Friday, March 24, 2006
How much do I owe? Part II
The long awaited PART TWO....
At the end of part one I was pondering the question "how much do I owe?" I decided that it was time for me to be proactive about my feelings. I was directed to the charity called Stay Alive by my father (who helps them out). Boy howdy did they need help and I jumped right in. I even recruited a fellow blogger. I found out that at that exact time I was pondering what to do with myself, they had been praying (literally) for someone to magically appear who had the skill, or at least desire and willingness, to help them start fundraising in ernest. I can do that. I will be writing grants, soliciting funds from rich people and encouraging business to become a part of this program. Good times. I got lots of practice begging people for money as a teenager and all those years of waitressing. I knew it would come in handy (now if I can just make that useless History degree work for me).
A little bit more info on the Stay Alive program. We focus on children aged 8-10. That makes it unique. The other unique thing about Stay Alive is that we don't say "use a condom when you have sex" but we say "DON'T HAVE SEX". We actually explain how the immune system works, teach the children to possibilities that are out there and how great their life can be if they stay alive long enough. Many of these kids have lost either parents or family members to disease. They get it. They just don't know how to make things different. The program has a workbook that the students take home to their families who are required to do exercises with them and have discussion questions. The parents play a huge role in this program. In many cases the "parent" is the oldest living child. Some are only 12 or 13. This can help us understand why there are so many misconceptions out there. In the poor and/or rural parts of Africa surprisingly little is understood about the disease that is killing so many of them. There are still many misconceptions about how it is contracted and misconceptions about how it can be cured (that it CAN be cured is the biggest one). Parents who haven't been taught cannot teach their children. Children who are empowered with the right information at a time in their life when they aren't sexually active are able to make better choices. Studies have been done and statistics have been gathered. It is working. It is working as good as, or better then, any other HIV prevention program out there. Knowlege is power. We have all heard that, right? So very, very true. As a matter of fact, the results have been so good and Stay Alive is able to do this for such a small amount of money, governments are asking for us to bring the program to their country ASAP. All that is holding us back is the funding. We are working on getting UN funding and grants from our government, but politics are a long and complicated process. It will take years. These children don't have years. So, we fundraise.
I will be going to Africa in June to do some administration work. I will be involved in teaching new schools/health officials the program. We have a big convention planned in Nairobi. We will also be going to rural Kenya where the program has been the longest and taking some statistics (and pictures...I am also the unofficial photographer), then it is off to Mozambique where were will meet with the charity that helps us implement the program on the ground there. More training, more statistics gathering, more pictures. A few side trips to Uganda and Swaziland to meet w/ education officials to get the program started there. There is a lot to do in just a few weeks.
I am very excited and very scared. It is scary to spend time and money doing something new. It is scary to think about getting on a small plane in Africa (I HATE flying...). It is scary to decide to open my life and my emotions to an area of the world that has more sad stories then happy ones. I am afraid of shots and have to get about 8 million of them to go. It is scary meet and get to know and love people who will die, soon. I am terrified that I will come out of this with more more damage to my heart and soul then I have going into it. Mostly I am afraid that what I have to offer won't be right or won't be enough. One tiny drop in the bucket of such enormous need. Is there a point? Before I pull out the story about the kid walking along the beach throwing starfish back into the water (email me if you haven't heard this delightful Mormon talk filler......ahhh, Mormon urban legends) but it has a certain point. It makes a difference to someone. If nothing else, it makes a difference to me and to my kids to be a part of something bigger then ourselves. It is still scary.
P.S. As part of my fundraising effort, I sent the following letter to everyone I know. Take a read and see if you can think of anyone that might want to help out. I have enough appointments right now to reach half of my fundraising goal. That is very exciting.