Thursday, September 29, 2005

AAS and TWAS: Two Academies, One World

This article will have to do Double Duty because I cannot talk about the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) without talking about he Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS - Formerly the "Third World Academy of Science").

AAS says that it is "first and foremost an honorific society which honours and recognizes scientists who have made significant contribution to science in Africa." The organization also has programs designed to produce tangible results in pursuit of its objectives.

TWAS, on the other hand, has supported scientific research in 100 countries in the South through a variety of programmes since 1986. Its web site says that over "2,000 eminent scientists worldwide, including TWAS members, peer review proposals free-of-charge for research grants, fellowships and awards that are submitted to the Academy by scientists and institutions in developing countries.

TWAS claims more than 700 Fellows and Associate Fellows who are elected from among the world's most distinguished scientists. Fellows are citizens of the South and Associate Fellows are citizens of the North who either were born in the South or have made significant contributions to the advancement of science in the South. (I am assuming that the reader understands the references to "the South" and "the North.") Fellows make up about 80 percent of TWAS's membership and they come from over 70 countries in the South.

TWAS, like AAS is an autonomous international non-profit organization. TWAS was founded in Trieste, Italy in 1983 by the late Nobel laureate Abdus Salam of Pakistan and a distinguished group of scientists from the South. Since its founding, it has changed its name from "Third World Academy of Sciences," but it is still known by the initials of its old name.

In 1985 TWA was officially launched by the United Nations' Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar. And since its inception, the Italian government has been very generous to TWAS by financing most of its operational expenses and the organization's secretariat is located on the premises of The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy. Aditionally, TWAS works in close collaboration with UNESCO, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), the International Council for Science (ICSU), the International Foundation for Science (IFS) and the International Science Programme (ISP).

The African Academy of Sciences was founded under the leadership of the late entomologist Thomas Odhiambo on 6th July 1985 in Trieste, Italy, as an autonomous Africa-wide professional, non-political and non-profit making organization. The AAS's mandate covers four main principal areas:
- Mobilization and strengthening of the African scientific community;
- Publication and dissemination of scientific materials;
- Research development and policy; and
- Capacity building in science and technology.

During its first decade, AAS achieved most of its objectives and carved out a niche for itself as a forum for intellectual and scientific discourse in Africa. Overcoming many difficulties, the officers and staff of the AAS developed programs that cater to the needs of scientists in the both the physical and social sciences by addressing issues such as: food security, regional integration and conflict resolution in Africa.

AAS currently has a membership of about 125 Fellows comprised of 120 who are elected from 24 African countries and 5 who are Foreign Fellows from 4 countries outside of Africa. These Fellows "are elected from among active African Scientists who have attained the highest international standards in their work. Foreign Fellows are elected from among outstanding non-African scientists who have made a significant contribution to the development of science and its application in Africa."

From relatively modest beginnings, AAS has become widely recognized as an organization that offers a wide range of capacity building programs as well as an avenue for publishing and disseminating information relevant to the African scientist; and a medium and forum for exchange of ideas and information.

AAS says that it would like to "stir up a rural scientific revolution in Africa." In Africa, it has been recognized by the AU, which has granted it an Observer Status. And beyond Africa, AAS partners with other international organizations such as the Inter-Academies Panel (IAP) where AAS is a member of the Executive Committee.

In May of 2005 the Kenyan government gave official recognition to the AAS, and this has facilitated the organization being able to begin construction of its headquarters on the two-hectare site it owns close to the centre of Nairobi. The construction of the building will be financed out of a US$5 million endowment from the government of Nigeria. Construction is expected to finish by the end of the year.

Both the AAS and TWAS are doing great things for Africa, the Developing World and for the entire Global Community, and you can read more about them at the following web sites.

Academy of Sciences for the Developing World

African Academy of Sciences

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

BRICKS FOR GANDO : Each Member Of A Community Has A Duty To The Whole

This is my favorite type of "Self Help" story. It's a story about one individual who takes it upon herself, or himself to fix a situation that needs to be fixed. This article about Diébédo Francis Kéré and Gando Village is one of those stories.

Diébédo Francis Kéré comes from Gando village in Burkina Faso and is founder of the "Bricks for schools for Gando Project." Because the "Bricks for schools for Gando Project" is basically supported in Germany, it's real name is the "Schulbausteine für Gando e. V."

Below is a statement by Diébédo Francis Kéré about his project. I tried to paraphrase it for the article, but finally decided that he has stated it much more eloquently than I ever could.

"In traditional Africa each member of a family is responsible for the well-being of all other members. Each member of a community in my homeland has a duty to the whole community. Each individual is indispensable for the survival of the community.
If one member of the community leaves in search for a better life, he tries to compensate his loss by sending back financial aid.

"I am in precisely that situation and wish to fulfill my part of this social duty, the "being there for each other".

"The difference to the usual procedure is that I wish to provide my family and the community as a whole with a solution which reaches beyond financial support.

"My presence in Europe has allowed me to look further beyond the horizon than most of my compatriots. Among other things I have realized that school education and training are the basis of any social, professional and economic development.

"For this reason it is vital that a school is provided for my village and that it is made accessible to as many children as possible."

Diébédo Francis Kéré says that his members of his village community approached him with a request that he help them save their school, which was in a virtual state of collapse. At the time, Kéré was studying architecture at the Technical University of Berlin.

Kéré came upon the idea of asking his fellow students to buy one or two symbolic stones for a school in his village in Africa. He compared the cost of the stones to the cost of an "extra cup of coffee." With the success of this effort, he was encouraged to found the Schulbausteine für Gando e. V. Association as a non-profit organization in 1999. The goals of the Association were to promote education, health, and development aid in the village of Gando.

The village of Gando itself consists of approximately 2,500 members who live in homesteads occupied by different generations of the same families. The majority of the members of the village community work abroad in order to earn money for their families back home.

The Association has created a "Whole Development Concept" that now includes not only the building of the school, but the construction of teachers' housing, a water collection unit and latrines.

The Association's web site states that all projects "initiated and carried out by the association should be a model of help to self-help". The village community has been included in the process from the beginning. And the school was built prior to the other projects because, as a place of learning, it was seen as the basis for the whole development.

In the construction of the School, the idea was to modify the building materials and construction principles in order to adapt traditionally temporary clay building methods to produce long-term, climatically high quality results. I imagine that Kéré's architectural training had something to do with this idea.

The Association's web site says that providing suitable housing for teachers in rural areas is a problem in Burkina Faso because the clay used in housing construction (which is the most readily and freely available local building material) does not remain aligned permanently. The higher cost of the much better suited cement building materials are problematic because the village communities often cannot afford them. In the past, little experimentation has been done to try to improve the quality of the clay available to the rural communities. This is because there is no great demand for the clay. As a consequence of these factors, the unsuitable accommodations are one of the deterrents to teachers accepting positions in rural schools.

So, it becomes clear that Kéré's work has a relevance not only for Gando, but or other rural communities in Burkina Faso as well. Modifying the clay to make suitable residential building material can possibly have a lasting positive effect on development.

Schulbausteine für Gando e. V. Association has many partners and supporters, including institutes within architectural faculty of the Technical University of Berlin. There are also many individual supporters who have a great deal of experience in development aid.

The Association is currently working with several German schools on both the primary and secondary levels.

And a partner organization within Burkino Faso is Locomat, which is a project organized by the Burkinabe Ministry for Infrastructure. Locomat works to spread the use of local building materials within Burkino Faso.
The Association says that it also takes on trainees, helps individuals to arrange for internship placements in Burkina Faso and offer planning advice to other organizations. They say that they are always looking for other organizations that are involved in similar activities, so if the "Bricks for schools for Gando Project" sounds like the type of thing you would like to "Check Out," go to their website at: Bricks For Schools .

