As African Well Fund nears the $1 million fundraising mark, we've asked supporters to share their stories of why they give. In this installment, donor Kath LaFrank shares her reasons why.
B.B. (before Bono) I was one of those people who looked away. I knew that millions of Africans were suffering terribly from the effects of poverty, disease, HIV/AIDS and a lack of life's basic necessities, but what could I do about it? The problem was simply too big for one person to solve; thus,
I did nothing, and I looked away to spare myself the guilt.
About a decade ago, I chanced upon a magazine article about the U2 lead singer's involvement in efforts to cancel the crippling debts of African nations. Something about his absolute sincerity, something about the way that he (not yet widely known as a humanitarian) was willing to appeal to decision makers from all ends of the political spectrum and ask them to rectify an injustice that went beyond politics impressed me deeply. Over the next few years, I went from an ordinary U2 fan to a "super fan," and during those years I was inspired by the music but even more by the singer. I listened to Bono tell us how we fans, just ordinary people, could literally change the world--one by one and together as one. Not only did he tell us, but he showed us by doing it himself.
It was then that I began to look at things rather than away from them. I found all sorts of actions that I could take that would immediately improve, even save, someone else's life. I could buy a $10 bed net to protect a child from malaria. I could spend $30 a month to buy a child's antiretroviral drugs. I could join with others to loan an African woman a few hundred dollars to start a small business. I still couldn't solve the global problems but, alone or in community, I could incorporate actions into my daily life that would make things immensely better for individual people right now.
Of all these opportunities, the African Well Fund means the most to me. In 2002 Bono was talking about water. Water, a beverage that I leave on the table; a shower that washes over me as often as I like; a bath to soak in; a hot tub to relax in; a pool to float in; sprinklers to keep our lawns green. But not everyone has access to nature's bounty. Imagine having to walk 10 or 20 miles for clean water? Listening to Bono talk about water, a group of U2 fans decided to try to raise enough money to build one well in Africa as a birthday gift for the singer. What could be better? A way to join together with other fans, a chance to give back something to the person who has given us so much, a way to show Bono that he has inspired us to change our lives, and then to be able to carry a life-changing project through to completion. I signed on as fast as I could.
The money was raised and the gift was given, but it didn't end there. Since then, the African Well Fund has grown into a full-fledged charity, though still run by volunteers who are also U2 fans. Nearly a decade's worth of Build a Well for Bono's Birthday campaigns have come and gone; over $950,000 has been raised in all sorts of different ways; nearly 300 clean wells have been built for communities in Africa, serving more than 316,000 people. All of this has been done in the service of affirming our collective bond, honoring the man who inspired us and demonstrating that everyone has the power to change the world. Such a simple thing these fans decided to do, but such a difference they've made.