My absolute comment to implementing this project came as a result of an experience that my wife and I had in The Ivory Coast in December of 1999. We were in the village of Katyola in the northern section of the country doing a test of the Mobile Messaging / Educational concept. We had imported a small screen, [5’x8’] a medium quality projector, a DVD Player, and a medium sized sound system. We purchased several movies in French, and also obtained a documentary about AIDS from the ministry of Health to be shown. We set up our screen outside the home of our then interpreter, Mr. Idressa Timite in a soccer field. We only had the two movies, and the half-hour documentary about AIDS to show. Thousands of people came out each night even though we were showing the same thing over and over. [less than 5% of the people in this village had ever seen a TV] Our Sound system was in no way able to service the amount of people that came out. Even though many of the people were not fluent in French [All Africans have several tribal languages that they speak, and French is only learned by those who attended School in the French colonized countries] the turnout was incredible. On some nights [we did it for about five or six days before the 1999 revolution broke out and we had to leave in a hurry] we had as many as 6,000 people in the small field. They came from miles around. Many walked in each night, and we never ever advertised. It was a major event.
What happened to change my life was something that the Village Fetish “Witch Doctor” said to us. First it is important to note that in many parts of Africa Prostitutes have two prices for their services. One price with a condom and another “higher” price without!
Africa is a land grounded in superstitions, and belief in the occult. Many believe that they can purchase a talisman from the local Voodoo priest that will protect them from AIDS. The documentary that we showed chronicled the life of a family with AIDS. It showed the progressive stages of deterioration that the disease brought on to the point of several of the family members dying.
One night when it became evident that the country was going to war, we were packing up our equipment to leave the country when the life changing moment occurred. The Village Fetish “Voodoo Priest” came to us and told us that he sold a talisman to prevent AIDS, but he had never seen what AIDS really was. He said that prior to him seeing the actual image of AIDS victims, it was just a subject that was discussed by Europeans, that he and many other voodoo priest capitalized on to generate business. He told us that it was never real to him or to his community, but now that he has seen AIDS with his own eyes, he said he knew that what he sold to the prostitutes could not protect them from AIDS. He was crying when he was explaining this to us through our interpreter. He told us, “I will never sell that again. Never sell it again, Never, Never” and walked away crying. It made me cry for these people.
I have been committed ever since to bringing ACCCESS to Life. I feel that on some level, My Wife and I have saved lives, because in this village, the Talisman will no longer be available. This event has touched me more than any single thing in any of my twenty-one journeys to AFRICA.