Charity is the new branding

Noah is a young Rwandan who experienced hardship from the day he was born. His life? A confluence of tragedies, which can only be withstood by his perpetual optimism and smile…

Born to a mother who is mentally ill and an unknown father, Noah had HIV/AIDS at birth, and could only survive thanks to good Samaritans who fed him. At the age of ten, Noah started to sing; his first song? ‘Lets fight AIDS, brothers and sisters…’

When I first heard of him, it was on Youtube; you know, when you are briefly out of the country, you tend to stalk everything that happen in and on Rwanda.

I watched a Youtube video of a Rwandan kid with a promising international music carrier, who was performing at ‘American Idol’, accompanied by Alicia Keys; he appeared and sung on Tyra Banks show. I found it exciting.

Alicia Keys described him as a ‘talented artist’ with a ‘powerful energy’; she had fallen to his charm – or so she said. Even though she briefly alluded to HIV/AIDS, I did not know of the child’s condition as I was absorbed by his performance.

Fast forward a few years later, a friend invites me to accompany her at the Kigali Central Hospital to visit a child that she helps. He is hospitalised there because he was born with HIV/AIDS, did not have food to eat and was out of school, she tells me.

When I met Noah in person, I didn’t recognise him, at first; He had grown older and thinner. What gave him away, was that optimism, energy and smile.

As we sat and talked, he told me about his brief, successful music carrier. He had travelled to America twice; he told me that Alicia Keys was his friend; that Tyra Banks had told him to call anytime. ‘I only need to get back on my feet’, he said; ‘I need to get back to singing…’

I looked at him, I saw a freaking optimist; I saw an innocent kid; another one, whose hardships had been exploited by Soulless vampires, avid of power, fame and money; who feed off people’s miseries for their self-aggrandizement;

I wondered why this one had not been ‘adopted’ by one of the good Samaritans? In my mind the ‘energetic’ kid I had seen on Tyra Banks show, would have been studying in a university in the US, on an American Idol scholarship. Instead, he was struggling to have food to eat…

I thought to tell him of the ‘save the African child campaign’, or in the case of Alecia Keys: the ‘Keep a child alive’ – her new self-promoting brand. But I also saw a young man who is stronger that me; with all my privileges I did not have a quarter of his faith. In the end, I simply said to him: ‘hey Noah, you know what Tupac said?: If you make it through the night, there is a brighter day!’

He made it through that night; he resumes school in January…

Posted 29th December 2014