I bet you were horrified like me to watch those images of the World Trade Center tumbling down on September 11th 2001. Probably you too were mystified why someone we’ve never met would hate us and out way of life so much.
I set out to discover why so many seem to hate America. Know what I found out? The US of A (not just our government but you and me too!) has been losing the battle for the “hearts and minds” of those in Africa & elsewhere to people like Osama Bin Laden. For example, while visiting southern Sudan several years ago, I found out that Bin Laden never “hid” while training those who later carried out the 9/11 attacks. Instead, he lived very openly & became well-liked by creating jobs, launching various business enterprises & feeding people through his honey bee operation.
Sometime later, I discovered that the USA was so out of favor we couldn’t directly distribute our food aid but needed to use “neutral” countries like Norway to distribute those big bags of beans and rice that are stamped “Gift From Your Friends In The United States of America”. We both know that American foreign policy is often self-serving but I’m not here to blame the US Government or whichever President or party is in power. Frankly, its you and I who have dropped the ball.
When did we stop caring for others?
When did we turn over that job to the government?
Throughout our history, ordinary people did extraordinary things to make a difference in the lives of hurting people. No matter how tough the economy, this is NO TIME to stop! Think for a minute…
Imagine a world with NO media!
Daily we are bombarded with media from every direction but think about how isolated (and bored) we would be if it all suddenly went away! That’s what I’ve found on my first trip to Africa in 1996. Oh sure, some countries had a bit of governmental-controlled radio and/or television but often that was simply spewing out slanted versions of local and world events.
I’m a broadcaster and businessman having owned US radio and television stations since the 1980s. After the sale of my television station in the mid-90s my lawyer dragged me to Ghana, a lovely country in west Africa with 20 million of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. In my travels I was introduced to some wonderful people including many pastors and their families who were working themselves to death trying to help the poor and less fortunate.
Sadly, at the same time they were helping others, these good Samaritans were stressing how they would feed their own kids. I learned that many African children often go a day or two with no food at all. I remembered how my Mom would always scold me if I left food on my plate. She’d say a hungry kid in Africa needed food! Now I was seeing those starving kids up close.
IT’S JUST NOT FAIR!
That kids have to go to bed hungry.
That girls must drop out of school so school fees can be paid for their brothers.
That babies die from malaria and diarrhea because their parents don’t have the $3 for medicine.
I went back home and told my family we HAD to do SOMETHING! So, we began using profits form our US businesses to fund small African businesses. With donations of as little as $300, we funded micro enterprises such as…
- Bread-making by buying a lady an oven
- Fabric creation by purchasing chemicals
- Ground nut paste by buying peanuts
- Taxi hiring by trading for a used car
- Sewing by helping launch a fashion design school for women
But even with those small successes, I wanted to do more. Somehow I wanted to make a difference on a larger scale. About that same time the Ghana government began permitting private ownership of radio & TV so I purchased a license. Armed with a lot of zeal but very little knowledge of the Ashanti culture, I built and launched Spirit 88.3 in Kumasi, Ghana in June 2000. Sure, I’ve made many, many mistakes along the way but I almost daily hear of some young person who is now able to feed their extended families because of the skills I taught them. Maybe you’re reading this because, like me, you’ve enjoyed some success in business but frankly, finding that success really is NOT all its cracked up to be.
Since 1996, my life’s emphasis has changed. I’m no longer content just to be “successful”, I want to be “significant” by impacting many people in a positive way. Will I change the world? In the movie Schindler’s List, near the end, the Jews he rescued present him with a gold ring made from the fillings in their teeth. Inside the ring was etched the old proverb, “…he who saves one life saves the whole world…” Schindler begins to cry as he looks around thinking of the additional people he could have helped by selling his car and other possessions.
In Jerusalem, my daughter and I visited Oscar Schindler’s grave. Like in the movie, the marble top of the crypt is full of small stones left by those who passed to pay their respects. For me, it was a moving experience for in spite of his many weaknesses as a human being, that man had become “significant’ to many and an example to millions.
OK, I’ve rambled a bunch, but somehow you’re still reading so maybe my thoughts are hitting ”home in your life.
Wanna make a difference? Wanna battle for “hearts and minds” in places where Osama is loved even more than Obama? Start by getting involved in one of our Special Projects! Better yet, travel to Africa and help me erect it in some small village!