 fans since high school, forming a life-long bond over the "War"-era U2. Here they’ve created a five-category "scientific" method for ranking every U2 song based on music, lyrics, message, energy and U2itude (points assigned to songs that no one else could have made), with five points possible in each category.

From the outset, Sal and Sorge know not every reader will agree with their assessments so each album has its own chart where you can give your own five-point score for each song in each category.

The authors’ rankings are definitely controversial ("Stay" gets just 16 out of 25 points—how’s that even possible?) but make sense when Sal and Sorge explain why they ranked each song the way they did.

Of "Miami," which scored just six points and is singled out as U2′s worst song, the authors say: "U2 is so much cooler when they are not trying to be cool. Maybe ‘Pop’ was their mid-life crisis album." While I truly love "Pop" and dig "Miami" terribly, I can see that this assessment does have merit.

What’s great about "U2itude" is there is room to disagree. According to Sal and Sorge’s calculations, "How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb" is U2′s best album, a declaration fans have been battling over for at least 18 months. Even if you don’t agree, how great is the possibility that U2′s latest could also be its greatest?

In addition to ranking every song and album, Sal and Sorge have also included their own top 10 lists and lists of everything from the best U2 air guitar songs to the best U2 songs to use for lullabies.

Sal and Sorge aren’t looking to be right with any of their scores, they’re just enjoying the debate and want readers to join in the fun. The nerd in me is grateful to them for putting the challenge out there. Now I just need to go through every album, in order, of course, and figure out my own rankings. Who knows, maybe "Miami" could even fall into my top 10.

For more information on "U2itude: The Ultimate Handbook for U2 Fans," visit http://www.u2itude.com.

Wim Wenders: When Bono Comes Knocking*

May 1, 2006


By Matthew Anderson
2006.05

Ed. Note: In light of the release of "Don’t Come Knocking," Interference.com was lucky enough to get two interviews with director Wim Wenders. The first was conducted via e-mail by Contributing Editor Devlin Smith, and focuses on the relationship between music and film. The second, appearing below and conducted in person by staff writer Matt Anderson, discusses the new film as well as the title track Bono and Edge created for it.

"Don’t Come Knocking" reunites German director Wim Wenders with actor and screenwriter Sam Shepard more than 20 years after their collaboration on "Paris, Texas" won Wenders the Palme d’Or at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival.

This time, their story focuses on Howard Spence, a man who’s made a career out of starring in Westerns and avoiding reality. While on the set of his latest cowboy epic, "Phantom of the West," Howard (played by Shepard) decides it’s time to take off, in the middle of shooting the movie, and confront some things that have been bugging him.

His first stop is to visit his mother (played by screen legend Eva Marie Saint), who clues him in about the child he had with a woman in Butte, Montana, many years ago. Paging through his mom’s photo albums and scrapbooks, Howard comes to realize what a confused, manic life he’s led in Hollywood. Money, fame, babes, drugs, assaults, accidents; his has been the perfect life for tabloid fodder.

From there, Howard heads north to Butte to finally clear the air and hone in on his responsibilities.

"Don’t Come Knocking," which refers to a sign in Howard’s on-set trailer, finds Wenders in fine form, once again exploring the rugged, vast, empty terrain of the American West.

In addition to his reunion with Shepard, Wenders once again got the opportunity to work with Bono. Theirs is a collaboration that includes Wenders directing Bono’s screenplay for "The Million Dollar Hotel," as well as U2 supplying musical contributions on Wenders’ movies "Until the End of the World," "Far Away, So Close," and "The End of Violence." Wenders also directed U2′s music video for "Night and Day" from the "Red Hot and Blue" AIDS benefit CD.

Wenders likes to leave room for serendipity and spontaneity while making his movies. This time around, Bono contributed to both of those elements as Wenders related the following story to me about U2′s front man coming through with a song for his friend—a duet with Andrea Corr—at the 11th hour:

"Bono had seen the film in a rough cut, had liked it a lot and—I had not asked him, I knew how busy the man was—had sort of volunteered on his own, ‘Maybe I could write a title song’ because he loved the movie.

So there was this vague hope that maybe eventually we’d have a title song. We finished editing the movie and T-Bone [Burnett] recorded the entire score and soundtrack and everything. We put some other music at the back to just hold the place of our title song, but we never got a title song.

The film was finished, we went to Cannes, we didn’t have a title song. We showed it in Cannes without the U2 song, we had one of T-Bone’s songs at the end and not a title song, so it was just holding the place.

U2 were doing the Vertigo Tour, Bono was involved with Live 8, The One Campaign; if you wanted to reach him he was either talking to Bush in Washington, to Blair in London, to Chirac. I mean, it seemed ridiculous to believe he was going to write a song, let alone record it.

So finally, it came to making the first prints—and they were for Germany and France because the film came out in late August, early September. The producer finally said, ‘Come on, this is a pipe dream. We’re never going to get a U2 song. We have to make prints, we have to make press screenings, we have to start being serious and working.’

So we told the lab, from next Monday on we’re going to make prints. The Friday before, Friday night I got an e-mail with a very long attachment—from Bono. I open it and it was the song, but it was just Bono’s voice and Andrea’s voice and there was a temp track underneath it Edge had done on the computer because they just didn’t have time to record all of it, to polish it.


(Photo credit: Matt Anderson)

So there I was, I had the title song but it was incomplete. So I passed the whole thing on to T-Bone, I was in Berlin, I sent that long attachment to T-Bone with a mail saying, ‘By Monday we need it finished.’ And T-Bone called me, said, ‘Are you nuts? This is Saturday morning here. How do you want me to arrange it, get the musicians, record the music, mix it, and have it back by Monday?’

I said, ‘It’s our only choice.’ Either by Monday we’re going to have the U2 song in—the Bono song, it’s not a U2 song, it’s a Bono song—or not, because it’s our deadline, we have to strike prints."

That Saturday night, T-Bone got his band back together, recreated Edge’s arrangement, recorded the musicians, mixed their track on Sunday, and Monday morning, when Wenders got back in the studio, he had the complete song.

As Wenders summed it up, "It was as narrow as it can get."

The end result of that nail-biting finish is an immaculate little number, a subtle, seductive song more along the lines of "Slow Dancing" or "Falling at Your Feet" than the band’s rockers like "Mysterious Ways." It’s also reminiscent of another Bono/Corr duet, their cover of Ryan Adams’ "When the Stars Go Blue."

It’s a remarkable accomplishment made all the more so by the torrent of activity during which the song was created.