Archive for February, 2012

February 29, 2012

Giving Back in a Different Kind of Way

Usually when organizations say they need your help, you expect that what they are looking for is in your wallet.  But this time, what we’re looking for is in your little black book.

Achieve in Africa is gearing up for some big things.

Now that we have made significant progress on the primary school, we want to provide Olasiti Village with its first and only secondary school.  Currently the village lacks access to secondary education opportunities, which means that even the brightest and most capable students are unable to continue past a primary education.  So far, five classrooms have been constructed, but a total of 24 classrooms are needed.   Currently, the school is  recognized as a secondary school by the Tanzanian government and will be provided with teachers. We are able to obtain significant cost savings on material and labor because of our established relationship with the village government of Olasiti and local suppliers. Classrooms can be constructed at a price of $10,000 per classroom.

We have set ambitious goals and we are confident that we can reach them – with your help.   Normally this is the part where we’d ask you to open your checkbook.  Instead, we’d like you to think of a name.   In order to expand our projects, we need to expand our community.   We want to grow our network and access new resources by building relationships.

Here is our wish list for connections we’d like to make in the future:

1. Celebrities– We need visible advocates for AIA who can effectively spread the word about our cause and rally others to support us as well.

2. Retail store owners or managers– We’re always looking for creative ways to acquire donations to continue our work.  We’re hoping that store owners and managers can help us by providing a % of sales of a certain item or brand to AIA.

3. Relevant organizations– We want to build new partnerships!  We’re looking to collaborate with organizations who can offer some sort of benefit to AIA, such as relationships with schools in needs, funding solar panels, or anything else related to our work.

4. Accountants– We are looking specifically for an accountant who would be willing to provide a pro-bono audit for AIA.  This will allow us to apply for more grants and increase our potential funding (note: this person might need to be based in CA since that’s where our HQ is located).

5. Media outlets– We need people to share our story! So we’re looking for contacts in the media that are interested in our work so we can give them updates about our work for potential news coverage; these can be bloggers, editors of newspapers, etc.

6. Everybody else– We want to get the word out about AIA any way possible.  We need help from people who have access to large networks (social, professional, etc.) that can spread the word to a wider audience that may be able to help us with the above listed needs. If you belong to any groups, teams, Greek Life organizations, alumni associations, etc., this includes you!

So here’s where you come in.  Giving back is about more than just giving a few dollars or a few hours of your time.  Giving back means sharing the resources you have – whether that be money, time, physical goods, ideas, or in this case, connections.  In a very simple way, you can help us grow.  Please consider sharing your valuable contacts with us so that we can expand our community and expand our impact.

Thank you for your continued support!

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February 22, 2012

AIA team member Vik Pisipati: Thoughts on Volunteering

 “So what motivates you to volunteer?”

I feel my palms get sweaty, and my mind starts racing. Why have I never thought about this question before? I thought I prepared thoroughly for this job interview, but that question threw me off guard. My eyes start darting back and forth between my interviewer, the clock, the open window, my interviewer’s ever-buzzing Blackberry. “Well….” I stutter.

I was asked this question in a job interview while looking for my first job out of school. Without going into detail, let’s just say that the interview “didn’t progress as hoped”. I was a soon-to-be business school graduate applying for jobs in companies that were very much for-profit, yet entered the interview room with more than half my previous experience in the nonprofit sector.

This question stuck with me, and I’ve since reflected quite a bit on what has motivated me to get involved in my community. The challenge? Making a lasting impact for others? Interacting with diverse groups of people?  Even now I can’t properly articulate an answer.

This is the part of this post where I want to reassure you that I’m not going to delve into a cliché self-reflective essay on my volunteer experiences, but what I do want to take the opportunity to do this week is at least attempt to answer this question by sharing the three things that motivate me to volunteer as a part of the Achieve in Africa team:

1.       The AiA Mission              

What I love about AiA is the organization’s commitment to not just raising money, but ensuring that classroom and CLC building projects are managed from start to finish, with the emphasis always being on sustainable community impact. We’ve all heard the ‘If you give a man a fish …” adage, but to actually see the impact of sustainable development in community educational resources in the Olasiti and Ulolela communities changes this concept from a tired proverb into a dynamic concept that makes me excited to log-in to Skype on evenings and weekends to catch-up with the the AiA team and keep the momentum going on projects.

2.       Every day is a learning experience

Whether we realize it or not, all of us on the AiA team are learning something every day that we work together. I have not personally been to Tanzania, but the wealth of information I’ve learned about Tanzania from a socioeconomic and humanitarian perspective is unbelievable. I’m also learning things that continue to help me in my professional life like working with our virtual team across time zones and discovering which Starbucks in Mexico City has the best wi-fi signal for me to join our group Skype teleconferences.  Being a part of the AiA mission and team is challenging but also extremely rewarding, and that keeps me motivated day after day.

3.       Brendan Callahan

I’m going to try to write this paragraph without sounding like some creepy super-fan of Brendan Callahan, AiA Founder and President. I met Brendan several years ago while we were both at BU, but became involved with him in a professional capacity with AiA seven months ago. People like Brendan give me faith that our generation is truly capable of making a large impact and remind me of what it means to be selflessly devoted to a cause. I am constantly amazed by his drive and commitment to the people of Tanzania, and I consider him to be one of my strongest role models. Having the opportunity to learn from people like Brendan motivates me to work harder and support the team in achieving AiA’s mission.

Anyway, I’m rambling and am going to wrap this post up. This may be a good time to revisit the question of “What motivates me to volunteer”. I have my reasons, and other people have theirs. What I will say though is that if you are ever asked that question and aren’t able to give a clear answer, chances are you’re on the right track. It means that volunteering is just something that comes naturally to you. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.

February 17, 2012

Introducing an AIA team member: Nathan!

Hello Everyone! Nathan here… Achieve In Africa, Inc.’s Fundraising Director and Regional Ambassador of the West Coast.  I started with AIA about 4 years ago when the organization was first conceptualized.  Upon learning more of Tanzania’s limited educational infrastructure after the first relief trip in 2007, I immediately hopped on board as a Fundraising Coordinator.  The goals were simple: inform others of the education challenges in Tanzania, and raise funds for projects including supplying school gear, desks, and classrooms to promote better learning environments.  As an individual who values education and the opportunities it provides, I encourage you all to reflect on how much an impact education can have on one’s life.  This is why we do what we do.

A recent article I came across illustrates how children in Tanzania are not given opportunity to finish even basic education. Passing the Form 6 exam ushers the completion of secondary education in Tanzania, but only 54,929 are sitting for this examination out of a population of more than 42 million.  Let us work together to push this number even higher!

– Nathan

February 12, 2012

Exciting Updates from Olasiti!

We have some exciting updates regarding our progress on the secondary school in Olasiti!

Achieve in Africa recently transfered funds over to our contractor to begin work on making 100 tables and chairs for 100 students at our Secondary School.  These tables and chairs will cover seating for two classrooms.  The construction is anticipated to take a little under a month to complete.  Upon completion, AIA will be sending over funds to complete another 100 tables and chairs for an additional two classrooms.

Prior to receiving support from Achieve in Africa, the village of Olasiti lacked a secondary school. This means that even the brightest and most capable students have been unable to continue past a primary education since there has not been a school in which they can attend near or in the village.  The village has managed to build two classrooms from money raised by taxes.  Achieve in Africa has worked hard to build the remaining necessary infrastructure so that the school will be recognized as a secondary school by the Tanzanian government and provided with teachers.

The school is now set to open this month to receive its first grade level of students!

Look for pictures and updates in the future as the work continues!