Craig in South Africa, March 2010: Highlights

CAPE TOWN, 3 MARCH 2010 - Craig kicked off the day with football practice at Heideveld Senior Secondary School with a group of student players. The school, although located in one of Cape Town’s poorer neighbourhoods, has no shortage of school spirit and young talent. An auditorium packed with the entire student body greeted Craig with whoops and cheers as the school band and choir performed a rousing anthem.

Energized by their enthusiasm, Craig accepted the mike. The crowd hushed as he talked to the assembled teens about his pride in Cape Town’s efforts - in research, in education and in getting treatment to all those who need it. But the room went wild again when Craig got the band playing to his beat. Nobody was falling a-sleep, sleep, sleep during this assembly as Craig sang his hit song "Insomnia."

On a second school visit, this time to Westerford High School, Craig talked with a group of 17-18 year-old honour students. They were bursting with ideas - for one, about why tuberculosis is surrounded by shame and stigma.

"Tuberculosis is considered shameful in South Africa because everyone assumes that if you have it you are also HIV-infected, and there is still deep stigma around HIV here," one student said. They all nodded in agreement.

The students told Craig there was a need for more open talk about tuberculosis - and he could help, because young people like them would listen when he spoke. As his three-day visit drew to a close, Craig reflected on what he had learned during his journey of discovery about tuberculosis:

"I believe in the transformative power of music, its ability to move people to a new level of understanding and inspire them to think and act in new ways. I hope that people who feel inspired by my music will also feel moved by what I have to say about tuberculosis - that they should not fear it, because it is a curable illness. That they should support people who are ill with tuberculosis, and do everything they can to prevent its spread. And that they should make a commitment - through financial donation or action - to support the fight against tuberculosis."

CAPE TOWN, 2 MARCH 2010 - Feeling great after last night’s jam session at local jazz club Lounge 021@Swingers, Craig today made a visit to a classroom at the Pinedene Primary school. He treated the kids to an a cappella rendition of his smash hit "7 Days", with everyone cheering in a fantastic musical moment in the middle of a school day!

Then the kids spoke with him about how tuberculosis has touched their lives. One pupil named Hermanique bravely stood up and said, "I had tuberculosis."

Later, Hermanique explained to Craig how ashamed she felt to talk about her tuberculosis while she was sick. But with her parents’ support, she began speaking openly with the other kids, even though it was difficult. And the more that she talked openly about it, the less she felt afraid and stigmatized. She came away with a lesson she wants to communicate to young people everywhere:
"You shouldn’t feel ashamed if you get tuberculosis."

Later in the day Craig visited Khayelitsha, a township near Cape Town known for both its serious poverty and its incredible community spirit. Every year, thousands of people here get tuberculosis.

Craig was greeted by local community leader Mercy Nongongo, who is helping her neighbours tackle tuberculosis head-on. She delivers medication to people in treatment, prepares food for them and makes her home open to anyone who wants to learn more about tuberculosis - what causes it, how it spreads, how to prevent it and how to cure it.

Craig sat in the sun in front of this small but inviting home and chatted with a group of Mercy’s helpers and people she has helped fight tuberculosis, as kids from the neighborhood kicked a football around, shrieking with delight.

At the end of the day, Craig felt moved by the experience of seeing so much courage in the face of such heavy challenges. "I am so glad to be here and see how people are working together to beat tuberculosis. South Africa, you are on the move against tuberculosis!"

CAPE TOWN, 1 MARCH 2010 - Craig arrived in Cape Town, South Africa today. He’s not here for a concert tour but a journey of discovery to find out more about tuberculosis, as he prepares for his new role as Goodwill Ambassador against Tuberculosis for the Stop TB Partnership.

His first stop was at Stellenbosch University Faculty of Health Sciences, where he visited with the staff of the South African TB Vaccine Initiative. He toured the research group’s high-tech lab facilities and met with Dr Sizulu Moyo, a young researcher who is involved in vaccine research.

"I was stunned to learn today that there hasn’t been a new drug to fight tuberculosis for 40 years, and that we still don’t have a quick test to diagnose it, so that people can find out right away if they have the disease. And there still is no effective vaccine!" Craig says.

But Dr Moyo reassured him there is hope. "I think the prospects are good. There are a lot of players that have come in, and there’s a lot of support from organizations such as WHO. That creates a good environment," she says.

In the evening Craig received a warm welcome from South Africa’s Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Molefi Sefularo, at a dinner hosted by the Ministry. Then it was off to Lounge 021@Swingers, a Cape Town music hot spot that has an open mike session every Monday evening. There he treated a standing room only crowd to a surprise performance. He jumped up to the mike, gave the band his beat and improvised a song about fighting tuberculosis. The audience went wild as the band jammed on.