Imagine you are an orphan in a West African village, today. You live in the orphanage because your parents died of AIDS, like countless other parents in Africa. One hundred degree heat beats on your brow, and you are thirsty. But you are also getting sick — from the only drinking water you have.
I may be stretching the perceived boundaries of Culture Currents for this posting. But this elasticity is justified: Culture Currents is interested in the uses of social media, which is now crucial for this effort at helping orphans survive in Africa. The effort began with an e-mail (see note with accompanying photo above). The sponsoring organization, It Must Work has gained support from a Facebook-driven non-governmental organization Electricians without Borders 1 for well-building plans and now is doing online and Facebook promotion for a fundraiser upcoming on August 6 at the Highland House, an excellent restaurant in the Milwaukee area which is donating money for each person attending the event (see below).
The Culture Currents blog is joining the effort and is always interested in the social and political aspects of contemporary media and communication, because they help define our contemporary culture — that is, the actions and expression that define who we are, and what we value, as a group of people and, more largely, as a common humanity (thus my blog’s sub-title).
So, this is a matter of imploring humanity to care about orphans in dire need.
The orphanage’s relatively crude cistern is contaminated “from water runoff from roof gutters overhead and other impure sources,” explains Ed Valent, a Milwaukee educator and IMW board member.* (see photograph at the bottom right, on the attached flyer.)
So building a well will be the practical solution to the water problem. “They are also trying to grow crops and have a fish farm,” Valent said. “But water is an ongoing problem, and it depends on the rain, which is seasonal. And the temperature there is always between 90 and 100 degrees.”
The effort is spearheaded by a remarkable Midwestern-born Peace Corp worker Rebecca Casper Harles, who worked at the orphanage in Benin, Africa. Here’s a message from Valent:
Highland House is a family friendly, reasonably priced restaurant (managed by the son of my childhood friend, Frank Stemper)Here’s their web site: Highland House.Here’s their address: 12741 N Port Washington Rd, Mequon, WI 53092Here are driving directions from Milwaukee:I 43 North to Mequon Rd (exit 85), left on Mequon Rd to cross highway, right on Port Washington Rd for 2.9 miles. Highland House is on the left.
Now (if you’re still reading), here’s the story I promised:
The Water for Orphans Story: Several years ago, Rebecca (Casper) Harles came back from her Peace Corps assignment in Benin, Africa with a mission. While she was there, she befriended Mathieu Honzonon, who has an extraordinary story.The small town where he grew up was coping with a heartbreaking result of Africa’s AIDS crisis: a large and growing number of orphans. Benin’s citizens rely on the generosity of neighbors to address family crises, but the scope of the problem was unprecedented. Mathieu began an orphanage for about 35 school aged children and set about the job of providing them with an food, shelter, an education and love.The orphanage has always relied on a cistern system to supply all of its water. Recently, contamination in the cistern water has sickened both animals and children. The solution: a new well. The problem? No money. Fortunately, upon Rebecca’s return from Africa, she set up a non-profit to be able to continue supporting Peace Corps related work in West Africa. Her organization is called, “It Must Work”, the English translation of the name of the orphanage.Mathieu has reached out for support from “Electricians Without Borders” for well plans and expertise and to “It Must Work” for funding. As a board member of It Must Work, I can attest to the legitimacy of this group. Since it’s beginning in 2009, 100% of every donation for the annual projects the group has undertaken has gone for the charitable work of the organization. All “fundraising” expenses have been paid by board members themselves.
A day or night out at Highland House sounds like a good time, but if you can’t join me on August 6, and you’re moved by the cause, the orphans and I would appreciate a donation. You can mail one to:
It Must Work c/o Paul Casper, Treasurer1325 N. Van Buren St. #603Milwaukee, WI 53202For more about It Must Work, see: It Must Work’s Facebook Page (and like us while you’re there if you want to stay in the IMW loop).
929 N. Astor St. #2207
Milwaukee, WI 53202