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

CFC : Communicating for Change

BWhen you look at the logo for Communicating for Change (CFC) you get the notion that this is an innovative group of people who think "outside of the box."

CFC describes itself as "a dynamic, state-of-the-art communications organisation raising Africans' awareness of environment and development issues to create positive change to develop the continent and change lifestyles."

This organization's self perception is probably not unwarranted as there are some pretty heavy hitters in the non-profit world of donors that have faith in CFC. Communicating for Change has received grants from Ford Foundation, the Norwegian Human Rights Fund, and the Rockefeller Foundation, and in addition to that, they have partnered with many organizations such as the Television Trust for the Environment (TVE) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). While CFC receives grants and donations it also generates income from fee-based services. And of course, it goes without saying that CFC is a non-governmental non-profit organization.

Included in the environment and development issues where CFC says that it raises Africans' awareness are: gender, health, education, agriculture, debt relief, forests, climate change, water, pollution and democracy & good governance.

It focuses on audio, video, print, media research, theatre, capacity building and electronic communications via the Internet to get its messages across. These messages are produced "from a distinctly African perspective to counter the ever increasing flow of foreign, often culturally inappropriate, programming."

In addition to awareness rising, CFC promotes partnerships between the public, private, academic, and NGO sectors by providing what it terms "excellent, appropriate, and cutting-edge" communications support, products, and training.

In addition to Television & Radio Production CFC provides Communications Services, Media Research, Communications training & support. CFC also maintains a Film Centre and publishes printed material

In the area of Radio, CFC produces a wide array of programmes ranging from adverts and news reports to dramas and comedies. One such production is a 52 part radio drama series called Ready or Not (on youth - and their unique perceptions of environment and development issues) with the support from the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations. In Ready or Not the listening audience is given a glimpse of the very real struggles of urban Nigerian youth face spoken in their own voices. This drama was produced in both English and Hausa and is aired on 32 public and private radio stations throughout Nigeria.

CFC has a strong video production unit has produced news reports, documentaries and films on three continents (Africa, North America and Europe). CFC produced a documentary entitled "Till Death Do Us Part" that addresses the difficulties of widows in eastern Nigeria. This work received the silver certificate of the Prix Leonardo in Parma, Italy, in 1999 and it was shown at the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris.

The lives and work of two dynamic Nigerian women leaders and their struggle to make democracy and good governance a national reality was featured in the film "Against the Odds." This film was funded by UNESCO and the Television Trust for the Environment and was broadcast by many international broadcasters including the BBC.

The most recent film produced by CFC takes on the controversial topic of female genital mutilation and is titled "UNCUT." This film presents the perspective of both advocates and others opposed to the practice as well as practitioners and supporters of the practice.

CFC's Films for Change video resource center has over 400 films including documentaries, docu-dramas, animations, public service announcements, news reports, and short feature films. These videos address a very wide range of issues such as debt, community development, biodiversity, children, women, desertification, energy, health & medicine, indigenous people and land rights, pesticides, poverty, urban settlements, recycling, water, waste, and wetlands. The organization distributes films to Nigerian broadcasters at cost, with all broadcast rights cleared. Private individuals, schools, NGOs, corporate bodies, and community groups may also borrow from a CFC lending library. Film events are also organized by the CFC's Film Centre.

CFC publishes journalistic reports as well as photo-essays, brochures, annual reports, news & features for a wide range of audiences. CFC produces a monthly radio script publication as well. This script is called Change Radio and is published in English, French, Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo. The script service is comprised of news & feature stories written & timed for radio. CFC says that "Change Radio is sent to all Nigerian radio stations, leading newspapers, wire services, academic institutes, non-governmental organisations, community based organisations, government agencies as well as to numerous international and pan-African organizations and media contacts in Sub-Saharan Africa." These scripts are now in high demand by not only radio producers, but also print and television journalists.

CFC has so much going on that I do not have time to write about its services in Communications Training & Support, Production Courses and Media Research. There is much more about all of these areas at the CFC web site; and I highly recommend that make the time to go and see what else they are up to.

Oh, and by the way, that logo that I mentioned at the beginning of the article, it was inspired by Henri Matisse's "black leaf on red background."

You can find the CFC here: CFC

Monday, September 26, 2005

AFRICA HARVEST: At The Heart Of A Debatable Issue

Africa Harvest Biotech Foundation International (AHBFI) - But let's just call it "Africa Harvest"- was incorporated in the United States as a non-profit organization in 2002.

The organization's web site states that it is dedicated to using technology as a tool to fight hunger, malnutrition and poverty in Africa. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, it also has offices in Johannesburg, South Africa and Washington D.C., United States.

Africa Harvest sees its tasks as implementing needs-driven programs and providing practical solutions to challenges facing those smallholder farmers who are resource-poor in rural communities. It also believes in undertaking projects that focus a strategy, which it has developed and refined, over the years called the 'Whole Value Chain (WVC) Strategy."

The genius of the WVC Strategy is that it "looks at agricultural products and projects through an inverted pyramid; this means that an end user or customer is identified before focusing on issues such as agricultural production (inputs such as seedlings, fertilizers and water), product distribution and marketing."

Africa Harvest states that under its WVC Strategy, the project beneficiaries are able to make money from the sales of whatever is produced in excess of home consumption requirements.

Africa Harvest believes its strength to be principally the expertise of its core staff in consortium building; capacity building; planning, design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development projects; and includes the implementation of socio-economic impact studies.

Africa Harvest says that even though it has been in existence for only a few years it has a mission and a vision have been in existence much longer than that. The organization's founder and CEO Dr. F. Wambugu did her post-doctoral work on the GM (genetically modified) sweet potato, in 1991. This postdoctoral research of Dr. Wambugu was done at a facility of the Monsanto Corporation in St. Louis, USA and under a USAID scholarship. The sweet potato that was the subject of Dr. Wambugu's research later became the first GM crop in sub-Saharan Africa.

Today, Africa Harvest sits at (or very near) the center of the African arena of the global GM debate.

According to the Africa Harvest web site: "The continent continued to lag behind while the rest of the world powered ahead, adopting GM techniques to improve their agriculture."

Amid a swirling conflict between parties on either side of the issue (the U.S. favors GM foods while the European Union (EU) has placed a moratorium against biotech crops), Africa Harvest has framed the argument in support of its belief in the positive value of GM foods in what it terms an "African agenda." This agenda is meant to rally the continent around the issues of hunger, malnutrition and poverty, which Dr. Wambugu says are "intricately tied to the issue of GM food."

The sweet potato that was the focus of Dr. Wambugu's research is the core of Africa Harvest's Transgenic Sweet Potato Project. This project can fairly said to be the creation of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) and began when Dr. Wambugu transferred the technology that she was developing at the Monsanto Corporation back to KARI. KARI carried out field trials in 2000 and since that time the Institute has grown in both its infastructure and as an institution generally. KARI remains a partner to Africa Harvest on the transgenic sweet potato project today.

Another GM project of Africa Harvest is the MSV (Maize streak geminivirus) Resistant Maize Hybrids Project in Kenya. Africa Harvest has also been working with the Department of Forestry and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources in Kenya to disseminate genetically modified seedlings for reforestation to grass root rural communities for sustainable rural development.

Africa Harvest says that its "flagship program" is a "technology-transfer project aimed at supplying disease and pest-free materials to farmers using the tissue culture technology." And it says that this "project has been generating the information and data necessary for the formation of a critical decision-making process that will enable policy makers, planners and managers to develop appropriate agricultural policies for Kenya's banana sector."

