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In the face of an epidemic and in an industry riddled with distrust, we find a celebration of family and the power of the human bond.
164 backers pledged $16,720 to help bring this project to life.

Urgent News on Mr. Mkoko - Please Read

Posted by Jonathan Smith (Creator)

Hi All,

This week I received a call from Nozipho Mkoko (Musa Mkoko's wife) informing me that Mr. Mkoko has been hospitalized with tuberculosis. Today, the Mkoko family granted me permission to share this news with you all. As many of you know, Mr. Mkoko is the only surviving miner from the film. His recent TB infection is an exogenously acquired infection of drug susceptible tuberculosis, and not reinfection of his previous multi-drug resistant TB.  

At the end of this message I have listed direct ways to contact the Mkoko family, either with messages of support or other means of assistance. I have also posted a way to access an unpublished link to a clip of Mr. Mkoko from the film. I invite you to watch.

This news is extremely worrisome, and though the facts that he is receiving care in Swaziland and that his TB is drug susceptible mitigates some of the worry, we must also remember that there are intense mental and psychological effects of such a diagnosis. Though the treatment for drug susceptible TB is less intense, it is by no means considered a simple treatment; put crassly, one’s family would not be 'relieved' that they were diagnosed with a different form of cancer. As you can imagine, this news has been mentally and emotionally devastating to not only him, but also his family and community.

It is easy to assume that 'care' equals 'cure.' We are fortunate that the Swaziland Health Minister Benedict Xaba has greatly improved care and that access to medication is no longer a hurdle. But given his physical state - weak, emaciated - and that his TB is complicated by HIV, a favorable outcome is not guaranteed and is not even necessarily probable. This all too seriously highlights the continued battle that high-risk individuals have for contracting TB. Mr. Mkoko's family will fight tooth and nail to ensure his well-being, just as they did during his last battle, and just as they would if they faced one hundred battles more, but he is weaker, older, and his lungs are lacerated from spending decades in the dusty mineshafts where he once worked.

If you are like me, you empathize with Mr. Mkoko and have the urge to want to 'do something.' But we should remember our version of the TB epidemic is not the same as Mr. Mkokos, however our epidemic is equally as challenging. As the family of Mr. Mkoko fights their own battles, we must realize that our fight is not in the dim lit homes of a Swazi house. Our role is not to change the wet sheets of a shivering father who has perspired through them, or in navigating public transport for a full day to secure a blister pack of pills. Our fight is to ensure that those fighting these battles have the tools they need to win; that the Global Fund is funded, that the research and innovation we need comes to fruition, that TB REACH is expanded, that the mines lower risk, and that data-driven policies that support patient centered care are rolled out. In continuing to fight the battles we face in our epidemic, we can ensure that future patients avoid illness and such physical and mental distress. Though being behind a lab bench or keyboard can often times seem distant, it is equally as important as being in the field.

The TB epidemic will not be overcome in a single broad, sweeping gesture - rather success will manifest itself in sustaining the countless individual efforts fought daily around the globe. It is up to us to define our own fight.

I ask that you keep Mr. Mkoko in your thoughts and prayers. He is one case out of the 8.7 million cases of TB in the world at present, but he represents the positive side of fighting an epidemic - that people can overcome incredible obstacles. He and his family are a representation of why we all fight to overcome TB.

If you would like to help the Mkoko family, you can do so in the following ways:

1) Email the family a message of hope and compassion. We have set up Mrs. Mkoko with a Gmail account that she can check periodically. Click here to email the Mkoko Family. (Or copy and paste: noziphomkoko@gmail.co.za)

2) Donate to directly support Mr. Mkoko’s care. We have created a special fund for the Mkoko Family. We are not soliciting funds per se, but this is indeed a tangible way we can help; sometimes defining our fight is as simple as sustaining the efforts of others. Click here to donate. (Or copy and paste: http://goo.gl/jQRCt)

3) If you are in Swaziland or southern Africa and would like to help directly, please contact me for their phone and address.

