Friends reunite to aid Africa
In April, Bono stood on the stage at KeyArena and named a few names. There were Bill and Melinda Gates, of course, but also someone named...
Seattle Times staff columnist
In April, Bono stood on the stage at KeyArena and named a few names.
There were Bill and Melinda Gates, of course, but also someone named Steve Reynolds, whom Bono thanked "for introducing me to Africa." "I was floored," Reynolds told me the other day. "Who does something like that?"
Reynolds, 46, is a marketing and communications specialist for World Vision, the international Christian humanitarian organization in Federal Way. He lives in Puyallup with his wife and three kids.
But 20 years ago, he was Bono's guide through the misery and desperation of Ethiopia's famine — a journey that changed both men and, this year, reunited them around the very same cause.
There was the meeting after the U2 concert here in Seattle. And this week, Reynolds will travel to Edinburgh, Scotland, to petition world leaders at the G8 Summit on behalf of impoverished children. Bono will be there to perform at Live 8, a series of concerts aimed at ending poverty.
In 1984, Reynolds was working as a television producer for World Vision, chronicling the famine in Ethiopia.
His images documented "hundreds of thousands gathered, waiting for food," he said. "We couldn't believe that this was happening and nobody knew about it."
BBC aired the photos and footage in July 1984, sparking worldwide response, including one from musician Bob Geldof, who pulled together a group of friends, including Bono, to record a benefit single, "Do They Know It's Christmas?"
In July 1985, Geldof put on Live Aid, a pair of benefit concerts held on the same day in Philadelphia and London. U2 performed in London.
Not long after, Bono and his wife, Ali, traveled to Ethiopia, where Reynolds was assigned to be their guide.
"He was scared out of his mind," Reynolds recalled. "Like a first-termer at boarding school."
The couple spent a month working at a feeding center, living in a village of wood shelters with corrugated tin roofs.
"Bono was really smart, very perceptive, a quick study in the root causes of famine and AIDS work," Reynolds said. "He knows from growing up in Dublin that sense of hopelessness that comes from poverty."
When Bono left, he told Reynolds, "If U2 is ever playing in a city where you are ... "
But Reynolds never was. He spent five more years in Africa, then six in Asia, working with the sick and starving.
But while Reynolds was working in the villages of poverty, Bono was working in the villages of power, meeting with lawmakers around the world to draw attention to the plight of Africa.
"The 1985 trip changed his life," Reynolds said. "And I am only realizing now how much."
They didn't meet again until 2002, when Bono was touring the Midwest with his nonprofit, DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa). Reynolds was working in a World Vision booth at one of the tour's stops, ran into a DATA staffer and mentioned that he had been with Bono in Ethiopia in 1985.
"It was so long ago, I didn't want to presume anything," Reynolds said.
The staffer brought Reynolds to see his old friend. Once the recognition set in, there was the bear hug, the memories of horses and children and what still needed to be done for them.
"He's the same," Reynolds said of Bono. "Not one to feel things lightly."
Reynolds understands how the rock star has won the support of both parties — even conservative Republican Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator who, until recently, fought the funding of AIDS research.
"I consider Bono to be a poet," Reynolds said. "He has a way of crystallizing complex things into understandable concepts and words.
"He has a prophetic voice," he said. "After all is said and done, people know that he's right."
Reynolds feels awkward telling me all this, trading on his friendship this way.
"The relationship is personal and meaningful to me," he said. "I don't want to exploit it. But if I can add my voice to the message, I will."
And what is that message?
"Make poverty history," he said. "End AIDS."
He quotes Linda Hunt's character, Billy Kwan, in "The Year of Living Dangerously": "I just add my light to the sum of light."
"That's what I try to do, and let the big picture take care of itself," he said. "And leave it to people like Bono."
Nicole Brodeur's column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
She's been to Joshua Tree.
About Nicole Brodeur
My column is more a conversation with readers than a spouting of my own views. I like to think that, in writing, I lay down a bridge between readers and me. It is as much their space as mine. And it is a place to tell the stories that, otherwise, may not get into the paper.
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