Colins Amrega and Harun Modhiambo, two students at Kisumu dogo primary school in Kibera, Kenya.
positively AFRICA’s history highlights the power of individuals — caring individuals caring for others.
IN 2003, through the work of Stephen Lewis, my husband and I became involved with a group of genocide widows in Rwanda's "Village of Hope". At the Village site, on the outskirts of Kigali, live 20 women and their families, many infected with HIV during the genocide. They struggled for the basic necessities of life and walked a kilometre for clean water supplies or lived without electricity. Through emails, they told us they needed water and electricity to allow the Village to grow into the resource centre they envisioned.
We were astounded that, within a year, through simply passing on their stories and speaking about their situation, we raised $35,000. This money allowed the project and the community to access clean water and electricity. This has enabled them to support health care programmes, gardens, training and youth development. Thousands of people are benefiting.
From this experience we learned that our impact was far greater than we imagined and that direct giving resonated with Canadians. We had heard powerful stories that persuaded people from all walks of life to give generously, to help people with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
In 2005/2006, my husband and I travelled to Africa for four months to visit communities and see how different groups were coping with the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS. We met many inspiring community leaders and groups that were doing their best under impossible circumstances, and we could see that just a little help could create radical improvements in human welfare.
There were grandmothers who struggled to earn enough money to feed their orphaned grandchildren. A peanut butter machine changed their lives. There were HIV support groups who understood the need for better nutrition, yet had no access to funds or means of earning money. We were able to market their products in Canada, allowing them to cover travel costs to clinics. And there were the orphans living in homes without adults, trying their best to survive, many needing AIDS medication themselves. Generous donors sponsored the children and their care is ongoing. Return visits to the projects have inspired us to do more. Project leaders tell us that people had no hope before we came; children smile and play with energy they thought they would never know; and young people begin to plan for their future and develop entrepreneurship.
In the ensuing years we have grown into a dynamic and active NGO, supporting dozens of African-led projects in Rwanda, Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Lesotho. None of this would be possible without our wonderful donors, dozens of commited volunteers and an exceptional Board of Directors.
Principles of Operation positively AFRICA
• The projects are not ours, but belong completely to African people and communities. They are locally conceived, controlled by local Boards and benefit the communities within which they operate.
• The African projects we support are too small to access conventional funding sources (which are very limited to begin with).
• Although we have a national and international profile, our organization is led by dozens of deeply committed volunteers in the Victoria area: we have a volunteer board, work out of our homes and pay for our travel costs personally — enabling us to keep our overhead extremely low and donate over 80% of money raised directly to grassroots African projects;
• We operate using the GIPA principle – the greater involvement of people living with HIV and AIDS, both here in Canada and in Africa. Many of the African project leaders are living positively, and the people in the projects we support are either HIV positive or orphans.
• Many of our projects are social enterprises or fledgling businesses that generate income, learning opportunities and self-reliance — dignity.
• Where possible we facilitate personal linkages between positively AFRICA, our donors and our African partners. In other words, we make a commitment to, and put a human face on, the work we do.