Monday, July 19, 2010

Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness Tour” to South Africa Creates Memories for HBCU Students

HBCU Students Return from South Africa Inspired to Make the World a Better Place

Twenty-one HBCU students recently returned from South Africa, where they spent five days soaking up local culture courtesy of Coca-Cola’s “Open Happiness Tour.” The students are winners of a video contest that sought creative and inspirational answers to the question: “How does the Coca-Cola RAIN program inspire you?” The Coca-Cola RAIN “Water for Schools” initiative helps provide safe drinking water for schoolchildren in Africa and around the world.

One of the winning entries was submitted by Lael Clark, a student at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina. She shared, “My response drew a connection between the need for water and the need for Africa's future-- the children. Without sanitized water access for children, a luxury we have in the United States, who will be the future? Humans can only last a few days without water. If children are drinking contaminated water, what is the difference from not having water at all to drink? Clean water creates futures and the children are the future.” Lael is pictured above (left) with fellow student Justin Smith from Florida A&M University at a FIFA World Cup match.

During their trip that began on June 25th, Lael and the students learned about Africa’s water crisis by visiting a local orphanage whose water system was in dire need of repairs, and they met with executives from Coca-Cola South Africa, who shared support efforts the Company is doing throughout Africa, including HIV/AIDS and malaria prevention. Accompanying the students on the trip was actor Idris Elba, who shared his perspective on local culture, and they experienced the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Lael shared with BlackGivesBack what she learned from the trip, what African Americans can do to help Africa, on meeting actor Idris Elba, her future philanthropic career goals, and photos from her trip:

What did you learn while in South Africa about their culture, their water crisis and other societal ills they have? What did you take away?

I learned that Johannesburg is like any city I've visited in America. In every city there is a suburb and a ghetto--the expensive parts and the impoverished parts. I saw the same thing in Johannesburg. Foreigners who visit American cities as tourists usually only see the parts especially made for tourism. This was the same in Johannesburg. We visited impoverished townships, but we also saw wealthy areas with houses even in America would be considered lavish. I think people need to get off their couches--especially us African-Americans--and see these places beyond the narrow T.V. screens. Also I learned it is so easy to help. It is so easy. Africans are literally waiting for us African-Americans to at least visit. In all honesty, I think we owe our homeland that. It doesn't take a genealogist to see where we come from. We owe it to ourselves to connect in some way to what we know for sure, is a part of us.

Lael Clark, Funbi Oluwole (Clark Atlanta University/GA), Tatianna Mosley (Fayetteville State University/NC), Sherron Douglas (Southern University/LA) and Edifon Ette (Southern University/LA) visit the Greenfields primary and secondary school.

What did Idris Elba share with you and the students?We not only met Idris, but he traveled with us the entire trip. Idris was fascinated about our HBCU higher education system we all attend. He told us in London there is no such thing. We shared with him what it meant to us to attend an HBCU and the sense of pride it gives us as African-Americans. He shared with us some of the realities facing Africans in need of clean water.

Several students and chaperones took time out of their schedule to attend church service in Johannesburg.

After the trip, how will you use what you've learned to make the world a better place?Currently, the “Talented 21” as I like to call ourselves, are working on four distinct projects to help townships in South Africa in various ways, so look out for that in the next year or so. I have a life long career goal to be a philanthropist in my community. Even though I have not had the opportunity to connect with philanthropists in my hometown of Saint Louis, MO, I would love to work/volunteer/connect with them and learn from their current programs and initiatives. I think philanthropy is a great thing and this blog is a great thing. {Thanks Lael!}

Alicia Routh (Florida A&M University/FL), Tatianna Mosley, Lael Clark, Cherish Rush (Texas Southern University/TX) and Theresa Scales (Xavier University/LA) on a safari.

For more information about the Coca-Cola water stewardship programs, including the RAIN program, please visit

Photo source: Coca-Cola


Anonymous said...

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