Warning: this post is long and may contain a crazy request. Please read to the end before you decide.
I’ve written here about my friends, documentary sculptor Keisha Luce and Dreams for Kids founder Tom Tuohy. I admire them both and try to support their work whenever I can. And although they’ve never met, their “virtual paths” have crossed and set in motion a remarkable series of events.
During Sierra Leone’s long civil war, rebels terrorized civilians by using machetes to chop off hands or legs. (See BBC article here.)
The legacy of any war lasts much longer than the fighting. Just over a year ago Keisha traveled to Sierra Leone to help tell the story of the amputees and their families. Like her work in Viet Nam, her intent was to combine oral history and life-molding sculpture to examine the personal and social issues that arise from war-related disfigurement. I spoke with Keisha before she left for Africa and she was concerned. She’d not been able to arrange in-country contact and did not know how that would impact her ability to do the work.
Ready for a crazy, goose-bump-inducing twist? Within hours of that conversation, I visited Dreams for Kids online group and saw an introductory post from a young man named Andrew Benson Greene — a child advocate from Sierra Leone.
Needless to say, Andrew and I “hijacked” the group conversation for two days to figure out how he and Keisha would connect in Freetown. He appointed himself host, advocate and guide, offsetting conditions that were far more difficult than any Keisha had encountered in Viet Nam. Andrew’s support, generosity and kindness to strangers made it possible for Keisha and photographer Kirk Torregrossa to start to tell this story. (They are currently creating the finished pieces for an exhibit.)
This would be a good story about peace, cooperation and crazy coincidences if it ended here. There’s more.
Andrew has dedicated his young life to helping that same group of war victims. Here’s a link to the organization he founded. (He also studied at McGill with a Sauve Scholarship for “developing the leadership potential of promising youth from around the world.”)
Andrew has been accepted into the Peace, Conflict and Co-Existence Studies program at Brandeis University and has received scholarship support. But he is $2600 short…. With all that has been going on in my own life I missed an important fact: The program requires a $500 non-refundable deposit by May 25th. Yes… two days.
So here’s the truly crazy part: I think that in 24 hours you can help me find 25 people to commit to $100 each…. Or a few more people willing to make smaller contributions. We’ll each need to pay $20 by Wednesday and the rest by July 1st… and Dreams for Kids has agreed to collect and disperse the funds, with no administrative costs.
There are lots of ways you can help. If you’re as confident as I am that we’ll raise what is needed, then click here and make your donation now. (Please follow it with an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org letting her know that you are contributing to Andrew’s scholarship.)
Or, if you want to make sure that all the money is committed before you donate e-mail me at TheShengGroup AT gmail dot come with the subject line “That’s Not So Crazy” and tell me what you can commit to. Of course any sharing, re-tweeting and asking others helps as well.
Gifts for donating, you ask? Other than the good feeling that comes from helping wonderful people do important work? How about gratitude, a big tray of virtual brownies and an invitation to dinner when Andrew’s here?
Are you crazy, too? I’m counting on it. And so are some very cool kids in Sierra Leone.