Finally, the African Harvest site presents its Chura Community Tissue Culture Banana Project, which is described as "A Partnership Project between DuPont, Africa Harvest and the Chura Community." Dupont is the Dupont Chemical Company located in the state of Delaware in the U.S., and this portion of the web site is comprised of 20 PDF files that are much too extensive for me to go into here.

Other programs that support Africa Harvest's GM projects are its:

- Communication for Development Program, which is described as "an effective biotech communication and public acceptance program"

- Technical Program that includes which consolidate existing agri-biotech projects in Kenya and East Africa, and expanding these to other countries and regions. African Harvest seems particularly proud of that aspect of this program that has "recently diversified to nutritional Bio-fortification of Sorghum with essential amino acids, micronutrients and vitamins for arid and semi arid tropics."

- Finance, Administration & Business Development Program: where the "lions share of all the resources the organization's allocations go to Communication and Technical Programs along with implementation, while "the remaining resources are distributed to capacity building, training &fellowships, administration and contingency."

Now, there are those who might say that Africa Harvest is "a wolf in sheep's clothing." And there are those who might say that Africa Harvest is merely a vehicle for chemical companies in the U.S. to get a foothold in Africa in order to market their genetically modified products.

One can read quite a few articles about Monsanto, Dupont, Africa Harvest and even Dr. Wambugu on web sites that express skepticism about the benefit of work in the area of genetically modified plants.

The non-profit organization "" posts an article entitled " Heartbreak in the Heartland: The True Cost of Genetically Engineered Crops " (Transcribed by Paul Goettlich / that might cause one to question Monsanto's motives in the work of genetically modified plants.

Additionally, has a web page captioned "Genetic Engineering 2005" that lists several dozen articles published in 2005 that deal with the issue of genetically modified plants and the organizations that promote them. There are also web pages for the years, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001 and 2000.

One article has posted confronting Dr. Wambugu specifically is " GM Sweet Potato: Wambugu Wambuzling Again: Says GM Sweet Potato a Resounding Success? ," another is: " How to WAMBUZLE the world - the life and times of Florence Wambugu " Both of these articles are found on's web page of 2004 articles.

It seems that there is a very real dispute here between the proponents of genetically modified crops and those who oppose them. And just as important - on both sides of the issue are non-profit organizations that claim to want to improve the quality of life for not just Africans, all people of the earth. It is an issue that must be decided by each individual for himself and herself. And the only way to make an informed decision is to educate yourself on the facts. There are many contradictory claims, and it may not be an easy matter to separate the truth statements from the untruthful statements, but the knowledge to be gained is worth the effort.

We have to look at statements by Africa Harvest where it says that it "is seen as a sincere and honest partner in the cause of poverty and hunger alleviation," and weigh such statements against other statements it published on its web site such as: "Poor people are the worst polluters, not GM technologies." The editing in the paragraph in which this latter statement is made makes it unclear as to whether this statement is being attributed to Dr. Wambugu or not, but it seemed to me, as a reader of Africa Harvest's web site that this was clearly a position of Africa Harvest.

My friends who live outside the U.S. and read this blog may not realize that in the United States many non-profit organizations are created to put forward an agenda that may bring financial reward to a profit-making venture. But this is the case more often than we would care to admit. I make no assertions about the motives of either Africa Harvest or, but I do encourage you to read the material provided by both organizations and decide for yourselves.

African Harvest can be found at:
Africa Harvest and can be found at

Friday, September 23, 2005

SEEDS FOR AFRICA: Planting A Brighter Future

When I read that a donation of £1000 could pay for the establishment of a prison vegetable garden, I must admit, my curiosity got the best of me.

I was reading about Seeds for Africa, a registered UK charity based at the University of Kent, Canterbury.

The reasoning for the prison vegetable garden is that such a garden would provide young adult offenders with self esteem and a means to provide for themselves and their families and thereby avoid the need for offending in the future. Because the students at Kent came up with this bit of innovative thinking gives me great expectations for the generation of the future.

The organization, established in July 1998, focuses upon encouraging sustainable vegetable gardening with the provision of good quality indigenous seeds, tools, and the sharing of agricultural knowledge.

Seeds for Africa is committed to overcoming poverty and desolation throughout Africa. And they intend to do this by distributing vegetable seeds to impoverished groups and by helping the younger African generation develop new agricultural knowledge and sustainable projects.

Their aim is to promote more positive attitudes towards protecting the environment in Africa. They also hope that their work is will fundamentally improve the livelihoods of local communities by offering the expert guidance of pioneering African project co-ordinators who live and work locally.

Seeds for Africa is run by staff and student volunteers at the University of Kent and draws upon a wide range of expertise which contributes to its ability to provide sound technical advice to the communities it serves.

This effort also helps to tackle poverty at its grassroots by providing food through the facilitation of vegetable gardening. Today, over 600 schools and churches in the UK are supporting Seeds for Africa.

But prisons are not the only communities that receive assistance from Seeds for Africa.
This non-profit organization also helps other community groups such as Primary and secondary schools, Churches, HIV/AIDS clinics, and Drug rehabilitation centres. Seeds for Africa provides these organizations with the tools, seeds and training they require to start their own vegetable gardens. Seeds for Africa often provides water installation and helps to prepare the land. In helping to address the need for irrigation, Seeds for Africa uses the skills of local people, so that projects do not create a culture of dependency. But this is true with the management of all of the garden management techniques. The need for developing this type of sustainability is illustrated by the fact that while 40 percent of the cropland in South Asia is under irrigation, only 4 percent is irrigated in Africa. The increase of irrigated croplands in Africa will mainly be determined by the abilities of the local communities to muster and maintain the skills to do so.

Seeds for Africa has helped to create over 800 garden projects in 25 African countries while encouraging sustainable vegetable gardening. They facilitate “the provision of good quality indigenous seeds and tools, and we share agricultural knowledge.”

Their web site reminds us that UN statistics from 2004 substantiate that “every day in Africa, up to 19,000 children and infants die from starvation.” And they state that they believe that providing African communities with agricultural skills has been proved to be a very successful way to relieve poverty. They back this belief by citing FARM Africa’s report that the World Bank acknowledgement that “a one percent increase in agricultural growth leads to an increase in the incomes of the poorest Africans by twice as much as the same investment in the service sector.”

In 25 countries Seeds for Africa seeks to train people in gardening skills that bestow independence and dignity, encourage nutritious diets, and secure reliable sources of food for the future. Those countries are: Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Chairman of Seeds for Africa, Albert Bullock, said in 2004: “The long-term goal of all our projects is for newly found gardening skills to be shared beyond the project itself. It is the active involvement of families through small -scale backyard gardening that Seeds for Africa wishes to strongly support. This in turn will give families the opportunity to realise their potential and improve their standard of living.”

So, if you are so inclined, you may wish to consider donating that £1000 to Seeds for Africa to help finance a prison vegetable garden. But if you would like to fund some other project, their web site has a list of projects and what it would cost to fund them.

“£5 would buy a fruit tree. It will be allocated to one pupil to care for the tree initially and then handed on as a legacy to another pupil for continuing nurture.

£200 would enable a school to set up a vegetable garden-so children can learn the skills of germination and plant management.

£500 would pay for an oil press machine. This valuable agricultural tool enables men, women and children to press their groundnuts and sunflower seeds into oil.

£1000 could cover the cost of an agricultural scholarship to invest in a young African’s future by sponsoring a 4-year Distance Learning Course leading to a Bachelor’s Degree in Agriculture.

£4000 would fund a single Roundabout Playpump for a school. This is a positive displacement pump. Children use it like a roundabout and pump water to the surface as they play.

