MAY 25th is AFRICA DAY: A holiday in most African nations that began as a call for freedom from colonialism, has become a celebration of African unity, potential and promise. MamaHope as an organization summed that up for us. With only two staff in the U.S. fundraising and local teams on the ground in communities throughout Africa working on projects initiated by those same communities, this small and passionate non-profit team are redefining how we see Africa.
Earlier this week we had a far-ranging conversation with MamaHope founders Nyla Rogers and Amy Vaninetti about how MamaHope came to be and why it’s working:
Ask the People You’re Trying to Help
MamaHope’s model of action is to learn from the community what the solutions are. Often aid agencies go in with a pre-determined answer. But those who live there know what they need and the only reason they haven’t actualized the solution yet is because they need resources. We close that gap — that’s what we do. The day-to-day needs have to be met in a way communities can handle. If everything is coming from the outside, then there is no pride or ownership.
If you start small and things make an impact, then they grow and progress without us. We bought a school in Tanzania and the community is expanding it on their own. They are committed to keeping it going. There are so many issues on the ground — you must have custom solutions to individual problems.
For instance, we were doing several water projects and had an expert with us. We created a really innovative, but complicated water project. The night before work commenced, the Chief came to see us and explained that the annual floods would knock it out. He told us to go back to the community and ask what they wanted. We humbly went back to them. They showed us that a mile’s worth of piping to city water supplies would enable them to set up a kiosk and sell the water via a central tap for the villagers.
What’s unique is that we are providing funding for what that community thinks is their most important need. The community as a whole has decided this is the most important thing they need addressed right now — they tell us their dream. It’s less about the numbers of how many we impact and more about that community dream.
Stop the Pity
We realized early on we never wanted to show the images that are normally shown of Africa. People’s psyches have been penetrated with that. We wanted to show what we see — hilarious people, loving each other, connection, dreams, and then offer inspiration to motivate people to give, rather than use pity.
Stop the pity is an urgent imperative — it is something that has to happen in order to move forward. We want people all over the world to unbundle their stereotypes and see the similarities. We are trying to work ourselves out of a job. We go out and find the leaders in the communities to support, and give them the tools and resources to carry out their vision.
Unlock the Potential
MamaHope’s current campaign, “build the future — $50K in 50 days” launched about three weeks ago. We’ve raised over $19K so far — 39% of our goal — to complete several projects. On June 22nd, we go to Africa. Everything we raise will go to work right away!