How much good can one blog post do?

Readers of this blog will be aware that I am experimenting with blogging as a mechanism of public outreach in science. This time, I want to try a different experiment. Specifically, I want to see how much good can come from a single blog post.

Here is the story. In November, 2006, my father fulfilled a lifelong dream of traveling to Africa to explore the cradle of humanity and to experience first-hand the cultural and zoological diversity to which the continent is home. Amidst the beauty of the landscape and the hospitality of the people, he was struck — as I am sure anyone who visits Africa must be — by the tragedy of poverty and disease (especially malaria and AIDS) juxtaposed with a tangible sense of happiness and hope.

My father has spent most of his life helping others. A social worker by training, he has dedicated much of his career to protecting the rights and dignity of the mentally challenged. This has included efforts to move as many people as possible out of (often horrific) institutions and into dignified group home environments. He has also developed programs to assist individuals with mental difficulties in returning to post-secondary education, and most recently has worked to train a new generation of social work students. In light of this, it comes as little surprise to me that he felt compelled to help the people he befriended in Africa.

My stepmother is equally generous. In her capacity as a gifted singer, musician, and teacher, she has devoted herself over the past decade to creating community choirs for both children and adults in the small town in which they live. The effects that this has had on the confidence and sense of community of the participants is remarkable.

The next phase in their lives will involve the most ambitious endeavour that either has attempted. In six months, they will be selling their house, resigning from their current jobs, and moving to Livingstone, Zambia.


While there, they will work to revamp the local Victoria Hall and to create a musical theatre program showcasing the traditional song and dance of Zambia. This is intended to capitalize on the rapidly growing tourism industry in the Livingstone area (which is less than 10km from Victoria Falls) and will provide a self-sustaining source of income for local performers and tradespeople. It will also be used to inject funds into the Livingstone economy and to improve the desperate conditions of the local hospital and schools.

The Victoria Hall in Livingstone, Zambia.

The mission statement of the project is described as follows:

Mission Statement:

The Livingstone Performing Arts Foundation (LiPAF) mission is to create and perform traditional and original works of music, song and dance which reflect the history, culture, languages and ethnic background of Zambia. Operating as a not for profit organization, LiPAF will enrich the community by providing opportunities for employment, sponsorship of a variety of needy programs and services, and educational programs on topics related to the human condition.

Objectives of the Project:

  1. To operate a not-for-profit Foundation.
  2. To promote the rich cultural diversity existing in Zambia and the Kavango-Zambezi region.
  3. To promote the city of Livingstone, the country of Zambia, and the region of Kavango-Zambezi, as a tourist destination.
  4. To provide employment for local residents.
  5. To raise funds for the sponsorship of various community projects
  6. To assist in the promotion and expansion of the service related industry (restaurants, merchants, etc.).
  7. To cooperate with other community-based groups within the Livingstone district.
  8. To improve and enhance the educational aspect of the city library.
  9. To provide music programs in local schools.
Plans for the redesigned Victoria Hall.



I should emphasize that this is an independent, non-profit project. It is not being carried out with any expectation of personal reward (in this life or any other). It is simply an attempt by two phenomenal people to make a difference by applying their talents to benefit others in need.

So far, they have been hard at work coordinating with local and federal governments in Zambia and generating funds to pay for the project through fund raising events and by making countless presentations to local service clubs and other organizations. They have been tireless in these efforts, but of course they cannot do it alone.

The question I posed as the title of this post is “How much good can one blog post do?”. I am hopeful that the answer will be a resounding “A great deal!”. There are many ways to help.

  • Maybe you run a blog and can draw attention to this post and to the Livingstone Performing Arts Foundation website.
  • Maybe you can inform your colleagues, friends, and family members about this post and the foundation website.
  • Maybe you are a teacher and your school is throwing out old textbooks, dictionaries, or atlases that could be given to the local elementary/high school.
  • Maybe you can help to provide the school with other necessities such as science equipment. I am planning to visit and to teach some basic biology classes, but the school barely has desks, let alone microscopes.
  • Maybe you work in the performing arts industry and can help with the acquisition of sound or lighting equipment.
  • Maybe you’re an artist and could donate some of your work to be used in a fund raising auction.
  • Maybe you work for a charity, shipping company, or other organization that would be interested in assisting the program logistically or financially.
  • And of course, you can make a personal donation in any sum. I have set up a PayPal account for them to receive donations. The donation is not tax-deductible as the foundation is registered as a not-for-profit organization in Zambia, but 100% of it will be put to use in support of the project. See also their 100 from 500 Club, in which there is a chance to win some great prizes donated by artist friends.


The motto that they have adopted, a quote from Margaret Mead, is “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

I will miss my parents when they go, but I can do no other but admire and support their decision to do so.

__________

It took some doing, but I have been able to format the video presentation that they have been giving to local organizations for posting here. It’s meant to be shown on a projection screen, but I think the text is legible even at this size. This really sets the stage for what they are trying to do, and has a very positive message overall with an emphasis on the beauty of Zambia.







Thank you to everyone who has contributed
already — every little bit helps!