£100,000 could cover the cost of setting up 500 self-sustaining Seeds for Africa projects, each of which would enhance the lives of a whole community.

£250,000 could cover the cost of employing an agricultural co-ordinator in each of five African countries for over three years. This would enable Seeds for Africa to see whether it is meeting its objectives through increased monitoring and evaluation.”

But even if you are not able to provide funding for any of Seeds for Africa projects, still visit their web site and read more about the wonderful things that it is doing.

Seeds for Africa

Thursday, September 22, 2005

ETHICA: A Life Guard In Turbulent Waters

This article briefly examines a Hot Topic and an organization that is right in the middle of it. The organization is Ethica. And the topic is Inter-Country Adoption.

I am going to say up front that there are many complex issues that come into play when adoption is discussed. And even more complex issues arise when inter-country adoption is discussed.

My goal in this article is not to explore and discuss all of the aspects of this very complicated issue. Instead this article is to make the reader aware of an organization that is lending its efforts to make the world a better place, and in doing so improving the lives of Africans along with the wider global community.

To begin, Ethica lists its beliefs as follows:

1. Every child deserves a loving home.

2. Adoption should never be the first choice for a child.

3. The best home for a child is with his or her family of birth.

4. Families should be given practical assistance to remain together, whenever possible;

5. Adoption should be properly regulated to protect all parties involved;

6. Proper regulation of the adoption system will increase the number of available adoptive homes for children in foster and institutional care.

Now, this may seem like six simple and straightforward concepts upon which everyone could agree. However, the realities of the world often make it difficult to put these practices into practice.

The "simple" six beliefs are backed up by:

- FIVE beliefs concerning the rights of the Adoptees

- SEVEN beliefs concerning the rights of Children in Foster or Temporary Care

- EIGHT beliefs concerning the rights of the Expectant and Birth/First/Natural/Original Parents

- FIVE beliefs concerning the rights of the Foster Parents

- NINE beliefs concerning the rights of the Adoptive/Adopting Parents

- THREE beliefs concerning the rights of Ethical Adoption Service Providers

And each of the rights in each of these sets of rights is important, complex and can have a very significant bearing of the quality of a life unfolding before a child.

It would take a very large book to unpack all of the sometimes conflicting rights and the different pressures - social, financial, cultural, political, etc. - that impact upon the adoption process. And often these pressures pervert this process so that it does not work in the best interest of the child. I can not hope to adequately address this subject thoroughly, but perhaps by pointing to just one issue of controversy, I may be able to give you an idea as to how complex matters involving adoption can become. And in doing this, I can also illustrate the importance of an organization like Ethica.

Ethica is very serious about being "An Independent Voice For Ethical Adoptions." And there is very little doubt that such a voice is needed; particularly when it comes to intercountry adoptions.

On 20 November 1989 the United Nations General Assembly adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was designed by UNICEF (The United Nations Children's Fund); and entered into force on the 2nd of September 1990.

Within the Convention on the Rights of the Child is an article (Article 21) that seeks to protect children from adoptions that are inappropriate or otherwise not in the best interest of the child.

Many critics took the tone of Article 21 to imply that the UN favored long term institutionalization of children over intercountry adoption. But on January 15th 2004 UNICEF issued a Position Statement in order to clarify its stance on Article 21 of the Convention. In this clarifying statement, UNICEF was clear about its position that institutionalization should be a short term measure, and that intercountry adoption should be an option when a permanent family cannot be found for the child in his or her country of birth. It said that institutionalization "should be used only as a last resort and as a temporary measure."

In its Position Statement UNICEF also pointed to the fact "Over the past 30 years, the number of families from wealthy countries wanting to adopt children from other countries has grown substantially. At the same time, lack of regulation and oversight, particularly in the countries of origin, coupled with the potential for financial gain, has spurred the growth of an industry around adoption, where profit, rather than the best interests of children, takes centre stage. Abuses include the sale and abduction of children, coercion of parents, and bribery, as well as trafficking to individuals whose intentions are to exploit rather than care for children."

Because of these types of abuses pointed out by UNICEF in its Position Statement, "Ethica strongly believes that reform of the intercountry adoption process is necessary in many countries of origin and in receiving countries. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that rapid and unplanned changes often result in moratoria and the rapid decline of protective child welfare services in many countries, often making children even more vulnerable to human rights abuses."

Ethica states because of this, it "strongly supports the gradual implementation of changes which address both short and long term goals for establishing appropriate child welfare policies."

Ethica is a nonprofit corporation, which, as I mentioned earlier, seeks to be an impartial voice for ethical adoption practices worldwide, and provide education, assistance, and advocacy to the adoption and foster care communities.

In order to maintain an impartial status, Ethica does not accept donations from adoption agencies or other entities that place children for adoption. Nor are it's managing Board of Directors currently affiliated with agencies or other entities that place children for adoption. They are persons who have an interest in ethical adoption practices.

Ethica's web site states that it "seeks to develop organizational policy and recommendations based solely on the basic ethical principles underlying best practices in adoption and the best interests of children." And remember, Ethica deals with issues that arise in Domestic adoptions as well as those that arise in intercountry adoptions.

I have only given you a "teaspoon" of an issue that has problems enough to fill a lake. But I cannot write a book about the subject on this blog. I cannot even give more space to the discussion of this very critical area or to Ethica, an organization that has plunged into these turbulent waters like a life guard and is doing an outstanding job. The web site for Ethica is below, as are links to the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child and UNICEF's position on Inter-country adoptions.


Convention on the Rights of the Child

UNICEF's position on Inter-country adoptions

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

CHF INTERNATIONAL: More Than Can Be Put Into One Name

C HF International (Community, Habitat and Finance) is an organization that backed into its name.

Originally, CHF International was established as the Foundation for Cooperative Housing (FCH). Founded in 1952 as a 501©(3) non-profit corporation seeking to help low- and moderate- income families in rural America and low-income urban neighborhoods achieve improved economic standing and quality of life through the construction of affordable housing this organization grew to sponsor over 60,000 units of cooperative housing in 35 states across the US.

In the 1960's, CHF began to focus more and more on international issues. Over time, it developed the experience to understand that addressing one linear area of development alone was not producing outcomes that were sustainable for the long-term. CHF came to recognize that a program that demands community investment in housing but turns a blind eye to the need for income generation to maintain those structures is doomed to fail.

Acting on this understanding the organization expanded its programming so that in addition to housing microfinance they began to address concerns in the areas of disaster relief, environmental management, infrastructure rehabilitation, economic development, civil society development, and post-conflict response.

In 1998, they began to market themselves as CHF International (although their legal name remains Cooperative Housing Foundation) to reflect their overseas focus.

After repeated successes in its US projects, CHF caught the attention of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID invited CHF to apply their experience on an international level and CHF's first overseas programs were focused on housing microfinance in Central America.

At that time, the organizations name was the Cooperative Housing Foundation (CHF).

Today, CHF works in approximately 30 countries each year, promoting democratic principles to effectively build, strengthen and promote change within local institutions and communities and shape policy decisions that recognize and support our world's most vulnerable populations.

Throughout the history of CHF International has let communities identify their greatest needs, then work with them to set realistic objectives that meet their goals. This practical approach to humanitarian efforts has proven for the organization to be an effective one.

CHF designs all of its programs with the appropriate social, environmental and economic solutions in mind to ensure the communities they serve are able to manage and sustain their future development at a steady forward pace.

