In an increasingly populous, complex and interconnected world, it is easy to feel powerless, to ask what can one voice out of over 7.5 billion can achieve, and so to consider leaving problem solving to government bodies and other large non-governmental institutions. Yet we do each have the power to change the world and there is a real need for us to do so.
Imagine seeing entire villages cut off every year by rain and watching as nothing changed. Imagine knowing how many animals suffer for meals that many university students don’t even want to eat but seeing that each of those students’ voices alone was achieving nothing. Imagine seeing young women fleeing conflict that is tearing their country apart only to face incredible hardship as they struggle to raise their children while large NGOs are stretched to their limits just to house entire displaced communities.
Perhaps solving each of these problems seems insurmountable, beyond the scope of what anyone can achieve by themselves. Yet this week we share with you 14 examples of just what is possible when committed, bold community members recognize that their ideas have the power to change even the biggest issues. Whether it’s bringing community members together and providing the tools and means to repair river crossings, creating technology that unites a chorus of lone voices and provides a platform from which they can speak meaningfully and loudly, or whether it’s working directly with the most vulnerable members of an already vulnerable population to provide them with the skills, care, and support they need to get back on their feet, each of the 14 projects that we are proud to share this week are examples of just how far we can go and how much we can achieve when we act from our heart.
K. Jean de Dieu Some and Kointor Hien – Tricycle Motor for Community Bridges Project in Hiela
Hiela village in Burkina Faso is surrounded by rivers and has no access to health centers and local markets during the rainy seasons. Inhabitants of Hiela cannot participate in neighboring villages social events during the rainy seasons because of water and muds. After the death of two community members crossing the river, they have strived to create a passage through the biggest river separating them from the nearest health center. Men and women have transported natural stones via bicycles, bare hands, and bare heads to create a path for pedestrians and motorcyclists yet their efforts have not been enough to build a regularly maintained and accessible passage. Funds from this grant will provide a motorized tricycle which will allow community members to carry stones, materials, and tools to bridge not only this river but also to assist neighboring communities.
The majority of community members in Biharamulo District, a rural area of Western Tanzania, have no access to safe sanitation facilities, which often results in people using the crops in which they grew fields and local forestland as toilets. Jonathan Nkungu is the visionary behind the Sani-Initiative project, a new financial mechanism to provide simple, locally adapted sanitation solutions to rural communities of the Biharamulo District. Through Sani- Initiative, Jonathan and his team design and construct affordable and quality improved latrines with full privacy and health benefits.
Michael Abdullahi – BACK2SCHOOL
Michael Abdullahi grew up on the verge of being not welcome at school as a result of lack of funds. He was raised by his mother, who did not possess a formal education however worked tirelessly to save money to purchase the most expensive gift, that being education for her son. As a result of that hard work, Michael has a voice that people want to listen to. BACK2SCHOOL is a non-profit project in Kogi State, Nigeria that works with like minded volunteers to address the education of children of impoverished families in low income communities. This support is achieved through storytelling, mentoring, life skills, and helping out of school youth to enter into the classroom. Michael believes that every child deserves quality education because it is through education that they can change the circumstances they inherit, thereby changing the narrative.
Mosele Elizabeth, Mbah Charlotte, Mbull – Life Skills Training for Teenage Mothers in Bonakanda Village
As a result of the 2-year Anglophone crisis in Cameroon, many young girls in rural communities have become teenage mothers who have since dropped out of school due to sexual abuse, low self-esteem, poverty, and family breakdown. These young women commonly struggle to take care of their children and since securing a job without an education is challenging, they turn to prostitution and unwanted marriages to support themselves and their children. Mosele’s inspiration comes from her experience as a teenage mother and learning fashion designing, which allowed her to return to school to pursue a Master’s degree. She is dedicated to giving back to her community by educating and training young mothers with the skills to gain financial independence and pass fourth the skills they gain. Funds from The Pollination Project will help purchase sewing machines and accessories to set up a social enterprise and train twelve teenage mothers to use the machines.
RICE Excellent Center Nkambe for Teens – RICE Excellent Center Nkambe
RICE (Rehabilitation, Inclusive, Community, Empowerment) Excellent Center Nkambe is the only facility of its kind in the northwest region of Cameroon that provides teenage mothers, children, and teenagers the opportunity to seek information on reproductive health, trainings on small-scale business, counseling services, and mentoring opportunities. This work is being coordinated by Abanda Marcel, all with the hope to address pregnancy in young mothers and hunger, HIV/AIDS, poverty, and illiteracy among youth. Marcel believes that when youth feel well equipped with educational tools they feel empowered to return to a formal school setting and ultimately achieve the results and change they yearn for in life.
Denis Oduor – Reducing HIV/AIDS Risk Among Youth in Substance Abuse Project
Denis Oduor is based out of Siaya, Kenya and has recognized that young people who abuse drugs are at a greater risk of contracting and spreading HIV. He has started the Reducing HIV/AIDS Risk Among Youth in Substance Abuse Project to assist youth who are involved in alcohol and other addictive substances to reduce their risk of such viruses through engaging and interactive workshops.
