Thursday, November 13, 2008

Power of a Pin

FACEAIDS Pin Changing Lives and Inspiring Students

130 plastic beads and a safety pin are breaking barriers in rural Rwanda and inspiring students from across the country that they can make a noted difference. It is a simple beaded pin, but the message and power behind it is inspiring. Wherever and whenever I speak – the pin is on my lapel because this pin is changing lives in rural Rwanda and campuses across the United States.

As individuals we can feel powerless by seemingly overwhelming or daunting issues. Half the world's population live on less than $2.50 a day. Stats like this serve to inform us and even command our attention; yet, they often are beyond our comprehension. $2.50 – no matter how managed - can not provide sufficient food, basic healthcare, adequate housing, and educational expenses to lead a dignified life. In the face of such glaring numbers I try to stay grounded.

The truth is people have a great heart. They want to help or make a difference, but the difficultly is often the how., Partners in Health, and FACEAIDS all provide the elusive answer. Muhammad Yunus (the father of microfinance) and Michael Milken (the convicted wall street felon turned philanthropist) recently shared on Charlie Rose the 3 issues that they believe are key to eradicating poverty and giving all people an opportunity to lead a dignified life – healthcare, education, and a job.

Breaking down each of these necessities could fill volumes – instead I will focus on a woman I met in eastern rural Rwanda. She, like many in the east African country, has lost family members to the 1994 genocide and stands to lose more from HIV/AIDS. A few years ago a doctor – let alone HIV treatment - was not available near her village. Partners in Health has since built a clinic and now a full hospital – healthcare has become a reality for her. She made a living making and selling banana beer but struggled with the labor of the process and could not make enough to provide for her family the way she would want. She is now part of the FACEAIDS pinmaking cooperative. She takes great pride in her work. When I asked her what she does with the extra income her face lit up. FACEAIDS makes her save a portion so she will be able to purchase a goat. A goat that will provide milk in a land where protein is a necessary staple that many cannot afford. She wants what all parents want – opportunity for her children. Her FACEAIDS work provides the extra funds to afford the school fees to give her eldest son a chance to break the cycle of poverty. Healthcare, education, and a job gave this family the chance for a better life.

For the last three years every Fall at Stanford University sees a wave of college students from across the country come together on a mission centered on these pins. It is the National FACEAIDS Conference where students will brainstorm new ideas to increase advocacy and raise funds for Partners in Health’s work in rural Rwanda. Much of the focus will be on social justice, human rights, and development issues, but an underlying theme will be the power of a pin.

1 comment:

Amy said...

Excellent article. i'm very happy to be wearing it today