Building a stable, more equitable world - one community at a time - CHF International continues to be driven by its humanitarian mission while guided by its high standards of accountability and performance. It takes every program seriously and demands the best possible outcome for the time, effort and money invested. Because of this, their programs are designed to be realistic. Each program is adapted to the distinct cultural and social context of the community served and employs the most appropriate and effective methods to ensure that progress is made and forward motion sustained. It very much helps that they encourage communities to identify their own priorities and work with them to set achievable objectives that advance their overall goals. This is done whether the project is to rehabilitate a school, a road or a water systems, or to establish an independent financial institution that can lend credit to low-income individuals for a business start-up or to build homes.

One example of the type of project in which CHF involves itself is the LPATH-GM program in Kenya. LPATH-GM stands for the "Local Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS-Grants Management" and is cooperative arrangement between the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and CHF International/Kenya

The LPATH-GM program "works to reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS in Kenya by strengthening the capacity of local nongovernmental organization (NGO) partners".

This program applies a customized blend of intensive participatory learning, on-site assistance, and practical application and monitoring to ensure that NGOs are using the new skills in they way programs are implemented, on a daily basis. This is done with the purpose of reducing the impact of HIV/AIDS in Kenya by strengthening the capacity of local, community and faith-based organizations (NGO partners) to provide and sustain high quality, expanded HIV/AIDS services.

CHF International/Kenya believes it will achieve this goal by:

- Improving the technical capacity of NGO partners in providing prevention, care and treatment activities to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

- Improving the organizational capacity of NGO partners - that is, their capacity in managing grants and resources, financial management, strategic planning and sustainability.

- Ensuring HIV/AIDS interventions are having an optimal impact, by improving program capacity mechanisms for reaching targets and increasing collaboration among NGO partners.

LPATH-GM provides a comprehensive assessment of NGO partners that will help them to develop strategic plans for improved and sustained HIV/AIDS services.

The capacity-building component of this program will apply a customized blend of intensive participatory learning, on-site assistance, and practical application and monitoring that ensures NGOs are using these new skills in their efforts to combat HIV/AIDS.

Other important features of the LPATH-GM program are the commitment to developing information sharing and referral systems among the NGO partners in addition to promoting sustainability.

There is much more to CHF International, CHF International/Kenya and the LPATH-GM program, and you can learn a lot more about each of these topics at:
CHF International
CHF International/Kenya

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


This is the fourth in a series about the Aga Kahn Development Network. Earlier I wrote about the Aga Kahn Fund for Economic Development, the Aga Kahn Foundation and the Aga Kahn Agency for Microfinance. Now, I want to tell you about the Aga Khan Education Services (AKES).

AKES at this time operates over 300 schools and advanced educational programs that provide quality pre-school, primary, secondary, and higher secondary education services to students in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya,Uganda, Tanzania, and Tajikistan.
Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, III, established the foundations of the present system of leadership in educational development that the Ismaili Imamat continues today. In the first half of the 20th century over 200 schools were established.

In 1905, the first was established in Zanzibar. A year later, schools were opened in Dar es Salaam in 1906. And in 1907 schools were opened in Mundra, India. (It is noted on the AKES website that a number of schools opened in Mundra were subsequently nationalised following Indian independence.)

Also, institutions of higher education were established in India, and North and East Africa with the support of Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah.

Since those early beginnings, AKES has grown to become one of four agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network supporting education and its development. The other three agencies are the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), the Aga Khan University (AKU), and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC).

In addition to the 300 schools that it currently operates, AKES is also developing new schools in Kyrgyzstan and Madagascar and studying the feasibility of services and facilities in Mozambique.

Since the early-1980s AKES has built programs into its system to improve educational quality. According to the AKES web site: “Field-based teacher training was launched in Pakistan's Northern Areas in 1983. School improvement experiments began at the same time in Sindh province in Pakistan, where AKES introduced child-centred teaching methods, and in Tanzania, where new techniques for secondary school teaching in English, mathematics, and science were implemented in Dar es Salaam. AKES, Kenya has been the Development Network pioneer in the use of computers in the classroom, while many Network initiatives in pre-school education began in AKES, India.”

Some of these experiments have been carried out in government schools as well as in AKES institutions. And this contributes to the improvement of education generally in the countries in which AKES operates.

The educational approach of AKES is committed to achieving excellence by the continuous improvement of its programs, services and processes. Perhaps the most important factor in creating a successful future for generations that will have to cope with a rapidly changing environment is the offering of a superior education to students.
Child-centred teaching methods; a special emphasis on female education; school-based teacher training and the continuing pursuit of excellence in educational practice and management in diverse and challenging settings are the leading characteristics of the work of the Aga Khan Education Services.

The major initiatives currently employed throughout the system include:
- the introduction of computers and distance learning to supplement teaching and improve learning methods;
- the improvement of physical infrastructure, particularly of community-based schools;
- advanced teacher training through the Institute for Educational Development at the Aga Khan University;
- an East African education initiative to facilitate coordination of programmes, identification of best practices and quality educational initiatives, advancement of policy dialogue on privatisation of schools, improvement in teacher training and retention, and acceleration of computer-assisted educational methods;
- development of English language and economics programmes at selected universities in Central Asia, through the Aga Khan Education Fund; and
- collaboration with a leading private school in the USA - Phillips Academy, Andover - to improve AKES programmes in science, mathematics, economics, English language and technology.

While AKES has educational institutions in several countries, I will only be able to mention a few in this article.

In East Africa AKES has educational programs in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Some of these schools have been in existence since the mid-twentieth century. In all three of these countries, AKES operates as a not-for-profit agency and the services it provides are often subsidised. “AKES works through national service companies in each of the East African countries and cooperates with government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and national and international universities.”

AKES operates some 28 schools of high quality in East Africa.
In Kenya the Aga Khan Education Service, Kenya (AKES,K) operates a total of 13 schools in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret, from nursery to senior secondary education in both the national and international curricula. The AKES web site states that: “A central office manned by professional educators, financial staff, and specialists in information technology supports 380 teachers in overseeing the education of some 6,000 students. The central office collaborates with the schools in developing quality programmes, as well as ensuring financial and administrative discipline.”

AKES,K invests heavily in the training of its teachers. Teacher exchange programmes with the Phillips Academy in the US, Masters degree programmes in education with British universities and with the Aga Khan University in Karachi are supplemented by ongoing, in-house, in-service, programmes for all levels of teachers and school leaders.

The first of a planned network of Aga Khan Academies dedicated to expanding access to education of an international standard of excellence in Asia and Africa is to be inaugurated in Mombasa, Kenya.

The network of Academies will feature a curriculum based on the framework of the International Baccalaureate (IB). At the centre of this approach is a broad education in the humanities from pre-primary years through to higher secondary. The Academies will also feature a robust system of international student and teacher exchanges between Academies in different countries as well as with allied schools, including Phillips Academy in the United States and the Schule Schloss Salem in Germany.

In addition to Mombasa, schools are planned for Nairobi in Kenya, as well as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, Kampala in Uganda, Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Antananarivo in Madagascar, Maputo in Mozambique, Dhaka in Bangladesh, Mumbai and Hyderabad in India, Karachi in Pakistan, Kabul in Afghanistan, Osh in the Kyrgyz Republic, Khorog and Dushanbe in Tajikistan, Damascus and Salamieh in Syria and Bamako in Mali.

The Academies will all feature residential campuses with well-equipped laboratories for general science, physics, biology, chemistry, home science and computers, art and music rooms, a library and resource centre, a religion and culture room, a counselling facility, a design and technology workshop, student and teacher lounges, a theatre, a multipurpose hall and a cafeteria and dining area. Facilities for sports will include swimming pools, fields for athletics such as soccer, hockey and athletics. A gymnasium will typically house facilities for a variety of sports such as basketball, badminton, volleyball, squash and gymnastics. Other facilities might include tennis courts, a cricket pitch or an ice-skating rink, where appropriate.

