It will be a dark day for me when internet access pervades the friendly skies. I read poetry on airplanes. It's one of the few times when I can slip guiltlessly into a cocoon free of email, telephone, friend or foe, and commune with the muses.
I'm on my way to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with The Global Fund, (RED)'s partner in helping eliminate AIDS in Africa. On my flight, Seamus Heaney is my travel companion. I'm waiting to board, and sneaking a peak at the last poem in The Spirit Level collection.
Heaney invokes a drive to the west country, an ocean "wild with foam and glitter" to one side and on the other, "the earthed lightening" of a flock of swan that churns up the still surface of a slate-grey lake. "Useless," he says, for the mere witness "to think you'll park or capture it more thoroughly." But the experience is enough that a soft buffeting by wind or wing "catch the heart off guard and blow it open.
Some experiences pale to their reality when captured by pictures or words. I'm thinking of this as I recall my last transatlantic journey, to Rwanda in December 2007. I wish that every student who has written about how they are turning their campus (RED), every mom who's sent a photo of her kids in (Gap) RED, everyone who's designed a shoe at the Converse "make mine (RED)" site, or every MySpace friend who's turned their profile (RED), could have seen first-hand where the money is going and the impact it's having.
Every (RED) cent generated by consumers who buy products from a (RED) partner company is spent on the ground in Africa. No overhead is taken. 100 percent goes to provide the pills that keep an HIV+ person alive and to stop others from becoming infected. It's one thing to write that and another to see it. Talk about having one's heart blown wide open. Seeing is believing.
(RED) just crossed the $100 million mark in money flowing to Africa. I'm headed to Geneva, where the Global Fund is based. (RED) grants represent the best performing and neediest programs within the Global Fund's extensive portfolio of AIDS grants in Africa, ensuring that every dollar raised is effectively and immediately translated into lives saved. I'll be meeting with the grant review and technical teams, as part of our ongoing work to ensure that we are doing all we can, as well as we can, to help eliminate AIDS in Africa.
There is no known cure for AIDS. For the time being, treatment and prevention are the best "vaccines," especially in resource-poor countries like Rwanda, Ghana and Swaziland, where (RED) money is flowing. It used to be that antiretroviral drugs cost as much as $6,000 per person per year. Now, with the price of an ARV regimen cut to less than $140 annually, it is possible to imagine eliminating the disease that kills 4,400 people in Africa every single day.
(RED) exists to save these lives and to prevent additional infections. We have more partners coming, more products, more campaigns but the same commitment: every (RED) cent generated by consumers who buy products from a (RED) partner company is spent on the ground in Africa. Thank you for helping spread (RED) and please stop by our site to learn more.
p.s. here is a little something for your next flight, Postscript by Seamus Heaney
And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightening of flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully-grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you'll park or capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open