LILONGWE, Malawi — Ryan Lewis & Ben Haggerty, better known by his stage name, Macklemore, seem well on their way toward reaching the pinnacle of musical super-stardom. This year alone, the duo won two awards at the 2014 Grammys while also lyrically paving the way for LGTBQ rights with the hit single “Same Love.” While music remains Lewis and Haggerty’s personal forte, the pair is branching out in different ways to ensure their voices and other passions are heard.
“To honor the thirty years my mom has been [an HIV] survivor, our family is raising funds to build health centers worldwide that will stand strong for at least thirty years. We’re calling it the 30.30 Project,” said Lewis in a message on his and Haggerty’s Indiegogo fundraising page. The pair and Lewis’s family will team up to mobilize support and raise $100,000 in funding, which will go toward building a health center in Africa.
“We are partnering with a Seattle-based non-profit, Construction for Change, to carry out construction. And we have local partners on the ground, such as Partners in Health, to run and operate the health facilities long-term,” said Lewis on the project’s page. Lewis and Haggerty have already donated to the cause and are sending their call-to-action to as many people as possible.
The 30.30 Project’s first phase aims to build an accessible health center in the Neno District of Malawi where 1 in 10 people are currently HIV-positive. The facilities will be run and operated by Malawi’s Ministry of Health and Partners in Health, who provide long-term relationships with organizations based in areas of poverty.
“We want to give hope to women and families in other parts of the world who lack access to quality, affordable healthcare,” said Lewis. Hope is part of the inspiration of the 30.30 Project as Lewis’ mother, Julie Lewis, was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 32 and given only a handful of years left to live.
“I had been married couple of years, and we were expecting our first child. She was born, and it was a difficult delivery, and I lost a lot of blood, and so I ended up needing a blood transfusion,” said Julie Lewis, in an interview with CBS News’ Ben Tracy.
Since blood donations weren’t as thoroughly checked in 1984 as they are now, Julie Lewis contracted HIV from her donor and didn’t find out about the diagnosis for another six years. Despite having a 25% probability of contracting HIV, none of her children, including Ryan, caught the virus. Her husband was also cleared.
“Yes, I’m grateful that I lived, but I want to do something to honor all those people that we love dearly who died along the way. If [a]community stays healthy, that means that the parents stay healthy. And if the parents stay healthy, they can earn a living. And if they’re earning a living, then those children can go to school,” said Julie Lewis.
Now with a following of people to hear, the Lewis family, joined by Macklemore, are doing the best they can to turn their newfound fame into something meaningful and positive for people who need it.