Faraway: Get Out of Your World
Hope in Impossible Places
Angela Mason is an award-winning motivational speaker based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her life changed in an instant one Friday night in 1990. She was watching TV and drawn to a segment on 20/20 that exposed horrific conditions in Romanian orphanages. Orphans were dying because no one was holding them. Angela told her husband, "I've got to go to Romania to save the children. Where's the atlas?" She had no idea where Romania was, but knew she had to go. She had experienced a sense of calling. Since then, she has poured herself into humanitarian work, fundraising millions. She is particularly passionate about the lives of women and girls, interviewing midwives in Afghanistan, soap makers in Mali, seamstresses in Guatemala, and fruit pickers in Papua New Guinea. Over the years, Angela has convinced TV news crews in the Bay Area to join her on many trips to make documentaries bringing attention to injustices such as the genocide in Rwanda, which won the coveted Edward R. Murrow Award for CBS. Through her compelling presentations, sprinkled with stories, humor and possibilities, Angela motivates audiences to make a difference in their world. She often talks about "Hope in Impossible Places."
I heard Angela speak at Rotary last week. She began her presentation by saying, “I am an ordinary woman from England.” However, as she proceeded in her talk, I could see that this ordinary woman has been leading an extraordinary life! Her first story she told was of a time landing in the desert of Darfur - a place so dry that a camel’s carcass had shriveled before it could be decimated by scavengers. Angela was traveling with Howard Buffett who had become her friend and fellow humanitarian. They have traveled the world working on projects to eradicate hunger. On this trip, they were joined by Steve Hilton, owner of the Hilton hotel chain, and also a partner with Angela on humanitarian projects. They were greeted by the local chief, whom Angela described as short and toothless, but nevertheless surrounded by several beautiful wives adorned in colorful dress. Angela noticed that the women were staring at her and whispering among themselves. She eventually found out that they felt sorry for her, dressed in safari khakis, heavy socks, boots, and an ugly hat. They said that she must have a horrible husband who did not care enough to outfit her in flattering array. Angela laughed as she related the story, saying that she thought she should feel sorry for the African women, living out in the hot desert, where they had to walk miles to haul water, and yet they felt sorry for her!
Angela’s work with Howard Buffett began in 2000 while making a film in Ghana about child soldiers. She related how much she loves the country of Ghana. She said that the people are among the happiest on earth. Ghana is an example of the before and after of humanitarian projects that are working well. Angela pointed out that the failure rate usually is 50% in other areas. So many great efforts are wasted by humanitarian workers not knowing how to engage with the community, nor understanding the value of working together or respecting the native culture.
When Angela began to work with Howard Buffett he expressed his dismay at the water crisis looming on the planet. He said that he’d like to irrigate the whole world, so that no one would ever have to walk miles to fetch filthy water for their family, but he felt frustrated. How could he ever undertake such a project? Angela said that there were tears in his eyes as he spoke. She went on to encourage him by saying that one day, he would have the means to tackle such an endeavor. The day came in 2006 when Howard’s father gave him $1bn with the challenge to “do something great with it.” Angela then turned our attention to the book, 40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World written by Howard Buffett which relates stories of his determination to take 40 years to make the world a better place. He’s well on his way.
Not all of us can get out of our world by leaving our living room and heading to Romania like Angela did or take off for Ghana, yet, all of us can support those people and organizations that are making the world a better place. Please find links below to both Angela Mason’s organization and Howard Buffett’s foundation where you can find ways to volunteer or contribute financially.