What I do is scout out African people who want to make a difference to their community, test them out with a few small donations, and through a volunteer trip, Find them a western helper. The project should be self sustaining within 4 years because of volunteer burnout, and because the locals should have the dignity of independence.
As Youchaou Traore of Mali said at our first meeting: ” nice to meet you and thank you for your support, now how do I get rid of you in 4 years.”
When I asked him to clarify, he said “The greatest gift you can give us is our independence, then come back as a Friend.”
Seven years and 3 volunteer visits later, I came back to Mali, mid civil war, on my own, as a friend. This July, as friends we ran training for teachers and headmasters in Kenya.
We found this model works from our 160 post implementation surveys of helping hand donations, most of which were in Australia and its neighbouring countries.
So let us look at the stories of three community heroes in Africa, because they are the ones who do things, we just try to be the wind beneath their wings.
Youchaou was given away to an Islamic teacher at the age of 4, and as they wandered. His family lost track of him. Islamic teachers wander because they become unpopular in this Islamic country, Mali.
At the age of 10 he was found by his uncle, Karim, the Mayor of 16 rural villages around Niamana. Youchaou caught up on his education, went to university and gave up a safe teaching job to go freelance as an interpeter.
While helping an Australian film crew make a documentary on the taking of Malian boys as child soldiers to Sierra Leone, the crew found him teaching young orphans in a tin shed after work.
Paul Curry from the film crew was a co founder of the Reach charity with Jim Stynes. They had a talented group of young people who ran workshops for troubled teenagers. One of these, Elise Klein. Raised the money for a real school, which became the best non western school in Mali. The school’s excellence meant they could charge enough money to support up to 100 orphans, and be sustainable. Over 7 years, Youchaou and Elise established a health centre, rural schools in Niamana and Konosso , and a women’s rural microcredit organisation. Despite the civil war, all of these are still running sustainably today. This is where I learned.
In more recent years Juergen Nagker has led a German charity to further develop the rural schools and establish a technical college. Some us teachers have been helping along the whole 10 years. I mention this because this model when inevitably, and usually after 4 years, the western partner gets other life priorities and moved on .
You can see Youchaou now on Ted talks, he has travelled the world and found the same development challenges everywhere.