Article: US band connects with African NPOs

By | October 14, 2009

Since the beginning of their “Take the Walk” campaign in 2008, the three brothers that make up the Oklahoma-based band Hanson – Isaac, Taylor, and Zac – have taken their music to the next level in order to help others half a world away.

Working in conjunction with the non-profit organisations Free The Children (FTC) and Blood: Water Mission (BWM), among others, Hanson has enabled a school to be built and water wells to be drilled in South Africa.

For the past two years, Hanson has urged their fans to walk a mile barefoot before their shows, putting themselves in the “shoes” of those living in the developing world. What began as a personal passion to make a positive change for the less fortunate, has blossomed into a movement that has energized their fans around the globe, together walking a collective 28,000 miles. For each mile walked, the band donated one dollar.

“Everything we’ve done has always been starting from the point of view that you can’t speak about something that you don’t feel passionate about,” Taylor Hanson told MediaGlobal.

As Taylor writes in Take The Walk (2008), a book by the band about their journey, “The struggle is to get off the starting line, to move beyond caring and speaking and begin doing.”

Taylor described their campaign as “a way to get a visceral connection with people and to be able to talk honestly from our perspective about things that we’ve seen and experienced.”

“You need to be the megaphone for this cause to your peers, to your friends, to the people around you, and take this on yourself,” Taylor explained of his band’s message. “Go organise and put on this event and help us get enough miles to walk around the world as a symbol of how much we’re collectively doing.”

Their fans were able to pick one (or more) of Hanson’s five causes to support in Africa with their walks: building schools, drilling clean water wells, providing shoes to those without them, buying anti-retroviral medication, and supplying cell phones for AIDS patients.

To build schools, Hanson teamed up with FTC. As their website states, “Free The Children has built [over 500] schools in impoverished parts of the world, funded by small donations from young people taking simple actions… The primary goals of the organisation are to free children from poverty and exploitation and free young people from the notion that they are powerless to affect positive change in the world.”

Hanson’s goal was to build one new school in South Africa for US$8,500. To date, 8,284 miles have been walked to reach this goal, equating to 97% completion of their first school. Once one school is built, the band will aim for a second.

In order to provide clean water, a health necessity for millions of Africans who must walk miles to water sources each day, Hanson joined BWM, an organisation that has drilled hundreds of clean water wells across the African continent. As their website attests, “Blood:Water Mission exists to promote clean blood and clean water efforts in Africa, tangibly reducing the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic while addressing the underlying issues of poverty, injustice, and oppression.”

At US$3,000 per well and 3,069 miles walked toward this goal, Hanson has already aided in the completion of one well and the construction of a second is underway.

By teaming up with TOMS Shoes, a non-profit that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased, Hanson has enabled 5,890 miles to be walked and 536 pairs of shoes to be donated.

Docvia, a healthcare technology company in the United States that donates technology to healthcare facilities in developing nations, has created a secure text message interface for doctors and patients to communicate and maintain treatment. The band has given 578 mothers one month of medical care access through Docvia with 2,291 miles walked.

Plans are in the works for another trip to Africa for the band to witness the results of their campaign first-hand. “We want everybody to know that tangible action creates a tangible solution, creates something that is real,” Taylor noted.

Hanson will continue to raise awareness and funding for the impoverished and AIDS-affected in Africa when they take to the road on their 28-city Use Your Sole Tour this fall.

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