4) To access the clip, click here and use the password ‘mkoko.’ I will leave this up for about two weeks.

I am attaching a few pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Mkoko. I will keep you updated as I hear more.

Onward,

Jonathan

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Updates, Releases, and Kickstarter Awards

Posted by Jonathan Smith (Creator)
1 Comment

For backers only. If you're a backer of this project, please log in to read this post.

A Quick Update and Important Information!

Posted by Jonathan Smith (Creator)

Hi everyone,

I'm not the best at social media. I get on Facebook now and then (I am literally terrified of transitioning to 'timeline') and I occasionally tweet. For those of you who don't know, Ben Horsman at the University of British Colombia in Vancouver handles most of the project's social media outlets, and he does an excellent job. In this vein, I often fail to update you adequately. 

Not being a social butterfly has its advantages - mainly you don't get annoyed when I pester about every little detail of whats happening. Having a large social footprint isn't a direct indication of success. But it also has its disadvantages, mainly in that I fail to update you on the important aspects that you need to know about. So.. this is to tell you there are several important things you should now about. Because, quite literally, you made them happen:

1) The first is regarding Mr. Mkoko. Mr. Mkoko is the only living miner who has not passed away out of the four men and their families who so graciously allowed me to stay with them. I am with him now in Swaziland, and he will be on a panel with the Ministers of Health and Labor tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM addressing this issue (followed by a interview with the Ministers for the film). In an incredible turn of events, coordinated between those of us working on the film, the overly-dedicated folks at ACTION and Open Society Foundations, and a bit of luck at the US Embassy for their Visa, Mr. Mkoko and his wife will be traveling with me to the United States for the International AIDS Conference in Washington DC! They will be speaking at a number of events, including panels and discussions, and most of them are open to the public. We will be sending out a schedule shortly. They are aware of the support everyone at KS has given them, and if you are in the DC area they would like to meet you. If you would like to meet them, please email me or Ben.

Separate from the IAC conference there will be a film screening and panel discussion with Mr. and Mrs. Mkoko put on by the folks at OSF and ACTION, and if you would like to attend you must RSVP. Click here to check it out and RSVP. Clint Smith, who did the poetry, will also be there to perform his poetry live.

At the conference, the Stop TB Partnership, World Health Organization, International Organization for Migration, and Southern African Development Community (SADC) are hosting a satellite session on TB and mining called "Digging for Solutions." The hosting organizations have invited Mr. Mkoko and his wife to speak on the panel - not as a 'token,' but as an equal voice among policymakers and other global health leaders. Additionally, a few other (but not all) TGTD scheduled events can be found highlighted in yellow on this roadmap. Ben and I will most likely be tweeting and facebooking up a storm about this, so keep an eye out on your twitters. 

2) Secondly, we were awarded a Fledgling Fund Grant for an innovative new media project we are working on to compliment the film, called the Voices Project! This is a complex project that hopes expand on the concept of the film in showing the life of those affected by TB. I will gladly tell you more about this as it develops, but in addition to funding we also receive a stable, dedicated team of experts that will help our project succeed to its full potential! We had the idea, you gave the support, and now they will supply the knowhow!

As you can hopefully see, we are working hard on this project and on changing this issue. The actual steps it takes to make progress on this issue are not sexy or glamorous, so it is difficult to justify filling your inbox with each individual step - especially in a world where we can quickly become inundated with emails and posts. 

And oh yea, the film is expected to be released this fall!

All the best,
Jonathan 

They Go to Die Project Update Packet

Posted by Jonathan Smith (Creator)

Hi everyone,

I have the pleasure of writing to you from South Africa, where I have the privilege of meeting mineworkers and their families and connecting them to the healthcare they need and facilitating the compensation process. I am looking forward to updating you on the film - I don't want to fill up your inbox every time something changes or we have a success (or failure) with the project. Instead, I am taking a different approach in compiling quarterly(ish) project update packets.

