"... it is good, particularly for a young person, to enjoy the sun and gaze at the clouds as they move and change shape."
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Tomorrow, I leave for my long-anticipated trip to Kenya with ONE. I'm all packed and I'm more excited than I can express. It will take me about 24 hours to get to Nairobi, so I won't arrive until Sunday; then, our schedule (which you'll see at the bottom of this post) is positively jam-packed. There's going to be just so much that I'm going have the opportunity to experience, and I absolutely cannot wait to share it with you. I promise to do everything I can to capture the images and stories so that you'll feel like you're right next to me as I experience them.
Before I leave, however, I wanted to take a moment to explain exactly how ONE works, mostly because I know that when I first started learning about them, I didn't really understand it. I mean, I knew that ONE was co-founded by Bono, the lead singer of U2, and I knew that it was somehow tangentially related to the (RED) campaign that I'd seen at Gap stores; however, where I was completely and utterly wrong was my inaccurate belief that ONE was a charity.
So, to be absolutely, perfectly clear: ONE is not a charity.
In their words, ONE is a "nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa." What this means is that ONE is all about working to convince governments (primarily the U.S. government, but also others) to invest in smart programs that help to eliminate extreme poverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way. Furthermore, it doesn't raise money or grants: ONE is almost completely funded by its board members and by foundations (like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for example) -- and therefore, it never, ever asks for money from the general public.
What they do ask for, however, is your voice. The way ONE does this is by using its budget to amplify the stories of the organizations that are doing all the heavy lifting on the ground on the continent, making sure that governments see all the good change that is happening in Africa in the fight against extreme poverty and diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria, so that they are encouraged to continue to help. In addition, ONE works to make sure the general public (both in the US and internationally) also hears these stories, so they are moved to become members of ONE. The more members ONE has, the louder ONE's voice is, and the more governments sit up and pay attention. And in turn, hopefully, the more good happens on the ground.
And this, therefore, is where I and my travel companions come in. ONE is taking us to Africa to help tell these stories, to help provide concrete evidence of how the organizations on the ground are using the governments' support to effect real and identifiable change for the better. And so, my goal is to use my photographs and my words to do just that. And, no lie, ever since I found out, I've been fervently praying -- praying, I say -- that I do ONE, the organizations for which it advocates, and the people of Kenya justice.
All this to say that my plan is to blog every day that I'm there, starting Monday and going through Friday, as usual. Understand of course that my days will be full, and so I won't be able to blog until the evenings; in addition, there's an 8-hour time difference between Kenya and Texas, so my blogging schedule will be quite off. Also, I've already been told that there are a few nights, at the beginning and at the end of our trip, where it's likely that the internet connection will be a bit dodgy, so don't be surprised if I'm forced to skip a day or two; nonetheless, I will do my damnedest to get words and images up every day (and twice, if I have to, to make up for skipped days). So please keep checking in.
And then, if you like what you see, and are so moved, I'd love if you'd do the following:
1) If you haven't already, please consider becoming a member of ONE. Starting today, and every day next week, at the very bottom of every post I'll have a widget that you can fill out, click and immediately become a member (wherever you're located in the world) -- it takes very little time, and it helps so much. I promise, by becoming a member, you won't get spammed: ONE is very circumspect about the emails they send (and when they do send them, they're always chock-full of good information); in addition, they'll never give away or sell your information to anyone. And again, by becoming a member (and therefore sharing your voice), you help ONE do a lot of good.
2) Once you've become a member, if something I've written to you inspires you to want to do more, it would be wonderful if you could share that particular post with whoever you can: blog it, Facebook it, Tweet it, Google+ it, or even just email the article to a friend who you think it will speak to -- whatever works for you.
It would mean the world to me if you do.
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Now, for next week's schedule. Please note that the schedule is somewhat fluid and may change, depending on circumstances once we get there, but this will give you a general idea of all the amazing that we're about to experience:
Day 1 (Kisumu, a town on the shores of Lake Victoria): We'll be traveling with highly skilled home HIV community health workers, walking from home to home meeting, testing and counseling people on HIV/AIDS; also, visit Siaya Clinical Research Centre to learn about advances in vaccination programs, malaria treatments, and other advances in maternal and pediatric programs.
Day 2 (Kisumu): We'll meet with women undergoing pregnancy monitoring and birth attendants at the Lwak Nutritional Centre, to discuss access to maternal and child healthcare.
Day 3 (Nairobi): We'll be visiting a USAID education site, a primary school in Nairobi, where an early reading program focusing on learning outcomes has just begun.
Day 4 (Nairobi and Karen (!), a suburb of Nairobi): We'll be attending a roundtable with Kenyan women entrepreneurs, to discuss how the US Government plays a role in their business and trade. We'll also be visiting Carolina for Kibera, a nonprofit based out of the Kibera slum in Nairobi. CFK is a collaborative network of programs for the advancement of health, education, ethnic cooperation, gender equality and economic empowerment.
Day 5 (Lake Naivasha): Feed the Future, a US global hunger and food security initiative, helps countries transform their own agricultural sectors to grow enough food sustainably to feed their people. We'll be visiting horticulture and dairy farms run by women farmers.
Seriously, isn't this astounding?
And with that, off I go, into the wild blue yonder. See you next week, friends. From Kenya.
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UPDATE, July 23, 2011: A couple of things, before I go -- If you'd like to keep up with the trip other than here at Chookooloonks, there will also be updates on:
Also, if you'd like to keep up with what my travel companions are doing, be sure to check in to the ONE Week page.
And finally, some exciting news: ABC News' anchor David Muir will be joining us on the trrip from Kenya for World News and Good Morning America, as part of the network's global health series. How cool is that? I'm going to have to be ready for my close-up...
Okay, time to finish last-minute packing, and get ready for the airport. See you guys soon.
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I'm traveling to Kenya at the kind invitation and expense of The ONE Campaign, a nonpartisan, advocacy organization dedicated to the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. ONE works to convince governments (the US, as well as others) to invest in smart programs that help to eliminate proverty and preventable disease in a sustainable way. This week, along with 9 other bloggers, I'll be bringing you images and stories of how the organizations for which ONE advocates are effecting real change in Kenya. If you're moved by anything you read here and you'd like to help, please consider adding your voice and join ONE by simply filling out the form below. Your information will remain confidential, I promise. And if you're already a member, and would still like to help, I'd love if you'd spread the word by sharing this post with your friends and followers.
That's all there is to it. Because ONE never asks for your money, just your voice.
As always, thanks so much, friends.