It’s social media week, and what better time to celebrate the ability to spread good works through the vast world of new media outlets. One woman has set out to do just that, singling out fellow mom bloggers to spread a message about the East Africa famine.
Sarah Lenssen started Ask 5 for 5 a little over a month ago to raise awareness on the devastating food crisis in the horn of Africa. Like many people, she saw scattered bits and pieces of news on the famine, but more often than not she tried to avoid thinking about it.
“When news of the famine first hit the news in late July, I selfishly avoided it,” admits Lenssen. “I didn’t want to read about it or hear about it because I knew I would feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable.”
But that feeling of ‘uncomfortable’ was quickly surpassed by the painful realization that this was something she just couldn’t shut out. Two of her own children were adopted from one of the regions hit hardest by the drought, and once it became personal, she knew she had to do something about it.
If Lenssen’s children still lived in their home villages, they’d be among the group where one child dies every five minutes. “My children: extremely hungry and malnourished? I think any one of us would do anything we could for our hungry child,” says Lenssen. “But would you do something for another mother’s hungry child?”
So, does it have to be personal to get your attention? Not according to the 150 plus bloggers who are letting Lenssen guest post on their blogs this week. Lenssen has created an html-ready post with a simple copy and paste format, easy for any blogger to share with their own audience. The post breaks down some major points of the crisis, with the simple message of donating just five dollars and asking five friends to do the same.
It’s a simple concept, one she thought up on a late afternoon after watching her son drift off to sleep. There’s nothing romantic or exciting about it, and maybe that’s why it’s so genius after all. “The idea of Ask5for5 literally popped into my head…poof. And I jumped up, feeling jittery with excitement and started phoning various people for advice on the idea. It took exactly one week for me to launch from idea to first donation,” explains Lenssen.
And with so many dying everyday, it’s important that she’s been able to gain such momentum so quickly, an obvious benefit to a time-sensitive situation. As Lenssen puts it, the media holds the power to draw attention to matters around the world as they choose, and the crisis in Africa has taken a back seat to many more entertaining news stories.
“I think that the news is tired of famine and food crisis. They are not sexy. They are slow onset. There is no tsunami wave, or buildings shaking. It is an emergency that lasts for months, not minutes,” says Lenssen. The money donated from the Ask 5 for 5 site will be given to World Vision, a group on the ground in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. “World Vision is believed to be the most reputable international development NGO out there,” assures Lenssen. “I know people personally on the ground who are supervising the operations of the relief efforts who can vouch that the money is getting to where it needs to go.”
The website has raised almost $25,000 already, quite a feat for one woman’s idea in such a short amount of time. I guess we really can get things done “with a little help from our friends.”
We may think nobody will care. “But, why not try,” prompts Lenssen. “The world is changed through individuals making good choices collectively.” I strongly urge those interested in learning more to read Sarah Lenssen’s personal blog post here, as she reaches out to you, and five of your friends.
Photo credit: Mike Fiechtner Photography