Below you will find a link to a .pdf document that you may download that will tell about the incredible advances that the project has made, all supported by the kickstarter campaign. In the packet we describe the past, present, and future of the project, the advances on the issue of mining and TB, and a financial report, among other things. 

I am excited to send this update to you, and if you have any questions please contact us. Please feel free to pass this report on to your friends, colleagues, social media, etc that may be interested in the project. 

You may download the report here: http://theygotodie.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/TGTD-Project-update-v3-low_res.pdf

Onward,
Jonathan 

An Open Letter to Supporters

Posted by Jonathan Smith (Creator)

Free to share: An open letter of thanks to all who support the film 

Forty days. For the past forty days I have woken up wondering if this project would survive – or if I was crazy. Every day I woke up with the stress of wondering if this would work, if people would become engaged in something that is so personal to me and yet so foreign to them. But these past forty days have only been a fleeting moments of heightened nervousness. This project goes much deeper than you can imagine. 

Quite clearly, I particularly remember being in rural Swaziland when I found myself walking completely alone in the Swazi hills. I was trying to make my way to Mr. Nxumalo, the first miner who agreed to meet me and who was affected by this needless process of disease. I was in my 6th kilometer of walking since the rocky terrain would no longer allow my car to pass. 

“What the hell am I doing out here. What the hell am I doing out here.” This wasn’t part of my research. I knew Yale would probably kill me if they knew one of their students was going to live with - and film - a highly infectious TB patient. So needless to say, I hadn't told anyone what I was up to.

In this moment of hopeless contemplation, I suddenly tripped. Looking back it was quite comical - as you can assume, everything had immediately spewed out of the dusty equipment bags that I had been lugging for hours. Random pieces of camera gear instantly littered my immediate proximity. 

But it wasn't funny. I may not have know what the hell I was doing, but men were dying. Families were infected. Communities were being shattered right in front of me. And this was all so needless. A preventable loss. So I just needed a good scream. And there was no better time than this.

With bloodied shins, I cursed the ground. I threw whatever was near me towards no specific direction but in hopes to diffuse my anger. I screamed, over and over again. I screamed, literally, until my lungs gave out.

I realized no one could hear me. So I sat. I chuckled at the fact that I had absolutely no idea how to even use the equipment that peppered the ground. Again, “what the hell am I doing out here” reverberated in my head. Then I looked around, and at that point I realized something rather, well, stark.

I have never felt this alone in my life. And I felt that both physically and emotionally. I felt incredibly stupid for trying this; that I should go back. That I should just stick with research. But with a sense of foolishness, or stubbornness, I continued on to find Mr. Nxumalo.

Mr. Nxumalo is not in the film, and you will never see him. When I arrived, Mr. Nxumalo was in such a terminal state of illness that I didn’t film a single frame. I feel it appropriate to recognize him and his family here. I spoke with the family, and in just a few short hours realized the integral role that disease played in an organic and ever-changing structure of family. The bonds made were fluid, not rigid, and the family’s love for one another constantly and relentlessly shifted to support their ill father. I left promptly out of respect for the family. But I was broken, irreparably changed.

This project has brought me both tears of pain and tears of joy. An indescribable emotion that perfectly balances fear with hope. And though today is one of celebration, it will be short lived. Funding alone doesn’t change anything. The children caring for their sick father remain out of school and exposed to disease. The wife pleading for medication in the capital is still forced to explain why her husband is too incapacitated to make the trip. Men are still sent home to die from a treatable, curable disease.

Thank you does not do justice to my gratitude. Your personal support places accountability on me to make this as effective as possible. Money raised will be used diligently and transparently. Strategically and with surgical precision. Every decision will weigh on how to affect the most change possible within the ambit of the financial means raised today. It will be used to engage the relevant policymakers. To educate civil society. To spark future research. To make this an issue others can no longer ignore. 

Even though it may have taken two years and half the world away, you finally heard my scream. A scream that will never become faint. And with the support you have shown over the past 40 days, now the world will hear it too. 

Except in this roar, I am not alone. 

Onward,
Jonathan