What is ONE and how is it connected to PLAN USA?
Over the July 4 th 2005 weekend I was asked to be one of the delegates for the ONE campaign's Long Walk to Justice event at the Live 8 concert in Philadelphia. The invitation was on the behalf of my being a newly appointed Board member of PLAN USA (www.planusa. org). The ONE CAMPAIGN ( www.one.org ) joined together at LIVE 8 with 150 delegates from over ten NGO's all over the world to promote their message on fighting global AIDS and extreme poverty in Africa. PLAN USA was one founding members of ONE campaign.
Established in 1937 PLAN USA is an organization that helps children, their families and communities in 45 developing countries around the world.
After the LIVE 8 concerts I then traveled with the ONE campaign team to Edinburgh, Scotland where the G8 summit was being held.
The message that the ONE campaign was sending to the G8 leaders was to enforce:
a) 100% debt relief in countries in Africa
b) Better trade rules
c) More aid to Africa
(I have summarized some of the messages and activities that were spread during this powerful week)
Live 8 Pep Rally at the Museum of Art in Philadelphia (7/2/05)
The speakers that opened this pep rally were: Chris Tucker, (actor) Jars of Clay, (musicians) Rev. David Beckmann (President of Bread for the World), Derek Kayongo (ONE delegate from CARE), Melissa Fitzgerald and Maria Bello (actors), Shayne Moore (soccer mom and activist), Rev. Rick Warren and Rev. Herb Lusk.
Derrek Kayongo a refugee from Uganda and a ONE delegate representing CARE raised the energy level up high with his inspiring words. Derrek said, "The people of Africa are stunned at the forceful desire Americans have to help. It is a tough time to be human but ONE is making us feel human again. We do not want hand outs, but with the access to foreign aid, this will help us come out of poverty. Make Africa strong and we will make it up to you. My country Uganda did make a difference with the AIDS crisis and with more aid more African countries can change their lives."
Melissa Fitzgerald an actor who is currently on The West Wing was a ONE delegate representing the International Medical Corps where she currently volunteers. Melissa continued the high energy from Derrek Kayongo's speech with these strong words, "Americans care about global poverty. We want to be defined not by fighting wars, but by being leaders and fighting poverty. I worked in Africa and what is clear to me is that AIDS is a poverty issue. I believe in our declaration that all men and women are created equal. We are in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love so let's send a message to Africa that we are all brothers too. It is our obligation to help those that need it. Please continue the work of ONE after today and remember in a democracy the most powerful too we have are our voices. Martin Luther King once said, Everybody can be great because everybody can serve . This is our generation to be great."
Shayne Moore from Wheaton Illinois is a stay at home soccer mom that turned into an activist two years ago. Her motivation for all this started after seeing Bono's Heart of America Concert. His words changed her life and motivated her to learn more about the world issues that mattered to her. She currently volunteers for Bono's NGO called DATA as well as World Vision. She quotes Bono as saying. "When rock stars and soccer moms get together---watch out!!" As I watched her the whole week I knew her strong passion and drive would take her very far.
The Live 8 Concerts
Bob Geldof, a musician and artist known for his work with the Live Aid concert in 1985 organized the Live 8 Concerts. The message of the Live 8 concerts was to be part of a dayof action across the world which kick-starts The Long Walk to Justice and calls on the leaders of the world's richest countries to act when they meet at G8 Summit in Gleneagles on 6th-9th July 2005.
Before the G8 leaders met in Gleneagles, representatives of LIVE 8, the Global Call to Action against Poverty and ONE campaign presented Tony Blair, as chair of the G8, with over 30 million names as part of the LIVE 8 LIST. People from around the world added their names to this list to call the world leaders to take action during this summit, focused on ending extreme poverty. I feel that only time will tell if this summit is historic or not. What is true is that never before have so many people forced a change of policy onto the global agenda.
The Live 8 concerts were held all on Saturday July 2nd in: London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, Philadelphia, Barrie, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Moscow, and Eden Project. The host of the Philadelphia Concert, Will Smith opened with these words echoing the ONE -campaign beliefs; Every 3 seconds a child dies of poverty. We are calling on our leaders to end this world tragedy. We are not asking for your money we are asking for your voice". Throughout the seven-hour concert artists, actors, activists from around the world live and via satellite spoke about their belief in these efforts and the importance of the cause. Nelson Mandela spoke to the audiences of the world saying, "Please do not look the other way. The world is hungry for action, not words."
The Roxbury Arts Center in Edinburgh, Scotland (7/5--7/8/05)
The Roxbury Arts Center in Edinburgh was the meeting place for all the ONE delegates to meet daily. It was here that there were daily press conferences and discussions about the ONE campaign and about how the various NGO's could continue the work of ONE once they were back in their hometowns. One day we were introduced to Richard Curtis, writer, director and filmmaker of many movies including Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral who worked side by side with Bob Geldof on this Live 8 project. Another day Carla, a ONE representative introduced four ONE delegates to speak about their own work with ONE in their hometowns. One of the delegates from Kentucky spoke of her work with fair trade issues at her local coffee shop. She spoke of her weekly work with fair trade issues at her local coffee shop where she organizes lectures about the policies and benefits of fair trade. Before leaving for Edinburgh the local media held a press conference at the coffee shop to learn of the values of fair trade. Other ONE delegates among us were college students who spoke about their involvement with various NGO's and their causes. One particular ONE delegate, Jason spoke about the importance of "framing the issue for your audience--keeping the focus as time is limited"
Unite for Africa Concert @ Traverse Theatre (7/6/05)
BBC TV presenter and host Nick Knowles introduced a night of words and music never to be forgotten! Virgin Unite, the charitable arm of the Virgin Group, organized the event. The singers included Natalie Imbruglia and Estelle, a local up and coming rap superstar. But the highlights of this concert were the five young South Africans who came to share their stories of life to the intimate audience before them. This was by far the turning point of my ONE -delegate travels.
