Monday, July 05, 2010

Guest Post by Theresia Whitfield: Changing the World Through Social Media

My good friend, Theresia Whitfield, is a fellow blogger and writer, and taught me a lot about writing about auto racing last year when I became an Indy 500 blogger.

She recently told me about her concerns and fears for the town of Bulembu in Swaziland, and how she became committed to helping the people of Bulembu.

"You asked how you can help me," she said in an email to a few of us. "Help me promote this, like posting something on your blog."

I told her that she would be more than welcome to do that, so this is what Theresia has to say about how she wants to — and we can — help Bulembu, Swaziland.

The floor is yours.



Changing the World Through Social Media

By: Theresia Whitfield

The skeptics are everywhere. One fellow writer and good friend recently said he was holding off on joining the social media revolution because he wanted to see if it was just another passing fad. My guess is that it’s not just a fad. In fact, my prediction is that social media is going to change the world. Ok, maybe I’m a little late on that prediction but I think we’ve only scratched the surface on what it can really do.

I admit to having an insane addiction when I first started learning about it. But I eventually discovered how to keep it from being a big time-waster and uncovered the wonderful way it can be used to accomplish some important things. First, I have been able to reconnect with old friends from high school and college. Sure, some of those people haven’t changed a bit in nearly 25 years, but other relationships have blossomed in meaningful ways.

Social media has also introduced me to some of my newest and dearest friends; the majority of whom I have never met as most live in foreign countries. What’s the common denominator in these connections? Music. To be more specific, the music of the Canadian Tenors whose popularity isn’t limited to their native land. I could rant and rave about how fabulous they are, but you’re just going to have to trust me. Suffice it to say that these four young men from our neighbors to the north, Fraser Walters, Victor Micallef, Clifton Murray and Remigio Pereira, have an uncanny ability to bring about life-changing emotions through their music.

But even more amazing than their musical ability is their generous hearts. The Tenors are known for their philanthropic efforts through a variety of charitable organizations but especially close to their hearts is Voices for Bulembu, which they started in support of Bulembu Ministries Swaziland.

Bulembu is a small town in the northwestern region of Swaziland and is privately owned by the aforementioned not-for-profit organization. This once booming town was almost deserted when nearly all of its 10,000 residents left after the main employer closed its doors in 2001, requiring people to seek employment elsewhere.

Swaziland itself has a population of more than 1.1 million but it also has the highest rate of AIDS cases in the world. Statistics indicate a 900% increase in AIDS cases from 1992 to 2002. The current life expectancy is approximately 32 years of age and, with the negative growth rate (-.41%) coupled with the current death rate, the Swazi people will cease to exist by 2050.

Bulembu was purchased with a vision to rejuvenate the town to a self-sustaining entity that combines sustainable, innovative enterprises with orphan care for Swaziland’s most vulnerable children.

The Bulembu Foundation‘s mission is serving Jesus Christ by restoring hope to the people of Swaziland through community enterprise and community care and accomplishing that goal by 2020.

Knowing the passion the Tenors have for this project, Canadian Tenors fans from across the globe have united to support the upcoming Voices for Bulembu campaign with a fundraising initiative called Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu. The initiative began June 25 and ends when the Canadian Tenors host their cornerstone fundraising event, Voices for Bulembu: A Legacy Weekend at Mission Hill, which takes place September 17 – 19th, and culminates in a spectacular concert at the Chan Centre for Performing Arts in Vancouver on September 19.

Organizers of Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu, Indiana’s Theresia Whitfield, and Debora Hoeksema, from Holland, are challenging Tenors fans to help raise $2,500 (USD) by the time the Tenors take the stage on September 19. To ensure safety and that all funds raised are distributed appropriately; Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu organizers have partnered with Bulembu Ministries.

Secure donations can be made by visiting Bulembu reSTORE, an online catalogue with donation categories such as: orphan care, enterprise, school, home, environment and general funds. Donations can be made for as little as $1.00 (USD), as a one-time gift or a monthly commitment and 100% of all donations go back to Bulembu.

So, this little web site called Facebook had the power to bring together a few people who like the same musical act and have a passion for orphan care. And now, the 2,000 orphans in Bulembu are getting an extra boost of exposure through the combined efforts of a few people who like the same musical act and have a passion for orphan care. It’s just that simple. The world really can change one song at a time, one tweet at a time.

What can social media do for you? You’d be surprised. In the meantime, you can Raise YOUR Voice for Bulembu, too.
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