Becoming “Mr. Helen Keller”

Shawn Baker describes being interviewed for "Francophone Africa's CNN" about HKI’s West Africa-wide food fortification initiative.

By Shawn Baker, HKI’s Vice President and Regional Director for Africa.

“Bonjour Monsieur Helen Keller” (“Good morning Mister Helen Keller”) greeted me this week on my morning run on the beach in Dakar. Several text messages and e-mails from friends and colleagues saying they had seen me on television came in later that day. I then realized that Africable was at it again – spreading the word about HKI’s work across French-speaking Africa.

HKI’s relationship with Africable started in 2010. This television station based in Bamako, Mali is positioning itself as the CNN equivalent of Francophone Africa. As part of their celebration of 50 years of independence of many countries in Africa, they organized a regional media tour to celebrate African integration and HKI’s West Africa-wide food fortification initiative was highlighted. Through that partnership, millions of households were informed about the benefits of essential vitamins and minerals being added to cooking oil and wheat flour, through interviews and engaging commercials like this one.

I was in Bamako in February this year for a workshop, and the Director General of Africable came by my hotel to talk about another regional media initiative he is organizing and how HKI could collaborate. At the end of the meeting he mentions “… by the way, we should interview you while you are here.” He agreed he would send someone by to pick me up after the workshop closed the next day. I was expecting a quick couple of minutes – so what a surprise when I arrived at their studios to find out that one of their star reporters, Abdoulaye Koné, was going to do a full-length interview for their “Guest of the Day” segment. Keeping the CNN parallel, this is like having a five minute warning that Anderson Cooper is going to put you through a feature interview – all the while worrying about getting back to my hotel, packing, and getting to the airport in time for my flight back to Dakar.

Thanks to Abdoulaye’s ability to put his guests at ease, the interview went off with just one take. Africable has been very generous in the airtime they have given to this interview – having broadcast the full 22 minutes over 10 times – most recently last week – thus my new identity as “Mister Helen Keller” in my neighborhood. If you want to practice your French while learning more about HKI’s history and our programs to combat malnutrition and control neglected tropical diseases across Africa, just check out the videos (parts one and two of the interview respectively) below.

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Categories: Africa, Reducing Malnutrition

One Comment

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