In my trips to East Africa in recent years — from 2000, when I documented the lives of AIDS orphans, to 2006, when I photographed former child soldiers living in refugee camps — I became convinced that educating Africa’s future leaders was the most valuable thing the West could do to promote democracy and prevent future civil strife and terrorism. For this reason, I created the Stephen Shames Foundation.
You may have seen the movie Blood Diamond and been shocked by the depiction of Solomon’s son, kidnapped as a child and forced to become a soldier in a brutal and meaningless war. You may have been dismayed by news accounts of the plight of millions of African youth orphaned by AIDS or languishing in refugee camps.
I started the Stephen Shames Foundation to help children like these become leaders. Our approach — locating forgotten children with innate talents and molding them into leaders — does more than just help a few kids. Instead, it represents a vision for the future: the strengthening of African culture and society, the alleviation of its poverty, and ultimately the creation of a safer world.
To accomplish this goal, we partner with, raise funds for, and provide financial oversight for Concern for the Future, a Ugandan-run non-profit. Concern for the Future identifies very smart, motivated AIDS orphans, escaped child soldiers, refugee-camp children, street kids, and working children who dream of attending university but can’t because of poverty, AIDS, and war, and provides them with everything they need to succeed: school fees, books, supplies, food, clothes, medical care, and emotional support.
The program is unique. While ensuring that students are taught essential subjects such as math, civics and computer proficiency, along with marketable 21st-century skills such as video and Web design, we also ensure that they are imbued with a strong work ethic and a desire to serve. In the short time since the program began, we have watched our students achieve striking success.
To learn more about what we’re doing and how you can help, please visit StephenShames.org.
[tags]Stephen Shames, Uganda, Africa[/tags]