The Aga Khan Education Service, Tanzania (AKES,T) operates a total of ten schools that have earned a reputation for offering quality education to Tanzanians from nursery to secondary school levels. The Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School is rated among the top secondary schools in the country and is recognised for its outstanding examination results, particularly in the fields of science and mathematics. There is close cooperation with the Tanzanian Government in order to augment its efforts to bring education to all Tanzanians.

The Aga Khan schools in Uganda were established in the early-1930s, covering over 20 villages and towns, including Masaka, Mbale, Jinja, and Mbarara. Over the years the schools have come to be recognised as quality institutions of learning, providing education from the nursery to secondary level. The schools perform highly in national primary and secondary school examinations each year. Between 1973 and 1992, the Aga Khan schools were managed by the Government's Ministry of Education or its designates; since then the schools have begun reverting to AKES. A total student population of over 2,800 children attends these schools, with a teaching staff of over 150.

I have far exceeded the space budgeted for this article, and there is so much more to tell you. And unfortunately, I had to shorten the accounts of most of the programs. So please visit the web site of the Aga Kahn Educational Services and read about those things I did not have the opportunity to fully describe.
Aga Kahn Educational Services

Monday, September 19, 2005

REMEDY: Has The Cure

When I saw the long list of newspaper and magazine articles that have been written about REMEDY (Recovered Medical Equipment For The Developing World) [Don't ask me where they get the "Y"] - anyway, when I saw the long list of articles, I felt kind of silly starting out to write this blog aticle. But then, when I looked at the dates on the articles, most of them were written in the nineties, so, you might not know about these guys.

I have told you about MedShare , MedWorld , Global Links and The International Medical Equipment Collaborative , and this is about another great effort to get "retired" medical supplies and equipment to the developing world where they are needed.

REMEDY was founded in 1991 by William H. Rosenblatt, MD, Professor of Anesthesiology at Yale University School of Medicine. The organization is comprised of a group of health care professionals and others who promote the nationwide practice of recovery of open-but-unused surgical supplies. The end goal of their mission has been to provide international medical relief while reducing solid medical waste from US hospitals.

Dr. Rosenblatt had been participating in volunteer medical mission trips to various Latin American hospitals and the process that became REMEDY was conceived as a means to collect surgical supplies for use in on those trips. During his volunteer service in Latin America Dr. Rosenblatt gained an appreciation for the critical shortages of supplies in developing nations and became much more aware of the overabundance of these same supplies in US hospitals. He also learned that there is a tremendous amount of unused, but clean, supplies that are disposed by U.S. hospitals.

Materials such as gloves, sutures, drapes, gowns and many other items prepared but not used during a medical procedure are discarded because they are considered "un-sterile" even if there has been absolutely no contact with the patient. As I have pointed out in the articles about the other organizations that rescue medical supplies, due to legal concerns, these unused supplies are unusable in the U.S., but they can be the foundation of life saving health services throughout the developing world where they are delivered by many U.S.-based charitable organizations.

For years, and at many hospitals, individual healthcare workers have voluntarily collected supplies for charitable use. But the organized efforts of the hospitals themselves can recover a much larger quantity of this surplus.

The Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, CT has a recovery program that served as the pilot project for REMEDY that was the subject of studies conducted by Dr. Rosenblatt in collaboration with Dr. David Silverman. The study of these two doctors demonstrated the efficacy, cost-effectiveness, environmental ramifications, and usefulness of supplies recovered through the REMEDY program.

Once this study was published, medical professionals from across the U.S. began to make inquiries about the program. And because of this enthusiastic response, REMEDY became a non-profit organization committed to teaching and promoting the recovery of surplus operating room supplies. Drs. Rosenblatt and Silverman developed a "comprehensive In-service Teaching Packet with information needed to start a standardized recovery program based on the REMEDY model, applicable to any surgical procedure in any hospital in the U.S. Proven recovery protocols were designed to be quickly adapted to the everyday operating room or critical care routine".

The Teaching Packet is distributed free of charge to any hospital that requests it

I am not going to brag about the university where I studied law, but these guys are on the right track. They say: "Rather than reinvent the wheel, REMEDY suggests turning to the huge network of U.S.-based non-profit medical charities to form partnerships."

I constantly receive enquiries from non-profits and sometimes even embassies of developing nations asking how can they get support for enhancing the quality of care in one country or another. Well, this is one way to start.

Now, not all of the non-profit organizations concerned with health care delivery in developing nations have the "staff, knowledge, experience, funding and contacts overseas to successfully deliver these recovered supplies to medical professionals serving populations in need," that is indicated by the RECOVERY web site. But there are plenty of good and efficient non-profits that do have those capabilities.

And if I may take a moment to speak to those non-profit groups that do not have this capability to effectively carry out such a program. You can get assistance in order to develop that capacity. You can do this by partnering with larger more capable non-profit organizations in order to work on a particular clinic, or hospital in a developing nation; or you can visit some of the sites on the Internet designed to provide technical and management assistance to non-profits. In the alternative, you can contact the embassies of nations that you would like to help, and they can put you in touch with the Diaspora of that nation that can be a base of support for such a project. Or you may be able to work directly with the embassy. What REMEDY has done for you is provide you with a tool with which you can approach a hospital and make the argument that they should start a program to help the nation you want to support. If any of my non-profit organization friends do not get what I am saying, email me. And we can go over it one on one.

Now, I would like to take another moment to speak to my friends in the various embassies that are looking for help for health care delivery in their countries. Quite often there are groups that you know that want to provide your nation with some charitable relief. There are groups out there having fundraisers, selling raffle tickets and conducting concerts so that you can buy medical supplies. In the Washington area alone, there are enough hospitals to provide many of the developing nations with rescued medical supplies. Why not have these volunteer groups talk to hospitals about starting a REMEDY program for your country (or for a specific hospital or health care facility in your country).

As usual, I am running out of time (or rather space) for my "short" article but I want to take a brief moment to address the hospitals and medical professionals that read this blog.

As of June, 2004, the REMEDY at Yale program alone had donated over 30 tons of medical supplies! And they estimate that at least $200 million worth of supplies could be recovered from U.S. hospitals each year (just from operating rooms alone)! If these recovered supplies were sent to the developing world, they would increase the amount of that medical aid to those contries by 50%.

In terms of a hospital's "Enlightened Self Interest, a REMEDY program can:

- Promote Hospital Waste Source Reduction.
- Be Cost-Effective.
- Promote Volunteerism.
- Improve Staff Morale
- Promote Inter-Departmental Teamwork
- Improve the Hospital's Public Relations/Community Image

Not to mention the fact that with "supply recovery and the promotion of a system of donating millions of dollars worth of clean, unused medical supplies, REMEDY programs aid U.S. based charitable organizations with our mission of providing improved basic and advanced medical care in the developing world.

"More than $200,000,000 of these materials are discarded by hospitals in the United States each year. Most of these same materials are unavailable at any price in much of the developing world. By promoting a link between these two opposing situations, millions of persons worldwide can be served."

The Mission Statement of REMEDY is that it is "a 501 {c}{3} not-for-profit organization dedicated to actively promoting the recovery of unused medical supplies for the purpose of global aid, waste reduction, and cost-effectiveness."

They seek to inspire and serve as a catalyst through education, practice and example.

They are committed to cooperation with other charitable organizations engaged in similar activities. And they want you to know that by working together, we can more efficiently and reliably respond to those in need.

Look, I am throwing away pages of about REMEDY here because I don't have any more time or space to write about this great organization, so you are going to have to do what I always ask you to do; and that is: Visit Their Web Site.

It's a treasure trove of information if you are interested in providing medical supplies to the developing world.

