Monday, April 23, 2007

Day Four: Southern Hospitality

I think it is safe to say that today we were all tired. The rest of the tour was looming in front of us stretching out of the week to come. However, today we were tired.

We started off the day by meeting Manning Kimmel of Rock Hill's Straight Talk a local public affairs and issues radio show. Mr. Kimmel absolutely amazed me. He seemed to know a little bit about everything and was very passionate about the issue of AIDS in Africa. You can listen to Monalisa and David on his show here. Mr. Kimmel seemed as taken and amazed by Monalisa as we all were. There is a man who genuinely cares what is happening to people and you have to respect and admire that.

Later that afternoon we headed over to the Catabwa Cares Coalition. A side note here: if you live anywhere around Rock Hill SC go and volunteer here! This is an incredible organization led by an incredible team. You can contact them about volunteering here.

What happened later that evening was truly incredible. Our contact at Winthrop University seemed nervous about the crowd size before the event. Pre-event jitters I guess you would call them. She really didn't have too much to worry about.

Winthrop University ended up being one of our largest audiences. On top of that a significant number of people from the audience said they were interested in volunteering. I know a lot of people gauge the success of an event by what the press says the next day. I gauge the success by how many students will not only attend an event the night before exams start but by the sheer number of them that will commit to volunteering.

I watched the students as they listened to Monalisa speak. I watched them first kind of slumping over not paying the closest attention. As Monalisa began weaving her story with the struggle of South Africa and with the impact of decisions made here in the US these people began to listen intently. I saw eyes register surprise when Monalisa began describing why abstinence doesn't work. I saw understanding nods as Monalisa advocated for better education on condoms. I saw outright shock when Monalisa elaborated about the place of a woman in South African culture.

If one person left that auditorium empowered to change the world -- all the tiredness in the world is worth it.

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