Getting It Right

Photo by Angela Johnson

Photo by Angela Johnson


A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.
Aldo Leopold


Madonna is dead. Long live Madonna

I am actually over my rant  about Madonna and the debacle she left in Malawi.

The families  that relocated so  her organization  could make room to build the school that never was…people she hired who were either incompotent  and or lacked integrity and the board that did not do their due diligence. I am so over it all . I am over donors that do not listen to folks in local communities. I am over organizations that take money from donors  KNOWING that they have not taken the time and educate them about the real issues and walked into this relationship with eyes open and communicating clearly about what is needed on the grassroots level and why.

I will not use this space to talk about what went so very wrong with that project. 

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking at 160 out of 182 on the UN’s Human Development Index.Despite what may seem like overwhelming poverty local community based groups are strengthening  families and communities. Many of these organizations have very little or no web presence so you may never have heard of them. You  will not  find them listed  on Charity Navigator  or some other ranking site, but they are WORTHY. They are worthy of our time, donations and support.   Today, I am using this space to talk about organizations on the ground getting it right and one great foundation supporting them.

I will channel my inner Oprah and tell you what I know for sure:

  • That grassroots programs arising in direct response to  needs within a local community are ususally the most effective.
  • No program or model will be successful or sustainable , no matter how high profile it is if the local community is not invested in the finding and owning  the solution
  • Community-based organizations for  far too long  have had very  little donor funding
  • Community-based organizations continue to be under recognized for the transformative work they do.

 Real and lasting change begins at the grassroots.


So here are few grass root organizations getting in right  

  • Eye of the Child (Profiles of their work by other organizations can be viewed here and here.)
  •  Namwera AIDS Coordinating Committee (See profile here.)

Some additional orgs that are have huge community impact are:

  •  Imvani Women’s Support Group
  •  Nkhotakota AIDS Support Organization
  •  Rumphi HIV/AIDS Education Awareness Program
  •  Foundation for Community Support Services
  •  Chilimba Women and Orphans Care Group

All of these organizations are currently or have been funded by the Firelight Foundation in Santa Cruz, California.  The very smart Jennifer Lentfer  previously worked for the  Firelight Foundation. Firelight specializes in small grants to local, indigenous organizations working with children and families in east and southern Africa. She has  visited most of these groups and can attest to not only their existence, but their impact on local communities.

Why Communities?

Communities have an abundance of energy, assets and knowledge of how to best utilize and leverage community members and institutions . They understand the challenges and know what resources and  trainings  are needed  so they can overcome them.  Foundations like Firelight understands this.

 So here is my challenge to us all. Stop just going  for the big name, fancy  non profit  organization with the well known brand. Take a chance on a little guy. Dig a little deeper and find new organizations. The ones you never have heard of before.  Not having a  big name does not mean  an organization is ineffective.

 Donations to these  community based organizations help provide services directly to those in need but they also support  organizational development  so that they become stronger, more sustainable organizations.

I do not want us to forget the people of Malawi. The minute that the media moves on to another hot news story I want us  all to still be angry. Angry enough to act and angry enough to put our money where our mouths are. If you were absolutely  on fire about 3.8 million dollars being wasted in a region where  millions of people live on less than one dollar a day then do something.

What can you do? You can make a donation to  the Firelight Foundation . They will make sure your donation is given to community based organization getting it right. We can help them make a difference.

And we do not need a record contract to do it.


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