I know I'll be visiting their web site in the future, and I'll be dragging some hospitals and non-profit organizations along with me.

You can easily find their web site; it is right Here. REMEDY .

Friday, September 16, 2005

BOONA-BAANA: Love Comes From Everywhere

You may think it strange that a Hong Kong registered charity maintains a home for children in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. But Love comes from everywhere and goes where it is needed.

The Boona-Baana Center For Children's Rights is a Hong Kong Limited Corporation registered as A Charitable Institution in Hong Kong Charity (No. 91/6600) and is A Foreign non-profit limited company in Tanzania: Compliance (No: 45004).

The founders of The Boona-Baana Center must have been asked many times how this came to be, because their very first link on their Home Page is labeled "Our Story." And it is a very interesting story. I am dying to tell it to you myself, but I should let you read it in its original version, which can be found here: Our Story .

I will give you a hint though; there is a love story inside this story of love.

The Founders of Boona-Baana, Marco Barra-Castro and Brooke Montgomery left their jobs in Hong Kong in July 2002 to move to Dar es Salaam Tanzania and with the help of Dr. Bart Rwezaura; who had been one of Brooke's law professors - and is a Tanzanian; began the Boona-Baana Center for Children's Rights.

The Boona-Baana Center is a small, grass-roots organization located in Dar es Salaam Tanzania whose aim is to create a series of local, sustainable projects that will assist vulnerable children in accessing their rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Brooke and Marco and their staff have also been working closely with the Department of Social Welfare on matters relating to child welfare and children's rights.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child enumerates the basic rights that should be achieved for all children and some of those rights include:

- The inherent right to life and to survival and development
- The right to be protected from all forms of discrimination
- Freedom of expression
- Freedom to access to information
- Freedom of thought, conscience and religion
- The right to be protected from all forms of mental and physical abuse, including sexual violence.
- The right to an adequate standard of living appropriate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development
- The right to an education and access to appropriate educational facilities and vocational training
- The right to be a child, to rest, to play and to recreate

Needless to say that many countries and communities around the world, children are deprived of some or all of these rights.

The Boona-Baana Center works to make the public (including children) aware of the rights of the child. It is also the intent of the Center to develop projects targeting the most vulnerable children in Tanzania and to assist them to the greatest extent possible to access their most basic rights.

In order to achieve this the Center has Outreach Projects designed to address specific needs of target groups in the community. These projects include "Play Days for local children that incorporate educational components regarding hygiene, health care and HIV/AIDS prevention." There are also Baby Care workshops for young mothers and Painting Parties for local children where virtues can be explored through creative play.

The Center also Advocates on behalf of children. These Advocacy Projects are wide scale education campaigns designed to bring attention to the Rights of the Child. These Projects include the distribution of brochures to local embassies regarding adoption and foster care procedures. These brochures are also distributed to institutions and government offices. There is also collaboration with a local radio station to stimulate debate about the damage caused to children who are disciplined through corporal punishment.

In addition to the Outreach Projects and the Advocacy Projects, there are Funding Projects. One Funding Project is the Erick Akida Medical Trust Fund through which the Center pledges to donate up to US $2,000 per year for one or more needy children to receive emergency medical care which would otherwise be unaffordable. Another of these projects is the Baby Safe Fund that "provides funding to enable HIV positive women mothers to acquire the medical care, treatment and drugs necessary to ensure that HIV is not transmitted to their unborn/newborn babies."

The Boona-Baana Center also hopes to establish future funding projects that will include scholarships for children or youth who cannot afford school fees.

The Center has a long-term project called The Green Door Home. The Green Door Home provides temporary shelter, food, education and care to children for whom reunification with biological family members has proven extremely difficult or impossible.

Tanzania, like many nations in Africa, has felt the damaging effects of HIV/AIDS. And the Boona-Baana web site says that this tragedy creates a "vicious cycle of poverty, preventable diseases and lack of basic infrastructure and social services continues to undermine the health and welfare of many people in rural and urban areas. All this has given rise to a rapidly rising number of orphaned and children who have lost their families and support systems to HIV/AIDS."

The strategy of the Green Door Home is that it will be a temporary shelter until

· the child can be reunified with one or both parents OR

· the child can be reunified with other biological family members OR

· the child can be taken into foster care by or adopted by a fit and proper family ordinarily resident in Tanzania OR

· other arrangements have been made for the settlement of the child.

· AND in all of the above scenarios that such arrangements are made IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD and in keeping with the principles and spirit enumerated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The web site has a page where visitors can read more about the children who live at the Green Door Home.

The Home is headed by houseparents and has accommodations that include four bedrooms, three bathrooms, one kitchen, one dining room, one storage area and one living room; as well as a large covered porch. There is a more detailed description of the Home and each of the rooms at the web site.

The web site goes into detail about the Outreach Projects mentioned above, which are the "Virtues" Painting Parties, the Play Days, Youth HIV/AIDS Education Sport Days and Baby Care Workshops.

The web site also goes into detail about the Advocacy Projects, which are the Adoption and Foster Care Advocacy and the Alternative Discipline Advocacy. And the Funding Projects mentioned above are laid out in detail as well.

The Boona-Baana Center is a remarkable organization led by a remarkable couple. If you really want to get a "warm feeling" in your heart, visit their web site at:


Thursday, September 15, 2005

WAR CHILD CANADA : "Hip" And Helping

W ar Child Canada is an independent charitable organisation Founded in 1999 that works around the world to assist children affected by war and to raise awareness for children's rights everywhere.

The year after it's founding, War Child Canada produced the biggest benefit concert in the history of the city of Winnipeg. Over 80,000 people came to hear music from artist that included Tragically Hip and Chantal Kreviazuk. By all accounts this concert was a great success particularly as it was on the margins of the Canadian-government sponsored Conference on War-Affected Children.

Since 2000 War Child Canada has had two more successful concerts and produced a benefit album that went gold. In addition to that, their documentary, "Musicians in the War Zone," has won several awards and is the most successful social programming initiative in MuchMusic's history.

Because of these successes, War Child Canada has been able to help thousands of children of all ages in ten regions of the world who have suffered through war. They have done this through several projects, some of which will be discussed briefly later.

The organization has involved thousands of young people across North America. War Child Canada has also created an online portal titled: "No War Zone" that is the basis of a global network of peace in that enjoys the participation of hundreds more young people.

War Child Canada is a part of the War Child International Network that includes War Child UK, War Child Netherlands, War Child Australia and War Child France. While all of these organizations remain financially and operationally independent, the all share the common goal of assisting war-affected children. (Look to find articles about War Child UK, War Child Netherlands, War Child Australia and War Child France in future articles on the Blog.)

War Child Canada says that they "are working to help thousands whose lives have been torn apart by war, and to engage North American youth to take an active role in creating a more just future."

The web site of War Child Canada presents its Mission Statement as:
"War Child Canada is a registered Canadian charity dedicated to providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to war-affected children around the world. Working closely with the music industry, War Child Canada helps generate awareness, support and advocacy for children's rights everywhere."

While it is very notable that War Child Canada gets a great deal of support from performing artists, it also has many private corporate sponsors, too many to name, and I will not name just a few, as that would not be fair to the others. You will just have to go to War Child Canada's web site to see who they all are.

War Child Canada receives funding from both government and private sector sources as well as from the general public. Within the Canadian government, they receive support from the Canada Millennium Partnership Program, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). But War Child Canada says that its greatest contributions come from the Canadian public.

Very briefly, the organization has projects in many nations, and to be illustrative I will give just a small bit of information about the Girls Education Initiative Project in Kitgum, Gulu and Pader Districts of Northern Uganda. Their local partner in this project is The Acholi Education Initiative (AEI).

