Why is it that the simplest methods and the unheard of people do the most good in the world of the poor and oppressed? Why is it that individuals with a cause are the tool for the greatest change in the world? Why is it that you and I can make more of a difference than foundations and governments? How can people be so much more powerful than the institutions and structures? The basic fact and truth is that because we are simply people who care with passion that we are most motivated and connected to the causes and issues for which we fight.
In a recent blog written by Allison Fine of the Socialedge my sentiments are reflected. She writes about the power of individual activists. “[…] the catalyst for significant social change in the Connected Age will continue to be individual activists. Foundation grants are a perfect vehicle for seeding, supporting, and encouraging these efforts.” Allison is also reflecting the idea that it will be the searchers and not the big planners who will create the most significat social change. This idea I covered more fully in a previous blog.
Being that the simplest methods and most unheard of people make the most significant social changes for people I will attempt to highlight a few of them. Last month there was an <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/africa/01/27/rwanda.carr/index.html
“>article on CNN which covered the death of an elderly woman, Rosmand Carr, who had made it possible for 300-400 orphans in Rwanda to receive education, medicines, and the support they needed. Without any children of her own these children received a new mother who was extremely dedicated to their care. At the age of 81 she decided to open an orphanage in the country she had called home for most of her life until evacuating when the 1994 genocide broke out. A month after the fighting stopped she returned to Rwanda to begin fixing up an old farm building to house orphans from the nearby Kibumba refugee camp where almost 200,000 people had fled. By the age of 94 Carr’s had aided 300-400 with the orhpanage she founded, Imbabazi Orphange. Imbabazi translates from Kinyarwandan to mean “a place where you will find all the love a mother would give.” When Carr died the children were very very upset and it was as if they had lost their mother. Carr would not leave Rwanda, even in death. Her grave lies in the garden of her farm, beneath the Virunga volcanoes, Africa’s heart.
Another example of a ‘typical’ person making a differnce I found on the Foreign Policy magazine online. FP covered the story of a 29 year-old new mother from the Midwest, Jill Youse. Before starting the International Breast Milk Project, Youse had been “in pharmaceuticals and medical device sales. I was just a typical American consumer of daytime television and People magazine, embarrassingly ordinary. I’d studied communications and played soccer in college. I had never been to Africa. In fact, I’ve only been out of the country once in my life, to Argentina for two weeks when I was in high school.” Youse said that with her excess of breast milk and influenced by the work of Bono, Angelina Jolie, and Oprah she began to search ways to help. Although the methods of celebrities is controversial and somewhat naive, this is a case that shows a ‘typical’ person can be inspired by their actions and find the ways to effectively make a difference. Youse’s organization works through already established groups to get the breast milk to the people who need it. “Many newborns throughout the developing world are undernourished because they are not breastfed during their first few months of life. Often their mothers have passed away or are HIV-positive.” You do not have to be a celebrity to make a difference. Maybe it is best that you are not a blinded celebrity trying to change the world with your vast funds. I encourage you all to read the entire interview.
Now I feel it is extremely important to note that this is not the work of governments, they don’t have a care one way or another, it is the people – empassioned and active who are creating the social change! Politicians run on a mindset of short-term, just long enough for them to take a stand to get re-elected. This is a failure when in reality the long-term is the key. In the long-term (and short-term) is where lives will be saved and lasting, sustainable social change will take place, but that all needs to be set-up and supported in the short-term. Everything hinges on the present choice and action. This is where I also become dismayed. Just today I read an article about former President Carter. Carter is now on an 11 country Africa tour. The Carter Center has done some great work in Africa, but there is a large problem here when Carter promotes the idea that Africa depends on the West to get help. Yes, the West is a great helper, but the West needs to adopt better methods to effectively help besides just throwing money at problems – that is when the money’s effectiveness is lost. Currently in Ethiopia, the Carter Center will be purchasing three million mosquito nets to distribute. The ‘Third World’ needs the West? I blogged about this issue in a post here.
We are the social changers, but we are not imposers. We work with the people who need help to most effectively get them that help. S.C.O.U.T. B.A.N.A.N.A. is an organization of individual activists taking up their causes for access to basic healthcare by working through students in the West to provide aid to African communities. Check us out at: http://www.scoutbanana.org/
Individuals with a cause will be the ‘catalyst for social change’, individuals who care about the world and the people in it, ‘typical’ individuals who become inspired in a day’s time to take action on the world’s problems, individuals with $5 to donate to a cause – these will be the people who save lives and make a difference in the world as we know it. The age of the large organizations and foundations is still here, but who will be left to make the change – the individuals!