Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A "Door of Hope" for a Brighter Future

This is my new post on the nonprofit "Door of Hope". With this piece, I have now profiled nonprofits on six continents! Thanks for supporting my work everyone. This is also cross-posted in the Huffingtonpost Impact Section and the SeeYourImpact blog.

Being a child should be one of the most enjoyable times. Having fun with friends and living healthy lives. For many children in Sierra Leone, extreme malnutrition, disease and high drop out rates threaten to take that away. This is why Door of Hope is on the front lines, deeply engaged with these issues, and making a huge difference. They provide children like Haja Mama, Ramtu, Faud, Alusine and Alimamy with educational access, as well as vitamins and mosquito nets so they're healthy enough to learn.

Like many sub-Saharan countries, Sierra Leone has been locked in a tremendous struggle to build a sustainable future for its citizens. Years of strife between ethnic groups has taken its toll, and left many aspects of the country paralyzed, fighting to move forward. But even among the chaos and confusion, there is an opportunity to empower its people, and inspire lasting change. Door of Hope is working to help make this a reality in Sierra Leone.

4-year old Ibrahim lives in a small house
made of zinc sheets. These donated vitamins help him
overcome a vitamin deficiency and grow up tall and strong.

Fatmata is the mother of these bright-eyed children.
They live in a single room, with no running water or electricity.
Thanks to a $40 donation by David, they now have food on the table.

Their partnership with SeeYourImpact makes it possible. With 100% of donations going to improve lives and ensuring a bright future for many, we asked Joshua from Door of Hope about the success stories across a diverse group of people, and the challenges moving forward:

Sierra Leone has a rich, unique history, and a diverse population. With four primary spoken languages across 16 ethnic groups, how do you manage to assist so many so effectively?

Independent of background, we have found out that the beneficiary needs, and that of all humanity, are essentially the same. People everywhere desire to live healthy and quality lives. This is true across the ethnic groups in Sierra Leone and the communities where we work. People are looking for better opportunities.

Given this understanding, our efforts target both short-term needs and long-term situations (the root cause) with a holistic approach. The meeting of short-term needs, on one hand, is often necessary in terms of ensuring survival. Long-term needs, on the other hand, must be addressed to ensure empowerment. Both are essential and vitally needed.

Keeping both sides of the coin in mind, we focus on helping beneficiaries transition from poverty and powerlessness to self-sufficiency and empowerment. We see the assistance that we provide as stepping stones that will revolutionize their lives. Our efforts are warmly welcomed and received because the beneficiaries appreciate the targeted assistance. Their lives are equipped and transformed.

What issues (that Door of Hope deals with) do you believe are not getting the push they need, and what can be done to shift attention in that direction?

One of the essential issues that deserves more attention is the provision of pathways to empowerment. Sierra Leone has an estimated unemployment rate of 65%. A significant percentage of this number are youths and young adults. For Sierra Leone to break the cycle of poverty, idle human resources need to be developed and employed.

There is a dire need for the provision of appropriate training / education and opportunities for beneficiaries to start their own business or obtain jobs. With the community, we receive on-going requests for the establishment of vocational training centers and either microfinance business start-up support or the establishment of industries that provide employment. Unless we can provide effective pathways for people to become empowered, people and nations will never achieve their destinies. Until we effectively address this all-important issue, the sad and pathetic struggle for survival will continue.

In terms of shifting attention to this issue, an increased awareness of opportunities for effecting change would be a great start. Organizations and the press would do well to highlight opportunities like this that address the root cause of poverty. This also needs to be placed firmly on the agenda of non profit organizations, all government agencies and decision makers that allocate resources world-wide. Individuals and families need to be provided with simple ways that they can help make a difference and impact lives in this regard.

A personal end note: This is the beauty of the SeeYourImpact model. Shari Goetsch has called it "a game-changer" in the world of nonprofits and charities. It is hard to disagree with this statement. Indeed, the model empowers the the small donor. For $20 dollars you can change a change a life, and positively affect a community, a village, or a region. This is what's happening all over Sierra Leone. When the power of small donations connects with the needs and concerns of under-served populations, the results are often extraordinary.

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