Archive for August, 2011

August 31, 2011

Ways to get involved with AIA

This past week I was involved in a freshman orientation program that introduces incoming students to life in DC through 3 days of community service in the city. An important component of the program is educating students about issues that exist within the city and present them with organizations and other resources within the university through which they can engage in public service.

In the same spirit, I thought I would take the opportunity to remind everyone of ways that you can engage with the work of Achieve in Africa…

You can become an AIA Ambassador! As an ambassador you can fundraise with your classmates, group of friends, club, or on behalf of your town. No previous fundraising experience is necessary, just an interest in Achieve in Africa’s mission. To receive the AIA Ambassador Manual to help get you started, please email fundraise@achieveinafrica.org with your name, the city and state where you plan on fundraising, and any additional information you care to share to introduce yourself.

You can spread the word! Send a message to a friend, shop for AIA, or make a donation in someone else’s name. For ideas on how to educate others about AIA check out our page: http://www.achieveinafrica.org/spreadtheword.php

You can make a donation! It’s as easy as clicking a button (check out the sidebar).

Achieve in Africa is working on many exciting projects — find a way to get involved today!

Thanks for your support,

Kristin

August 25, 2011

Check out Achieve in Africa’s “The LXD for education in Africa” promo

The LXD, or Legion of Extraordinary Dancers is an amazing group of professional dancers and personal friends of Achieve In Africa. They understand that the children in Africa don’t have the same luxuries many of us have been afforded and were awesome enough to put together a brief promotional video for us, “The LXD for education in Africa” while on tour with Glee. Thanks goes out to their tour manager Shasha Jhaveri (follow her on twitter, here), Shelby, Legacy, Twitch, Danny, Luigi, and Kid David for supporting us and the Achieve In Africa cause!

If you have a second, also check out “Schools for Africa” -the shortened Achieve In Africa promo video we’ve put together.

August 25, 2011

Achieve In Africa’s new Squidoo page is up!

Check out Achieve In Africa’s great new Squidoo lens where we will conveniently host all of our new media resources, a plethora of video updates, and our project locations in one, convenient place! Give our lens a “thumbs up” if you like it, and leave comments for future updates.

August 18, 2011

Working yourself out of a job

During my time in South Africa, I participated in a course focused on sustainable community development.  My professor (who my classmates and I fondly called Yoda from time to time due to the pearls of wisdom he frequently produced and bestowed upon us) made a statement one day that has stayed with me in the months since I left South Africa: “Development workers should always work themselves out of a job.”  While I’m sure community development workers are not seeking unemployment, they should remain mindful of the purpose of their work.  The goal of development work is not to maintain the large salaries of those individuals working in the non-profit sector, but to create sustainable change and growth within a community so that community members can support themselves instead of necessitating outside support.  Projects that are not useful to communities or no longer serve their intended purpose should not be continued simply because they bring in funds.  Projects should always be grounded in the needs of the community.  Unfortunately, I was witness to the work of an organization in South Africa that had become successful financially but had alienated the community that it was “helping”.  After observing that organization, I became more critical of non-profit work.  I realized how important it is for organizations to constantly evaluate the value of their projects and assess the needs that exist within the communities in which they work.

Working yourself out of a job doesn’t mean that you have to quit working.  It means that once you’ve completed the job or project at hand, you must move on from that project and discover what new job you can create that will be relevant to the needs of the community.

I was pleased to learn that during their visit to Tanzania, our team took the time to evaluate how the work of AIA can better serve the needs of the communities surrounding our project sites.  Team members identified several needs that had not previously been address and we are now in the process of creating new projects that will attend more directly to those needs.  We will be providing more information soon on these upcoming projects, so continue to check our blog and other forums to stay up-to-date on AIA’s work!

-Kristin

August 11, 2011

Philanthropy is sexy…accountability is sexier.

Philanthropic efforts are increasingly marketed in ways that make them appear trendy to the general public.  You can “like” causes on Facebook, donate money via text message, or buy a pair of cute shoes and at the same time help a child in need get a pair of shoes too.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s encouraging that organizations are finding ways to make fundraising efforts accessible and relatable to their current audience.  If non-profits are going to survive, then it is imperative that they utilize ingenuity.  What troubles me is that people may focus too much on the ease with which they can commit money (or simply an electronic thumbs-up) to an organization in order to feel or appear socially responsible and spend too little time looking into the organization itself and how it uses its resources.  Philanthropy is certainly sexy.  What’s not sexy: giving money to an organization without knowing how that money is actually being used.

An article in the Huffington Post acknowledged that the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) has recently handed out ‘F’ grades to dozens of poorly run or shady organizations whom it says donors should steer clear of if they want more bang for their charitable buck.  While some charities receive failing grades due to inefficient management, other organizations are used as vehicles for “non-profit entrepreneurs” to gain substantial salaries and perks.  AIP stated in its report that with no “federal watchdog, no investors who will sue if given false information, and loose reporting rules, the nonprofit sector has little oversight and much room for financial manipulation.”

Since this is the Achieve in Africa blog and not my own personal soapbox, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that when we say 95 cents of every dollar goes directly towards the projects of Achieve in Africa, we mean it.  As stated on the website, all AIA representatives are volunteers.  AIA’s administrative costs are very minimal –using only 5% of funds received.  We’re dedicated to increasing education efforts in Africa, not increasing the size of our wallets.

While your heart may tell you to give, use your head to decide to whom to give.  If you’re willing to make the effort to donate your time or money to an organization, then you should be willing to demand accountability from that organization. You have a right to know that your gift is being used wisely. Find out how the charity you’re involved in is spending its money.  Responsible giving looks good on you.

 

-Kristin

August 4, 2011

Celebrating the women of Africa

Since African Women’s Day was just a few days ago (July 31st), I felt I would take the opportunity to recognize the invaluable role that women play in societies across Africa and draw attention to an interesting initiative to celebrate the women of Africa.

I read an article the other day about the Walking Africa campaign – a campaign that aims to “raise awareness of African women’s commitment to all facets of life as well as to promote cooperation that supports their organisations on the international stage” through the presentation of the Nobel Peace Prize 2011 to the women of Africa as a collective.

The proposal is rooted to the fact that African women have, over the years, assumed a pivotal role in everyday life in Africa.  These women exhibit leadership in diverse aspects of life ranging from

household tasks to social and political activities.  African women are active in the management and development of economic activities in their local communities: there exist thousands of women’s cooperatives occupied with agricultural, trade and educational activities. African women also play an increasing role in new native types of social and economic activity, including the microcredit initiatives throughout Africa that have facilitated the foundation of thousands of small enterprises. They are also engaged in local healthcare and education activities; they provide assistance and information to increase awareness of the HIV virus and malaria in their villages.  Overall, women are vital to the continuation and improvement of life within their communities.

The campaign gives a voice to the women of Africa and draws attention to the incessant discrimination and human rights violations that women face.  Despite these abuses, women continue to display commitment to the establishment of peace and the pursuit of a brighter future.  The campaign communicates the belief that “the humble woman of Africa and the pivotal role that she plays can help pave the reconstruction of a more just human society.”  Setting aside the question of whether or not African women should receive the award, the intention behind the Walking Africa campaign and its commitment to gaining recognition of the resilience, ingenuity, dedication and strength of African women should be commended.

-Kristin