Ignacia Uribe – Plan V App – Vegetarianos Hoy
Plan V is a mobile app that helps people to reduce and/or eliminate animal products from their diets. Plan V App was designed by Ignacia Uribe, longtime activist and founder of Vegetarianos Hoy, a non-profit organization that promotes healthier eating habits to help people, animals and the environment. Plan V App works as guide to respond to the thousands of people in Chile and other Spanish speaking countries, looking for a useful and simple tool that provides relevant information to carry out a lifestyle free of animal products. Plan V is the first mobile app in Spanish with vegan news and recipes, animal products replacement, FAQ, plant-based restaurant options and certified vegan products, all in one. Today we live in a technological era, where young people don’t read webpages anymore and they prefer to have an app that helps them to follow a plant based lifestyle; we believe this is the best way to reach out to new generations. This grant will allow us to develop the free iOS version as well as make some improvements on the current design for Android.
Kirsty, Cyril, and Tristan – Assiettes Végétales – Plant-Based University Meals in France
The mission of Assiettes Végétales is to introduce and develop plant-based meals in public canteens throughout France by working with the public and key decision makers. The transition towards a plant-based diet is beneficial for animals, the fight against climate change, public health, and student inclusion. Kirsty Henderson and her team will use this powerful lever to ensure millions more plant-based meals are served throughout France every year. By 2023, they wish for every university canteen to offer a vegan meal option, every day of the year. Precedent and research tells us that around 13 % of students would select this meal option if it was available, with this number likely to rise in coming years. This would result in around 9 million more plant-based meals being served every year in France, helping the planet, our health, and millions of animals.
Arlene Corsano – Dare to Dream
With the goal of bringing hope and inspiration to children caught in the cycle of poverty, former educator Arlene Corsano is creating a program suitable for use with students in middle school and beyond. Dare to Dream includes a video that introduces the story of songwriter Rose Marie McCoy, who overcame poverty, racism, and sexism to succeed in the male dominated music business of the 1950s and ’60s. Her story is not one of instant success, but one of hard work, persistence, and the willingness to risk failure. It lends itself to teaching the often neglected skill of breaking down a long-term goal into short-term steps, which has been shown to increase motivation and confidence. Initially, this program will be offered to schools and youth organizations in Harlem and communities in Northern New Jersey.
Sabina Gicuku, Leonard Okoyo – Young Achievers
As a result of rising crime rates among youth in the Korogocho slum of Nairobi, Kenya, Sabina Gicuku and Leonard Okoyo started Young Achievers in 2012. This project works with youth under the age of 17 years with the goal of engaging them in healthy activities that allow them to be a good example in the community and beyond. Sabina and Leonard use the popular sport of football to carry out life skills trainings. Funds from The Pollination Project will help purchase new equipment, uniforms, transport, and writing materials to the beneficiaries.
S. Morgan-Palmer, N. Humphries, R. Gray – The Beautification Project
The Beautification Project addresses the well-being of our community’s homeless population within the Washington, DC area, one of the most vulnerable groups of society. The number of health and well-being needs associated with this population is growing. Due to their continuous instability they are very likely to experience ill health, low income and unemployment. This project will clothe individuals to make them presentable for everyday life and employment with the ability to sustain it.
Camilo Viveiros, Paul McNeil – The Social Movement Oral History Project of Popular Praxis
The Social Movement Oral History Project, is based in Southern New England and involves an intergenerational group of organizers and activists. Popular Praxis is dedicated to sharing community organizing skills and strategy, bringing together theory and action to expand participation in organizing efforts. The Social Movement Oral History Project is a project of Popular Praxis that documents, shares, and archives stories and lessons from past and present social movements.
Recognizing we have much to learn from past and current organizers and activists, Popular Praxis works to interview and record social movement elders as well as younger movement participants, to preserve these important popular histories for contemporary and future reference.
Youth Capacity Builders – Bamenda Internally Displaced Youths Entrepreneurship Project
According to 2016 surveys, 75% of young people in Cameroon are unemployed, and the Anglophone crisis only worsens the outlook for young people in the region. Bamenda Internally Displaced Youths Entrepreneurship Project is an initiative that seeks to address unemployment and hunger amongst internally displaced persons (IDPs), with a focus on youth. Nkweti and his team will train and support 20 youth IDPs in the cultivation and commercialization of market gardening products. This project addresses the problems of poverty, nutrition and unemployment amongst the 100,000+ internally displaced persons due to the Anglophone crisis. Nkweti shares, “I have a dream of always helping others grow especially transferring my skills in what I know best. The underprivileged youths who are internally displaced are simply just victims of circumstance who should be supported to have live like ordinary people. My drive lies in my love for the underprivileged and this project would be a part of my bigger dream of creating an incubation centre to train youths in their businesses in future.”
Ngweka Queen Asanji – Every Second Counts
85% of the Cameroonian population particularly youths, parents and students are lacking skills related to basic First Aid and CPR. Ngweka Queen Asanji, founder of Happy Mother, Happy Child, has decided to start the Every Second Count project has a result to address this. The initiative aims to train and equip parents, youths, and students with these skills, which they can use to save lives in emergency situations rather than act as helpless bystanders. The project seeks to reduce mortality rates from preventable causes in Cameroon, which are on the rise. Each individual that is trained in these skills help contribute to safer environments, homes, work places, and communities. In life threatening emergencies, quick actions such as opening a blocked airway, assisting with breathing, and applying direct pressure to a wound to stop bleeding can avoid deaths. The likelihood of an injured person living or dying depends on the timeliness of these life saving actions and survival rates are greatly increased if bystanders quickly begin implementing first aid measures.