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Travis McCoy's 'life-altering' journey for MTV's Staying Alive campaign

August 17, 2009 |  6:40 pm


Sure, he may be tweeting about the addictive nature of iPhone applications but Gym Class Heroes’ front man Travis McCoy isn’t ignorant to the societal problems that exist beyond the touch screen. The 32-year-old singer-songwriter and MTV Staying Alive special ambassador recently globe-trotted to South Africa, the Philippines and India to raise awareness about youth-driven HIV- and AIDS-prevention projects, and he’s returned with a new sense of appreciation for life’s luxuries.

“I feel I am blessed beyond words,” McCoy said in a phone interview last month. “I have the basic human rights that everyone should have access to … running water, a sewer system that works.  It’s crazy the things we take for granted. “

IPhones included.

So when he was approached with the idea of traveling the world to meet with three grantees of MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation Awards, he thought, "Hell yeah." 

“When I was younger, I had someone close to me die of AIDS,” McCoy said. “So I definitely feel a connection with the foundation. It hits close to my heart.”

Recipients of the awards, which are presented twice a year to those “relentless in their mission to encourage, educate and empower their peers in the fight against HIV and AIDS,” receive a cash grant from the foundation to continue their work. 

McCoy chronicled his “life-altering” journey, from June 13 to 24, at www.theunbeatentrack.com, with words, images and videos. He included his encounter with a man blowing into a conch shell in Cuttack, India; a Manila show with indie rock band Archipelago; and a visit to Kaybuboy Bridge, where hundreds of Filipinos live in dire conditions. 

“It was pretty intense. You have 10 days to take in entire cultures, meet amazing people, see really, really crappy living conditions, see kids growing up in these situations and they’re still smiling.... It definitely was a reality check. I met a lot of cool people who will stay with me for the rest of my life. I’m still registering a lot of what I saw. You see all these people doing what they can to survive and, even in that, they still have some sense of hope."

And those memories will serve as his muse.  McCoy will write a new single inspired by his travels and the people he encountered, to be released Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

“The goal for me with the song is to put people in my shoes and take people there and feel what I felt and see what I saw.”

The three recipients of the 2009 Staying Alive Foundation Awards that Travis met with were:

Bulelani Mvotho, Cape Town, South Africa:  He founded Snapshot Mobile Cinema in 2005. Mvotho "makes films and documentaries that educate and entertain young people, as well as motivating them to become engaged in the fight against crime, HIV/AIDS and rape."

Mandakini Behara, Cuttack, Orissa state, India:  The Utkal Network of People Living with HIV (UNP+) was formed in 2006 by five HIV-positive people; it aims to reduce "stigma and discrimination, and to promote and protect the human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS."

Alex Sarza, Dolores Matias, Barangay, Manila: BALUTI Project (Protect the Child From Infection), the group of 20 youth work to prevent sexual irresponsibility among their peers.

--Yvonne Villarreal

Photo: Travis McCoy in South Africa  Credit: MTV