10 Ways You Can Help Africa
Julius E. Coles has spent more than 40 years studying, visiting,
and working on the African continent, primarily at the U.S. Agency
for International Development. Subsequently, he served as the director
of the Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center at Howard University
and the Andrew Young Center for International Affairs at Morehouse
University. He has been president of Africare since 2002.
Mr. Coles wrote the following editorial toward the end of February
— Black History Month — 2005, to "propose that we Americans
continue the celebration by committing ourselves to help Africa
I have worked with Africa
for nearly 40 years; and as a result, I am often approached by people
here in the U.S. who want to help the people of Africa but who also
feel overwhelmed. It may be the continent's vast size that intimidates,
or the depth of some of its challenges, or the media reports that
highlight Africa 's problems but minimize the progress that has
been made. "Can I really make a difference?" people ask. "Yes,"
I always tell them, "you can."
As I write these words, Black History Month is nearing its end.
We have celebrated the achievements of our African-American community
and honored our hereditary roots in Africa . Now, I propose that
we Americans continue the celebration by committing ourselves to
help Africa year-round. What follows are 10 ways in which you —
an individual, a family, a member of a social or civic group, a
small business, a church, a school — can do just that.
The more you know about Africa, the better you can motivate
others to help. Read a survey of African history since the dawn
of humankind more than 200,000 years ago. Read a book about black
African leaders, from the Kushite pharaohs of ancient Egypt to the
giants of 20th century independence (Nelson Mandela of South Africa,
Leopold Senghor of Senegal, Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, Kwame Nkrumah
of Ghana, Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, and more). Follow African
current events on Web sites like AllAfrica (allafrica.com),
BBC News (news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa,
and CNN (www.cnn.com/WORLD/africa/archive).
learn. If you're a teacher, plan a lesson or special project
about Africa. If you're a parent, look for a fun "African experience"
your family can share. If you're a student, do a research paper
on Africa or start an Africa Club with your friends. If your school
has African students, have a special assembly and ask them to speak.
Voice your views and perspectives on Africa-related issues.
Write a letter to your senator, member of congress, or state or
local government official. Share your concerns with companies engaged
in Africa. Author a guest editorial for your community or school
newspaper, or a posting to your favorite Internet message board.
If you've traveled or worked in Africa, give a talk to
a group you belong to. If you've never been to Africa, arrange for
an African immigrant who lives in your community to speak.
5. Travel. If you have the means,
visit Africa. Consider a group trip: traveling in groups can add
to the fun as well as reduce the costs (group discounts are often
substantial). As much as possible, do business with African vendors
for transport, lodging, and tours. While in Africa, absorb the beautiful
scenery and cultural sites — but also take the time to meet local
people, learn about their lives, and understand the development
challenges that they face. Finally, stay connected, and committed,
once you return home. For example, if you visited a drought-prone
country, involve your friends in raising funds for water wells.
hear, eat ... enjoy! African culture is accessible in
most American cities. You can see an African film (Afrique-sur-Seine,
The Gods Must Be Crazy) or a film about Africa (Hotel Rwanda,
The Lost Boys of the Sudan , Cry Freedom).
Attend a performance of African music or dance. Visit an African
art museum. Eat at an African restaurant. Enjoy and appreciate the
incredible variety of cultures that are "African" and share those
enthusiasms with others.
Almost every city and many smaller communities in the
United States are home to first-generation Africans. Find opportunities
to meet your African neighbors, to learn from them, and to invite
their participation in local organizations. Reach out especially
to new arrivals, who might welcome your help finding housing and
jobs and generally adjusting to American life.
You may be in a position to invest in an African business
or to join a group of investors with African interests (there are
growing numbers of African investment funds you might want to explore).
On the other hand, even the simple act of buying African art in
an American store helps to support the artists and their families
in Africa. Depending on where you work, you might also engage your
employer in African investment or trade.
Make a charitable donation to one of the many reputable
organizations assisting Africa. Your gift may be large or small.
Usually, you can give online. You can support special projects or
offer to help "where needed most" in Africa. You can give individually;
you can organize a fund raiser; you can give in your workplace.
here to donate to Africare.)
10. Share. Send this article to 10
people, and ask each to send it on to 10 more — and encourage all
recipients to help Africa this year in one of the nine other
ways presented above.
I hope you will help Africa
this year in one of the ways outlined above or in another way that
fits your interests and skills. Please send me an e-mail, at [email protected],
with your story of how you helped Africa during 2005.