I wrote this post a few months back, when I was in Africa. It’s worth reposting today, on World Aids Day, because I think that the reminder is an important one: that those of who have a voice – whether those voices are carried virtually, or otherwise – have a responsibility to use our voices for those who don’t. And the mothers and the children and the families that I met in Africa don’t have voices. I lend them mine.

I’m writing this post from a hotel room in Maseru, Lesotho. Lesotho,
in case you didn’t know, is deep in the southern-most part of Africa,
land-locked by South Africa. It is, you might think, an unlikely place
for a blogger to be. After all, what do bloggers have to do with aid in
Africa? But you’d be wrong. A blogger can have a lot to do with aid in
Africa, or any other kind of social good. I’m here for some very good
social media reasons.

I’m here because I’m visiting some on-the-ground projects that are funded by Born HIV Free, a program of the Global Fund, and I’m visiting these projects because Born HIV Free and the Global Fund want to raise awareness,
and who better to raise awareness than bloggers? Who better than
bloggers to take the real stories of what such projects look like, of
what they mean to real people, and not just the posters and soundbites
and late-night infomercials with Sally Struthers, and become part of
those stories and tell them in real voices? Who better than
storytellers, personal storytellers, coming at the story with their
hearts and telling and showing their communities what it all looks like
and sounds like and feels like?

Social media — this is an awkward and ugly term, of course, but one
that describes that mass of us, bloggers and publishers and twitterers
and Flickrers and others, and what we do — can make a difference in
cases such as this, such as the one that I am in right now, because
social media is conversation, it’s discourse. It’s all of us, talking,
telling stories and sharing stories and keeping stories going because
we’re invested in the stories that we tell and that we hear because we are a narrative community, and for any issue or problem that might be helped by getting its story told, we are the people to do it. So it was for me with Tutus For Tanner, so it has been for Heather Spohr and her work on behalf of Maddie, so it was for so many BlogHers after the earthquake in Haiti, so it is for too many bloggers to count here. We’re making a difference by telling these stories.

So it is that I am here, in Lesotho,
meeting mothers who are HIV positive but who have, with the help of
PMTCT (Preventing Mother To Child Transmission) treatment and support,
children who are HIV-free, and meeting women who are pregnant and
undergoing such treatment and meeting children who have lost their
parents to HIV/AIDS and also meeting children, some children, who are
not HIV-free. And I’m talking to you about here, now, and I’ve been
talking about it on my blog and right here
at BlogHer and I will keep talking about it, I will keep telling
stories, because there are so, so many stories here to tell. There are
all the personal stories to tell, of course — such as those about these children and their mothers — and my story in relation to these (because we always bring these narratives back to us, don’t we? I have complicated feelings abut this, which is another story altogether),
but there are also the bigger stories, such as how maternal health care
really works in countries such as Lesotho (especially in the furthest,
most rural reaches of these countries), and about how breastfeeding
debates really are different under these sorts of circumstances, ditto
debates about depression and mental illness and anxiety and maternal
shame and maternal fear and all those things. I’ll tell these stories,
and hope that they make a little bit of difference, if only by getting
other people to talk about them, and think about them, and maybe,
maybe, do something if they get the chance.

This Thursday, tomorrow, is Social Media For Social Good Day,
and it aims to celebrate exactly that — our power to make a difference
through the collective power of this new medium. It’s hosted by
Mashable and (RED), and what they have in mind is this:

We’re interested in unleashing fresh thinking about how
social media can raise awareness and create solutions for social issues
around the world. It starts with each community coming together and
contributing ideas and, more importantly, solutions. Whatever community
you’ll be participating in we want to know, “What’s your solution?” Let the world hear your ideas through social media!

You can find out more about participating in this at Mashable.
But you can also celebrate social media for social good in your own
way, simply by reflecting on the kind of change, or the cause, or the
hope that matters to you, and writing about it or tweeting about it or
uploading photos that capture it, or whatever expression of social
media speaks to you.

I’ll be celebrating by writing more about what I’m doing here in
Africa, and how and why social media matters to this work. But my cause
is not necessarily your cause, and although I’d love it if you spread my Lesotho/BornHIVFree story (and please, feel free to do so if it speaks to you) (or, you know, if these children speak to you)
(look, nobody said we had to play fair on the Internet), I’m more

interested in seeing you get inspired by the idea of using this medium
for social good and acting on that inspiration in your own way. Write
or photograph or vlog whatever change it is that you’d like to see in
the world, and leave the link here so that we can all share it. Because
that’s what this is all about. Sharing, and inspiring through sharing,
and making change through inspiring.

Let’s go be inspiring.

(Originally posted at BlogHer.com)

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