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 mission statement of the project is described as follows:
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
. 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. Zambia
Objectives of the Project:
- To operate a not-for-profit Foundation.
- To promote the rich cultural diversity existing in
and the Kavango-Zambezi region. Zambia
- To promote the city of
, the country of Livingstone , and the region of Kavango-Zambezi, as a tourist destination. Zambia
- To provide employment for local residents.
- To raise funds for the sponsorship of various community projects
- To assist in the promotion and expansion of the service related industry (restaurants, merchants, etc.).
- To cooperate with other community-based groups within the Livingstone district.
- To improve and enhance the educational aspect of the city library.
- To provide music programs in local schools.
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.