I’ll admit it - I started blaring Toto’s “Africa” on my MP3 player (this was a while ago, folks) when my plane started its descent (is it too corny that I’m listening to that song for inspiration as I write this ?). A month-long overland truck trip - where you ride in a big bus that has open holes for windows and stops for a day or two in touristy places where you camp out and see the sites - seemed like a well-earned reward for a tough couple years in law school. Coming directly from a summer study abroad stint in Russia and having yet to ever set foot on the African continent, I was pumped to be able to say upon my return to my comfortable existence in the States that I had done the Africa thing. I met my best friend, Frank, at the airport in Nairobi and set out to get the party started. To be sure, August of 2006 met my lofty expectations. It changed me thoroughly.
WideAwake.org finds its genesis on the shores of Lake Malawi, in one of the least-developed nations in the world. We stumbled halfway through our trip upon an Australian missionary there who was doing big things to enhance the quality of life for people who needed a hand, and she was doing it with a servant’s heart. Frank and I were struck by how effective the small org she put together was, especially given its very limited resources, at providing education, modest income and indeed, hope, through community-based programs. We were inspired. A thought occurred to us - how much more good could an organization like this do if people who had money to give and were otherwise inclined to help knew that it existed? That’s the thing - there are lots of grassroots aid organizations out there doing meaningful work and which people with means would gladly support if they only knew about them and could see some of the things they’ve done. WideAwake.org, then, was born out of our desire to get the word out about efficient, trustworthy charitable organizations in the developing world. Add to this the trust element - we made transparency and integrity paramount concerns in accepting orgs with which we work - and that’s WideAwake.org in a nutshell.
By the time we reached our final destination of Cape Town it was pretty clear that something bigger than the standard “oh, seeing really poor people makes me so thankful for what I have so I should give something back” knee-jerk reaction would come from this. To clarify, to my mind this is actually a welcome and good reaction - I’m just thankful that for once in my selfish life I was able to convince myself that this needed to stick, that I needed to do a bit more, go a bit deeper. I’ll say that what motivated us to dive into this enters the spiritual. We’re Christians, and we think that God wants us to go out of our way to help people, irrespective of their creed or condition. This just seemed like a good way to do it. It’s proved a blessing for me. I hope those it was intended to serve can say the same.