Here are their amazing stories:
Tukiso is a 19-year boy from Johannesburg. At a young age his parents divorced and his mom then raised him. There were four kids in the family. His lucky break came when he received a scholarship for the CIDA City Campus (www.cidafoundationuk.org). The CIDA City Campus taught Tukiso how to love and appreciate himself. The school taught him how to have a vision. The CIDA City Campus opened in 1999 and its focus is to encourage individuality of each student. The purpose for this is to uplift the community in order to grow the economy of South Africa. The CIDA City Campus also allows students to run the administration---allowing for an affordable college. The program at CIDA teaches the students to be "extra-ordinary" people and this is what I saw in Tukiso. The school also teaches the students about self-sustainability. Tukiso is a second year student at CIDA City Campus and loves the values that the school holds. He believes the school is grooming young people in (a) business and (b) leadership
He lends an example of this: Growing crops is okay as a farmer but if you cannot market you product your time is wasted. Tukiso believes that the young people who embody good values will grow social balance and drive the economy of their country. I truly believe that this young man with his shining smile will make a difference!
Tracy Webster and Nolwazi
Tracy Webster is one of the Directors of Starfish Foundation ( www.starfishcharity.org ) an orphanage in South Africa, and introduced us to Nolwazi, one of her many girls who blossomed through the helping hands of the Starfish Foundation. The Starfish Foundation launched in 2002 holds 9,000 orphans and children across South Africa. In 2001 an estimated 4.7 million South Africans were living with HIV. According to the report from United Nations Children's Fund: "In 1990, fewer than one million sub-Saharan African children under the age of 15 had lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. By the end of 2001 that figure had risen to 11 million. If current rates of infection continue, the number of AIDS orphans in Africa will spiral upwards - possibly to 20 million by 2010".
Nolwazi's family was made up of seven children all living in one very small house. At 13 years old her life shattered when her father died and her mother left the family. Her older sister was able to get a job to pay for the family's needs. Sadly her sister was fired two years later when her boss found out she had HIV AIDS. Shortly after the Starfish Foundation ( www.starfishcharity.org ) came into Nolwazi's life and the charity organization became the savior for the family. The Starfish Foundation has paid for Nolwazi's education and also food parcels. Nolwazi said she really wants to make a difference in her family, as she is now the only sibling that is educated. Nolwaki ended her speech with these strong and clear words, "It doesn't make a difference of who you are or where you came from but what matters is what you do with your life. Our people do not want handouts. Life is about chances not choices". Sadly I know the difference is that for many of us in the USA, our life is about our choices.
Mpho stands before the audience with a LOVE LIFE t-shirt (with "get attitude" written on the back) and a shy smile. He is a 22 years old orphan and as a boy he went to school to be a chemical engineer. He stopped at grade 12, as he had no more money. As he could no longer continue his education he felt like his life was over. He slept around a lot and lived a wild life of girls and booze. He soon became an alcoholic feeling like his life would end early anyway. He confides with the audience that when young people in South Africa have no parents and no self-esteem they use sex to escape. A good friend told him about Love Life Foundation and thought that it might work for Mpho. Love Life Foundation ( www.lovelife.org.za ) is South Africa's national HIV prevention program for youth. Launched in September 1999, Love Life seeks to substantially reduce the HIV infection rate among young South Africans- and to establish at the same time a new model for effective HIV prevention among young people. After a few months after volunteering Mpho was then made a staff member of the Motivational Groundbreaking Team and now is now talking about the work in local churches. The greatest news of Mpho's magical transformation is that he has been sober for four years! Mpho told the audience that teaching youth about sex education and prevention HIV AIDS is very challenging. "We cannot tell them not to have sex. We can only teach them to love and believe in themselves. Only then will they make the right choices. "
Sibulele, a 21-year-old girl also wore the LOVE LIFE t-shirt. She was introduced to the audience as Sibu and automatically something about this young woman caught my heart. While her petite frame stood there telling her story I saw this tall, strong fearless lion standing tall ready to take on the world and anything that came her way. She had a fabulous sense of humor and was sharp as a nail. At 16 years old both of Sibu's parents had died of AIDS. While suffering with this painful loss, she had to cope with the challenge of having her community "label" her as an AIDS family member. Although she felt very lost, she learned that "being with boys" socially and sexually made her feel like she belonged and very soon she lost herself and her self-image. After finishing high school she searched for some meaning and looked for a youth place that may have a groundbreaking program. And this is when her life changed. Shortly after volunteering she was promoted to National Community Officer. Her words, her smile and her fearless strength still stay with me forever. Sibu has already made many connections and in 2004 came to speak at Harvard and Duke. Somehow I want to find a way to have her voice and the voices of other young strong Africans speak of their stories, challenges and successes. It is not until you listen their voices do you really understand the importance of their messages. We all deserve a great life. We all are so much more connected than we think. Sibu leaves us with these words: "I am an orphan. I am a statistic. But do NOT feel sorry for me. See HOPE. See this more as part of a solution. We are all responsible for all around us. We are proud. We know what we want and more importantly we know that we CAN".
One of the audience members asked these five young South Africans to tell us-- one sentence of how they want to change their lives:
(Tukiso)----- I am TIRED of being the problem place. We do not want pity--see us as people.
(Nolwazi)----We are not helpless. We are proactive.
(Mpho)-------Help educate young people and you will see more Nelson Mandelas.
(Sibulete)----Help us where we cannot help ourselves.