By Devlin Smith
The African Well Fund and Diane Yoder, AWF's board vice chairman, are the featured story in the August edition of Africare's Pass It On campaign. The article and video now featured on Africare's homepage highlight a trip Yoder and fellow board member Angela Martens took to Ghana in 2009 to visit AWF project sites.
Pass It On is a 16-month-long online campaign connecting Africare supporters with the stories of people overcoming major challenges impacting Africa, including lack of access to safe water, food insecurity and the growing number of children orphaned by AIDS. Pass It On launched in Sept. 2009 and will run through Dec. 2010. Each story featured in the campaign is ready to "pass on" through video, social networks, e-mail or by phone.
Yoder answered a few questions about her role in the Pass It On campaign and the impact she believes it will have on those who follow it.
How did you get involved with the Pass It On campaign?
In a very unexpected way. I was traveling in Ghana with fellow board member Angela Martens and several Africare staff members, one of whom was Nicole Eley, Africare's media relations manager. Nicole had been traveling in Africa for several weeks filming stories for Africare's Pass It On campaign. While we were visiting African Well Fund sites in Ghana, Nicole asked if she could interview me at one of the well sites for possible inclusion in the campaign. I agreed, a bit reluctantly, I am not really comfortable on camera, but I wanted to do whatever I could to help showcase the wonderful work Africare is doing in Africa.
What do you hope people who read your story and watch your video will learn?
Two things, that there are too many people in our world today that are living under intolerable conditions and that everyone can do something to help alleviate those conditions.
What was your reaction when you first saw the video?
It was great to see the people and communities we had visited in Ghana again. It was an amazing trip and we met so many incredible people.
The video highlights a trip to Ghana you and fellow board member Angela Martens took last year. What are some of the memories the video sparked for you?
The most indelible memory is of the first community we visited, Agravi, in the Wassa Amenfi West District. We were to make a brief visit to see the well there before heading to a planned latrine commissioning ceremony at a school in the Sabena community. We had driven down a narrow, rutted road but had to walk the final few meters. As we neared the community, we could hear singing in the distance. We rounded the bend and were greeted by a group of dancing, singing children who led us to the well where the remainder of the community had gathered. The well was adorned with a bow and I was just overcome with emotion. It was the first AWF-funded project I had seen in person and the joy and pride emanating from the community was overwhelming.
How do you think the Pass It On video will benefit AWF and Africare?
I think the video allows people to see the concrete results that can be achieved with just a little bit of assistance. I am a founding member of AWF and have learned so much through our partnership with Africare. The trip to Ghana cemented my confidence in Africare's approach to development. So much has been written about aid to Africa being misused or not getting to the people who really need it. What I witnessed in Ghana was the polar opposite of this assertion. The projects we visited were implemented in a thorough, thoughtful manner, with priority given to sustainability and community involvement.
What advice do you have for people who are inspired to get involved by this and the other Pass It On stories?
That it is easier to get involved than you think. AWF is made up of individuals who felt the pull to do something more. We come from all walks of life and we all volunteer our time. We have been able to help people a continent away in ways we never dreamed of, but we all feel we could do so much more. We are constantly looking for new volunteers. Because we are grassroots and because we are Internet based, you can volunteer from your living room. Most of us got involved in AWF by sending an e-mail or posting on a forum. That's what I did and seven years later I was in Ghana visiting projects we had helped bring to fruition. My advice is to act on the urge to get involved--you will not regret it.
Anything else you would like to add about Pass It On?
Just that I am honored and humbled to be a part of the campaign. I urge everyone to watch and read all the Pass It On stories. They highlight truly remarkable people doing truly remarkable things. The Pass It On Stories show what can be accomplished when you provide people with some very basic resources and should leave you with a feeling of hope for Africa's future. Pass It On for Africare!