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December 4, 2008

Ngi Ne Themba (I have hope)
An Interview With Hanson
By Noele Shannon

Overlooked by most, yet carefully watched by a loyal, smaller crowd, the three brothers who took the charts by storm in 1997 with their infectious hit “Mmmbop” have carefully crafted their skill and paved a path to a most promising and amazingly admirable career.

Hailed by many notable musicians and celebrities alike, the Hanson brothers, (now all married and with 6 kids in the mix, 7 come this December) made a personal choice to inspire others to make a difference today, which started in 2006 upon a visit they made to South Africa. Over the last two years that decision has led to hope for many people who might not have had any otherwise.

As the ‘Walk around the World Tour’ comes to a close, an extension of Hanson’s efforts unfolds in a beautiful new coffee table book, entitled “Take The Walk” which chronicles their journey to action, hope and awareness.

Wanting to put myself into the shoes (or lack thereof) of another, I decided to take off my shoes and walk two miles with the band and about 200 other advocates. If you’d like to become involved, Hanson is donating one dollar for each person who walks a mile in support of several worthwhile charities and you can obtain more information online to contribute to these causes by visiting Takethewalk.net

I met up with the guys recently to get an in-depth look at this heartwarming project and talk about future continuations onto their amazing charitable work.

Q: The single was first in an effort to raise money, now you guys are moving onto the book. How did you come up with the idea?

ZH: I think several things, as we have been transitioning more and more into trying to say to our fans and anyone wherever we influence or reach out to this is not about HANSON, this is about individuals being leaders. We also want to provide tools that help people understand and help people feel empowered with information and why we walk. We don’t feel like we need to write a ‘know all’ or a memoir or whatever, but we wanted to find a way to give other people a tool to spread the message without us being there.

Q: Who took the Pictures? Did you take any yourselves, or did you have a photographer travel with you to chronicle the trip?

IH: Our friend Bryan Johnson the photographer went with us, he chronicled the trip and basically said you guys should do a book, (a picture book) and we were like ya know well we can probably do a little more than a picture book, we could probably actually write something.

ZH: We wanted to encourage people and we have been calling the book more of a “Call to Action.” It’s split up into about 5 chapters and we think of it almost like these are the first 5 chapters of a much larger book that is written not necessarily by us but by the people who walk with us. Because everybody probably has a chapter, everybody has one or two chapters in their story of how they have chose to take action.

Q: As the tour comes to an end you guys have accumulated about half the miles you need to accomplish your goal of Walking around the World. What will you do to continue towards its achievement?

TH: Encourage people’s walks. What’s so exciting about it is we have just done a little over a hundred miles, were gonna have already about a hundred other walks that have been done which means that that 2nd half, the path is already paved to complete that second part of the ‘Walk around the World’ and I can’t think of any better way to complete the ‘Walk around the World’ than to have it be through other people who are organizing. Every time we have done stuff it’s been, you do one thing and it leads to another, and so what were gonna try and do is try and use our resources, whether its publicity or reaching out to colleges or just supporting people and giving them encouragement and ideas to make their walks as successful as we can. And will also be looking to get the organizations that were supporting to make sure they are engaged and involved in the fact that we are helping; Free the Children, were helping Bloodwater, were helping Toms, so we want them to be actively involved in the fact that our fans and people that have come to it (The Walk) are taking up the banner.

Q. So why have the last few walks been 2 miles?

IH: Well we just decided that the tour was getting near an end and we wanted to kind of step it up a notch.

ZH: In reality it’s much better of an example if we want people to actually start to get a better feel for what some of these kids are really walking through. Some of the kids we met who didn’t have shoes, they’re walking 5 miles to a school or to get water in one direction. For us to walk 2 miles is still not even half the distance they are walking one way. We felt like we were getting to the end of the tour and we were getting really close to meeting a couple of these goals and we wanted to make sure they got met before the tour was over. It’s important we try to set small goals, not minuscule in a sense that their so easy to get but goals that are achievable that people could feel the accomplishment is important. To feel like you reached something, you set a goal for yourself and you reached it, just wanting to make sure that people really are able to feel that accomplishment. The group that is actually building the schools, we haven’t started our own organizations to do these things, we partner with groups we’ve come across that we feel like are great people who are doing the ground work already and we are trying to support them, they are called “Free the Children”, they were started in Canada, they focus mostly on getting middle schools and people of that age to really partner with to help create and build schools in Third World countries. We shouldn’t forget that young kids, kids who are in middle school and elementary school even they have a sense about what’s going on in the World, They are not numb to the reality of caring about world issues. They can understand, maybe they don’t get some of the nuance, but its important to engage young people (not young people as in college students only) but high schools and middle schools in feeling engaged in the fact that there are world issues that not necessarily are our problem, that we should take an active role in. We need to make sure we don’t dumb kids down too much and that we let them live up to the potential that they have.

Q: Now the tour is wrapping up, what city has been the most memorable for you to walk in and why?

TH: Several were really awesome.

ZH: In Calgary, it was really early on this tour it was somewhere about 48 degrees and it was cold enough but pouring rain and that was a real memorable walk.

TH: Poughkeepsie, also.

ZH: One thing about the walks that are particularly hot or particularly cold, or these challenging walks is the people that show up to those walks, they are really making a major decision to say ‘Look I want to be part of this, I believe in this, it’s going to be harder on me I know, but I wanna make sure that I’m a part of this’.. that’s particularly encouraging, at least for me, for all of us, it is just because more than ever those scenarios you are seeing that…

IH: people really care and are there for the right reasons.

ZH: OH yeah totally.

IH: One of the things about particularly the cold and wet walks on the tour, I have seen more people with their shoes off, in those circumstances then when it wasn’t.

IH: I will comment on one particular walk, and it’s not because of the walk itself but the people that were on the walk, in Chicago when we walked I got the chance to talk to a young lady who got her entire elementary school to go and plan the walk and it’s on the pod-cast. She was just a really cool, somewhat unassuming but obviously very driven young lady and she was 10 years old and I just thought that was really, really cool and it made me feel good about what we are doing cause if we are encouraging someone at that age to go out there and do something like that, then we are doing something right.