Wednesday
May 13
2015
May 13, 2015

Supporters Reflect: Our Work in Africa

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From April 29 to May 7, 2015, supporters of the Clinton Foundation visited the sites of several Clinton Foundation projects and CGI Commitments to Action that are improving the lives of thousands of people across Africa. This trip highlighted many of the issues that the Clinton Foundation has long worked on — economic growth and empowerment, climate change, empowering women and girlsglobal health and conservation. At the trip's conclusion, Jay Jacobs, CEO of the TLC Kids Group, reflected on what it was like to see this work first-hand. 
 
Most Memorable
There were so many moving, impactful moments on the trip – each of them validating our own participation with the Foundation.  However, first among them must be the visit to the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s hearing aid fittings.  A CGI partner, spurred on to increase its output by a challenge from President Clinton, clearly made me proud to be a part of the Foundation’s work.  Watching the mother of a 14-year old boy, whose name was Dennis, get fitted with his hearing aids in the hope of being able to hear for the first time in his life was very moving.  One ear at a time, the doctor fit the earpiece and then connected the amplifying device and began testing it by standing behind him and making the same sound each time as he adjusted the volume: "bap-bap-bap-bap-bap-bap.”  The look of recognition on his face when he heard that sound was beaten only by the look on his mother’s face as she understood what this would mean to his life.  I work with children his age.  I know his name was Dennis because after his hearing aids were fitted properly I asked him.  His mother, by force of habit, answered for him; “his name is Dennis” she said.  And then he looked at me with a slight smile and said “Dennis.”  It doesn’t get any better than that.  

 
Biggest Surprise

I have to say that the enthusiasm and gratitude from the people impacted was quite substantial and very moving.  People everywhere were happy to see us.  From the Maasai tribesmen to the staff in the cities we visited, people were excited to see President Clinton, see us and were clearly grateful for all that the Foundation was doing.

Why I’m Optimistic
One of our stops was at an arena in Nairobi, Kenya, where about 5,000 students on scholarships provided by the "Wings To Fly” program were assembled. The students gathered to thank President Clinton along with the MasterCard Foundation and Equity bank, who sponsored the program through a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action, for making their education possible. The assemblage was overwhelming and their enthusiasm and clear gratitude, rewarding.  We heard from about 10 of the students who shared their poignant stories.  The theme throughout was the rise from having nothing to becoming a person with a future; with hope.  When President Clinton spoke he told the students that “everyone has a story.”  He told a bit of his story growing up.  He then referenced the recent terrorist attack that killed over 140 college students in Garissa and reminded us that we all have more in common than that which divides us.  He went on to say that we can have our differences, but that everyone’s story deserves respect and needs to be told.  He said that we have to let go of vengeance and replace it with forgiveness.  Referring to the fact that the earliest evidence of human life on the planet was discovered not far from the spot where he was speaking, President Clinton closed by saying that “we just have to decide in this century whether those who would seek to kill off everyone who is different than they are will prevail, or whether, like the students in this room – those who can respect and appreciate our differences prevail?  It’s up to you.”

I came away hopeful because the reaction in that room made clear that these students understand it.  Over 10,000 have already benefitted from the Wings To Fly program.  Barriers and differences in the world only exist if we give them the power to divide us. The fact that the Clinton Foundation is helping other organizations and institutions come together to make this kind of impact, person to person, country by country, leads me to believe that there is a brighter future.

Learn more about our work in Africa at africa.clintonfoundation.org.