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Q: You first went to Africa in your early 20s after receiving an invitation to attend a conference in Ghana. You stayed for a year working, traveling and teaching in various places. How did that trip change you and shape your future?
A: Well, Africa gets into the blood. It happens to everyone. Nobody goes to Africa and comes back unchanged. And almost everybody in my life that I’ve met who has journeyed to Africa wants to go back. So by the age of 21 or 22 I knew that I wanted to go back to that continent and I’ve been going back pretty regularly for 47 years.
Q: While in Nairobi during this last trip, you issued a press conference statement about what you call “the holocaust of horror” visited on women and girls in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: “If we don’t do something, and soon, HIV/AIDS and violence against women are destined to win. And having chosen to do nothing, the world community will be to blame.” Do you think we each have an individual responsibility to do something about this “holocaust of horror” happening not only in the Congo but also across Africa?
A: Yes, I think particularly in the wealthy world, in the G8 world there is a real obligation to care about what’s happening to the other part of humanity, the part of humankind that’s under siege. And we can all do something about it, whether it’s a financial contribution or joining an NGO or a church group or a community organization or just raising consciousness, taking an interest, being a part of Make Poverty History or all the wonderful NGOs, from World Vision to Doctors Without Borders. It’s just important to spend a small chunk of life devoted to improving the human condition…. I think whether it’s the horror of the Congo or whether it’s the calamitous catastrophe of AIDS, it’s really important that those of us who live lives of privilege understand that we have some obligation to the rest of the world.
Stay tuned for more of this interview in next week’s Pique when Lewis talks about his Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign, how just $10 can change a life and how a UN women’s agency is critical to the battle.
Tickets for the Oct. 19 event are $20, available at Armchair Books in Whistler and Mostly Books in Squamish (cash only). More details of the evening will be published next Thursday.