Wednesday, October 25, 2006


About six weeks ago, I met a guy that for the past ten years had been one or two "extensions" outside of my immediate social network. By this, I mean that this guy and I had known so many people in common, we had travelled in many of the same circles and yet we had never met. So finally we meet for coffee and it was one of those kinds of meetings that just couldn't end. We had so much to talk about, so many shared interests, shared friends, etc that we just kept on going. This guy told me about some of his experiences travelling to Africa and very casually asked me if I wanted to come on his next trip. I replied without thinking. "Would love to!"

Let's back up. Some of my first memories growing up were of slide shows by people from South Africa showing the brutality of Apartheid. I remember being in the back of a community centre room in Victoria (called the home of the "Newly wed and nearly dead") and fearing that the police were going to bust through the door and arrest all of us being I couldn't differentiate from the police in South Africa to the police in Victoria. I grew up handing out leaflets outside of Shell Stations protesting their continued economic involvement in South Africa. Africa was in my heart, brain and soul from the earliest of memories.

I have travelled extensively but all of my travel has been airport to hotel to boardroom to hotel to airport. I have never travelled outside of this pattern.

I have engaged in many conversations about Africa. I have talked extensively and convincingly about the issues, about what's going on in the various countries, the politics, the economics. But I have repeated other people's stories, other people's experiences. For all of my reading, all of my facts, I have never seen any part of Africa.

So during the busiest time of the year for us at GiveMeaning, in amongst a bunch of new features we're developing for the site, right after our "Pig-e-Banks" have been launched, I'm off to Africa for two and a half weeks with 6 men, 4 of whom I met for the first time tonight.

At our meeting tonight, we went around the room introducing ourselves. Talking about why we're going and talking about what we fear most. What I fear most are the injections I have to take. The live viruses that I'm injecting into my body to protect me. After that, I fear the men I'm travelling with. I told them this tonight. Those that know me best know that I have very few close friends and these people have become close to me over several years. But for this experience to be what I want it to be, I must make these men, these strangers my close friends at least for the purpose of this trip.

Because what I most want from this is not only my own experience but a shared experience. I'm most hopeful that the conversations we have during our travels will lead to new opinions, new beliefs and new ideas.

This first initial meeting was really encouraging. All of us (including those that had already travelled to Africa) were more or less on the same page. Regardless of how much knowledge or travel we each individually have, we have all committed to arriving with an open-mind and being free (as best we can) of expectations, prejudices, and preconceived notions.

I would love to articulate why I'm going and what my purpose is to this trip in detail. All I can say is that I need to go. I've been trying to go for several years and it's never been the "right time." This certainly isn't the right time but I've made this work.

I'll be blogging (or so I hope) regularly from every country I visit on my trip and will hope to be uploading video and pictures from my trip. I hope that my perspective will be worth reading. As someone that interacts with donors and fundraisers and charities every day, I think I know some of the big problems, the big stigmas, the big questions that we all ask. Stay tuned here for updates.

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