By Brad Schmitt
© 2011 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.
The program couldn’t be simpler: Go to www.JoinMyVillage.com, watch a short video and two major and generous corporations will donate funds to help poor women and children in Africa, up to $900,000 by Dec. 31. “When something is that easy to help women halfway around the world, you should do it,” reasoned Lee Ann Womack.
But the CMA Awards winner didn’t stop there. Womack joined with General Mills and CARE, along with new partner Merck, to promote the Join My Village campaign by recording public service announcements and using social media to encourage fans to visit the Web site and click on the two-minute video. She is also carrying information about the project for fans on her tour with Reba and George Strait.
“Because this focuses on women and girls, that’s what sucked me in,” said Womack. “Change comes about when women are empowered. They’re the ones who raise the children most of the time. I always thought it would take people helping people, more than anything. That’s true of your neighbor next door or somebody on the other side of the world.”
General Mills appreciated that Womack reached out to them. “We’d love to have more celebrities involved in JMV, as we recognize the great influencing and convening power celebrities have,” said Ellen Goldberg Luger, VP, General Mills. “But we love the way our relationship with Lee Ann developed. We didn’t go out and ‘get’ her in the way a lot of marketing campaigns or causes do. Instead, she heard about JMV and, because it made a connection to her, she raised her hand to help out.”
In its first year, Join My Village provided 155 scholarships for girls to attend secondary school. It also built nine houses for female teachers, provided reference materials to 15 primary schools and taught 1,800 Africans, most of them women, how to save money. With photos, videos and stories www.JoinMyVillage.com brings to life the success of these programs in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in Africa, with only a 65 percent literacy rate for women.
“Join My Village really shows the power of online communities at their best,” said Helene Gayle, President/CEO, CARE USA. “The ‘click to commit’ model is really fun and interesting and gives consumers a great opportunity to learn about ways they can help people in a village thousands of miles away lift themselves out of poverty.”
General Mills and CARE also benefited from the access Womack gave them into the Country Music world. “While tapping into Country Music’s loyal and large fan base is of obvious benefit to spreading the message and mission of Join My Village,” Luger said, “the ease by which Country Music fans can make the difference they already want to make in the world is of tremendous benefit to them.”
|Members of the Chikondi Village Savings and Loan Association in Tembwe, Malawi in Africa show products from businesses started with assistance from CARE. photo: Jo Tough|
On the Web: www.CARE.org; www.GeneralMills.com; www.JoinMyVillage.com; www.LeeAnnWomack.com; www.Merck.com