To find out more, please visit the Livingstone Performing Arts Foundation website and blog.

___________

A sincere thank you to Pharyngula, ERV, Sex, Genes & Evolution, Aetiology, A Block Around the Clock, Eye on DNA, ScienceRoll, Evolution Space, and BrummellBlog for posting links.



18 comments to How much good can one blog post do?

  • Blake Stacey

    I have a feeling your readership is larger than mine, but perhaps they do not entirely overlap. I’ll try to get a post up about this today or tomorrow.

    I’m not a schoolteacher, but as it happens, I have an old but perfectly serviceable hardback copy of The Feynman Lectures on Physics (all three volumes). Interested?

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  • TR Gregory

    Hi Blake,

    Any help that fellow science bloggers can provide in promoting their site will be sincerely appreciated.

    Feynman may be a little advanced, though the offer is certainly generous. It’s the problem I have — tons of free university textbooks but none appropriate for grade school level.

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  • TheBrummell

    This is a wonderful and beautiful idea. I’ll put up a (most likely ineffectual) post on my blog.

    You’ve just been linked to for this from Pharyngula; the resulting Pharyngulanche should have a strongly beneficial effect. Though now I wonder about the “one blog post” part – if lots and lots of other blogs post links to here, does it still count as one blog post? If they post links directly to the Foundation and the donation system, does it still count as one post? Bah, semantics! I still think this is a fantastically good idea, and I wish your parents all the best luck in their work and adventure!

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  • TR Gregory

    Yes, all links sincerely appreciated. And it’s “one blog post” by me — the blogosphere’s helpful reactions are another aspect! Sheeesh :-).

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  • Omnome

    Hi

    I also think that you have a larger readership than I, but I will link to this post as well. I appreciate the efforts. I try, in a small way, to affect a change in Africa via http://www.kiva.org. They are a non-profit microlending company. Take a look if any of you are curious.

    However, I think I will contribute to this project for a few months instead of lending via kiva. :-)

    Best of luck!

    Fernando

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  • Ricardo

    Hi Dr Gregory, I’ve found this to be an amazing endeavor and wish the best of luck.

    I’m going to do my best to help spread the word. So far, I’ve submitted your post to Reddit and that might help.

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  • TR Gregory

    Fantastic — thanks omnome and ricardo :-)

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  • TR Gregory

    I’ve submitted your post to Reddit

    I will try Digg as well now that you mention it.

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  • h3nry

    Your father, your step-mother and yourself are wonderful human beings. I am truly touched.

    I work as a software engineer in Australia. What I can do is, I think, donate some electronic toys to the kids, and hopefully thereby arouse their interests in science and technology. Just be patient as I need to start collecting them.

    I will do a StumbleUpon of your post.

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  • mollishka

    Hiya,

    Blake pointed me this way … it seems our fathers have a lot in common, though my father’s focus is more on local problems. I hope your parents’ time in Zambia is successful (by whatever metric that should be measured).

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  • Bongi

    may your parents be sucessful in their endeavour in africa. my heart will always be in africa.

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  • Hsien Lei

    I hope your father and stepmother enjoy their journey and wish them much success.

    I shared this with the readers of Eye on DNA earlier this week. :)

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  • Austin Explorer

    Dugg! God bless your father, stepmother and you for your efforts in helping these people!

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  • Flabuless

    Wow…I discovered your story through forbes…although a New Zealander I spent time in Zambia teaching in a school in 1996 and ended up marrying a Zambian hehe! lets just say I fell in love with more than just the country…I now have two of my own dearest ‘Zambian’ children.

    I just want to affirm that the need over there is great…but the people are so positive and inspiring…I went over there to missionise Zambia but, when I came back, I realised that Zambia had actually missionised ME in a HUGE way that has impacted my life forever…

    Please everyone, participate in this promotion…let’s ‘pay it forward’ and make a difference together.

    Thanks so much for sharing this story…and I will be observing keenly to know what a difference we have made.

    My thoughts go out to your parents they will love their time there I am sure.

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  • Vigrx

    good…really touchable..

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  • Andrew

    Dear
    I wish your parents all the best luck in their work and adventure!

    Andrew smith
    http://www.vigrxhome.com

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  • ProjectEDUCATE

    I wish you and your parents the very best. I went to school in l’stone. I now live in the U.S and run a non-profit that helps improve educational standards and infrastructure in Zambia. L’stone is a great place. I hope your parents enjoy it as much as I did.

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  • Kevin Z

    Hi TR Gregory,

    I have lots of science journals that I’ve been trying to find a project to donate them to. Books for Africa only takes textbooks. Would your parents organization, or others, be interested getting donations of journals and books from horders like myself? I’ve got Science, Nature, Evolution, National Geographic. etc. etc. just sitting around, I think it could be very useful to stock local libraries with.

    The only problem is paying for shipping. I bet there is some charity dept. in DHL, Fedex or UPS that might defray shipping costs. For instance, if you guys could work something out, I would be willing to help organize something at Penn State to get scientific journals, textbooks and other books over there.

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