Featured Cause: Keep a Child Alive*

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.

One Person Making a Difference: Mary Rose*

May 22, 2006

By Jennifer B. Kaufman

"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.

Featured Cause: Greenpeace*

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 reactor—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.

Ali’s EDUN: Shopping is Politics*

July 4, 2005

By Debbie Kreuser

EDUN—the name evokes a feeling of innocence and simplicity, conjuring up images of beauty and passion. But behind the enigmatic name, the word EDUN has come to represent a brighter future for thousands of some of the world’s poorest people.

On March 11, 2005, Ali Hewson, accompanied by fashion clothing designer Rogan Gregory and husband Bono, introduced the world to EDUN, a fair trade clothing line. Made largely of organic fibers and natural dyes, and produced in an environmentally friendly manner, EDUN is a labor of love that took nearly four years to plan and implement. As Hewson told the Sunday Independent, "We want to prove that you can make a profit while running a business in a responsible way.”

The issue of fair trade has been gaining momentum over the last several years as the economic disparities between, as Bono says, the "have nots" and the "have yachts" have widened.

According to Hewson, Africa had 6 percent of world trade in 1980. By 2002, Africa’s share of world trade had dropped to only 2 percent, due largely to restrictive trade policies imposed on African countries by trade agreements made with developed nations and international agencies like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. If they could recoup just 1 percent of world trade (equaling $70 billion a year), African countries could surpass the current $22 billion in international aid that they get a year and do much more for their populace with increased spending on health care, education, clean water resources and nutritional programs. As Hewson told The Observer, "The idea is to show that the world can do business with Africa. They don’t want charity, they want to prove that they can make a profit."

EDUN currently contracts with locally owned and family-run manufacturing facilities in Lima, Peru, and Monastir, Tunisia, with adjunct facilities in India and Portugal. Several more manufacturing facilities in Lesotho, South Africa and Tanzania are slated to start production for EDUN later this year. EDUN employs people in these countries, many of whom had lost their jobs due to the further globalization of world trade that has most adversely affected Africa, while maintaining decent labor practices. Bono described it this way to MTVAsia.com, "At the very heart of it, we have the idea of the four respects: respect for what your clothes are made of, respect for who is making them, respect for where they are made and respect for the people who are going to put them on."

Ninety percent of EDUN’s cotton and denim clothing is currently made in Tunisia and Peru, and more than half of the cotton comes from unsubsidized sources in Africa and South America giving local farmers locked out of the world trade market by restrictive trade agreements made with the WTO and developed nations over the last 20 years a chance to make a decent living.

Workers are paid a livable minimum wage with basic health care provided and no child labor’s allowed in EDUN facilities.

The clothes range from perfectly tailored jeans and sexy, lacy camisoles to rugged men’s cotton shirts and T-shirts. The clothing retails from $55 to $325, with most in the $175 area. In addition to creating the EDUN line, some of the T-shirts sold during the current U2 tour are also made by EDUN.

While there’s no particular target group designated to market EDUN to, so far it’s being sold at some of the world’s more upscale stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Selfridges, Brown Thomas, Holt Renfrew and Barney’s New York. If the idea was to market EDUN in these stores to catch the eye of the fashion world in order to ultimately change the ways in which the fashion industry does business with developing nations, it must be working. The reaction from the fashion industry has been extremely positive with major articles in some of the world’s biggest and most influential fashion magazines, most notably in the March issue of Vogue.

EDUN has its own website where visitors can learn more about the genesis of the line, the four respects it represents and the vision of EDUN. Also included on the website is a short video about the EDUN launch in NYC featuring Hewson, Bono, Gregory and, most importantly, the people who make EDUN’s clothing.

EDUN is a superb idea whose time has come. I’ve already made several EDUN purchases to support this very important endeavor. The feeling of wearing something that you know was not made "with despair,” as Bono and wife Ali have said, will be more than worth the money you’ll spend for EDUN’s clothes.

For more information on EDUN, visit www.edun.ie.

Featured Cause: Prisoners of Conscience: Mabinti*

April 11, 2005

By Brenda Clemmons

In its album liner notes, U2 routinely lists the names of individuals whose unjust, politically motivated imprisonments have caught the attention of Amnesty International. In a series of articles, Interference.com will tell the stories of these Prisoners of Conscience and provide updates. In part three we take a look at the person listed in 2000′s "All That You Can’t Leave Behind," Mabinti.

Remember 16-year-old Mabinti (name changed to protect identity), abducted, mutilated and raped by rebel forces, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone is a country with a long history of internal strife. It is not uncommon for rebel forces to enter a village and plumage it. Civilians are often tortured, mutilated, raped, abducted and even murdered. Even government-allied forces have committed these atrocities and not much has been done by the government to curtail such behavior.

Mabinti was in her early teens when rebel forces entered her village. They murdered both of her parents before abducting her. She was repeatedly gang raped and denied food and water if she resisted. Soon she became pregnant and was abandoned by the rebels.

Thankfully, she was able to make it back to her village where she lived with her grandmother for some time.

In May of 2000, her village was once again terrorized by rebels. Mabinti and her grandmother were able to escape and walked 40 kilometers to reach a displaced people’s camp. Since that time, there have been no updates on Mabinti’s story.

Fighting and human rights abuses continue in Sierra Leone to this day and have escalated to the point of being labeled a holocaust.

For more information on Prisoners of Conscience like Mabinti, and what you can do to help their causes, visit Amnesty International.

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