Because of 18 years of armed conflict between the Government of Uganda (the Uganda Peoples Defense Force (UDPF)) and the rebel group, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), the Acholi sub-region of Northern Uganda has witnessed profound suffering and displacement of people. Abduction and forced recruitment of children to fight in the conflict are just two of the tragedies that occur on a frequent basis. Girls after being abducted and raped return to their villages as child-mothers face specific hardships, abject poverty and social isolation.

War Child Canada, through the Acholi Education Initiative (AEI), has supported child-mothers by providing scholarships for education, and materials such as school uniforms, and necessary school materials for the duration of their three-year secondary school program. They are also given access to psychosocial support, counselling services and other support to meet their basic needs such as food, shelter, childcare and healthcare.

While the emphasis of this program is placed on increasing child mothers' access to basic education, this project also provides funds for the rehabilitation and maintenance of schools in the Acholi sub-region as a part of the community-based outreach initiatives and social support programs.

The donor for this project is The Pindoff Project that was created by the very generous Pindoff Record Sales company.

Another of War Child Canada's efforts is the Northern Uganda Child Legal Defense Project. This is carried out in the Gulu and Kitgum Districts of Northern Uganda in partnership with the Uganda Law Society - Legal Aid Project. This project is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

Partly because of the ongoing military conflict in Northern Uganda there is a very poor state of children's rights there. The severe lack of human, material and financial resources compounds the problem of an absence of a champion of children's rights.

The Northern Uganda Child Legal Defense Project funds two Child and Youth Advocates within the Uganda Law Society. These advocates speak out for children's rights in the justice system in Uganda. This project also provides legal aid for disadvantaged youth.

It is intended that this project will also create a permanent legal resource for local and international organizations active on issues related to protecting and promoting the rights of children.

Time goes by so quickly, dear reader, and I wanted to also tell you a few things about the Trauma Recovery And Cultural Awareness - Phase II that is taking place in the Buruburam Refugee Camp in Ghana for refugees from the civil war in Liberia.

I also wanted to talk about The South Sudan Youth Development Project, but I guess you will have to go to War Child Canada's web site and read about them for yourself. And while you are there, read about the many other wonderful projects as well.

You can find their web site at:
War Child Canada

It is a very "Hip" site where you can learn a lot about what these folks are doing to help.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

DIKEMBE MUTOMBO And The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, Inc.

It is no great surprise to American basketball fans that All-Star Dikembe Mutombo of the Houston Rockets basketball team is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

But what many people do not know, however is that Dikembe Mutombo has been the major force behind a non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the health, education and quality of life for the people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacques Mutombo is the Chairman and President of the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation, Inc.

The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation was founded in 1997 and is attempting to eradicate many childhood diseases that have virtually disappeared in developed countries while those diseases are still life threatening to children in the Congo everyday.

Often, when he finishes his basketball season Mutombo travels throughout Africa. He has spent a lot of time in Africa performing at free basketball clinics for as many as 2,000 children per day on behalf of the National Basketball Association (NBA).

It is said, "In August 1999, Mutombo and his delegation traveled to Kinshasa, DR Congo on a medical fact-finding mission. As part of the Polio Eradication Campaign in the Congo, Mutombo administered oral polio vaccine to newborns at the Kalembe-Lembe Pediatric hospital and distributed t-shirts with a written personal message encouraging parents to get their children immunized."

After Mutombo visited the Ithuteng Trust, a school for troubled and underprivileged youth in Soweto, South Africa in 2003 his foundation recently refurbished dormitories there so that children who once slept on the floor and did not have bathrooms now have a safe and comfortable place to live.

The current major project of the Foundation is the construction of a new 300 bed general hospital (named the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's capital city of Kinshasa. Construction on the new hospital began on September 15, 2001, and the $29 million project is scheduled to be complete by June 2006.

When it opens, the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital will be the first new hospital in the Congo almost 40 years. Building this hospital, will serve one of the Foundation's most important goals, which is to improve the present public health facilities that are currently lacking in both medical supplies and trained personnel. Inadequate health facilities that may have poor sanitary conditions can pose a serious threat to both children and adults in the Congo by causing infections.

It has been said that this new hospital will bring about the most dramatic change in health care delivery not just in Kinshasa, but in the country as well. And it may even have a regional impact.

In 1987 Mutombo traveled from the DRC to the U.S. to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. on an academic scholarship. His goal was to become a doctor so that he could help people back home with their health needs. Instead of becoming a doctor, he became a professional basketball player after earning degrees in Linguistics and Diplomacy. But as a professional basketball player with a $68 Million contract, Mutombo was able to do what he probably could not have done as a doctor - build a 300 bed general hospital.

Because the Congo has an average life expectancy is 45 years, and the infant mortality rate is 9.6% with nearly 20% of newborn children dying before their fifth birthday, the hospital can do much more than one doctor alone could do.

In 1995, the Congo had the biggest polio epidemic of the 20th Century and there are 150,000 new infections of tuberculosis each year. There were 120,000 HIV/AIDS deaths in the Congo in 2001 and for children under 5; mortality attributable to malaria is 46%. These are more reasons why a new hospital can be more helpful than one physician.

The Dikembe Mutombo Foundation is building a hospital. It's a great and wonderful project being led by a great and generous man, and if you want to be a part of it, or learn more about it go to their inspirational web site.

Dikembe Mutombo Foundation. Inc.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

YOUTH FOR TECHNOLOGY : Enjoying A Great Deal Of Confidence

According to its Executive Director the Youth For Technology Foundation (YTF):

"Many NGOs don't start with concrete projects that address real needs. They don't listen - they just impose. There is no such thing as drive-by development.

"YTF is grassroots focused, YTF listens then finds ways to help solve some of the developing world's most pressing issues."

YTF believes that with the right resources everyone can achieve great things. And with this philosophy it seeks to uplift rural communities in developing countries by providing the educational resources, technology resources and training to empower youth to improve their lives.

The organization's goals are to:

- Build human capital and capacity through investment in education, training and technology.
- Establish centers that facilitate access to information and offer real opportunities to local communities.
- Increase civic participation for people in underserved areas to gain a greater voice in their community's development.
- Empower people to actively participate in the development of their community and assist the development of viable rural economic enterprises that will create opportunities for people, especially youth and women, to improve their economic standing.
- Promote knowledge and skills through learning and the effective use of technology.

Empowering the community to plan, drive and sustain their own social and economic development is how YTF believes that the information and communication knowledge can be built in rural areas. And this, it believes, is a holistic process.

There are several strategic approaches in reaching YTF's goals.

Involvement of the communities in the participation of the process is what YTF believes is the key ingredient of its success. They keep the focus and the content of the programs local and relevant to the community being served. In this way, YTF believes that it can transform the continent, "one person at a time, into an information affluent society" and increase the knowledge and skills possessed by the next generation. This they believes will strengthen the communities, which is one of their strategic approaches.

Another strategic approach is to focusing on education. They believe that improving the quality of general education, and specifically science education, is essential for building science and technology capacity in developing communities. For this reason, YTF works with local civil service organizations, youth networks and community schools to develop programs that facilitate technology leadership and awareness in education - from primary through to tertiary level.

The empowering of rural women and girls is a third strategic approach. These segments of the society are particularly under-represented in science and related areas of study and employment. And this is often due to intentional exclusion. It is imperative that all sectors of the community be allowed to develop their potential in science and technology in order to maximize the resources for important economic and social development. YTF has developed a "TechPreneurship" program in order to form a network of rural women to develop an understanding of how simple technology can be used to improve their households, small businesses and communities. These women come from various social classes and occupations, but primarily from those with farming and trading skills.

YTF hopes to empower rural women by affording them access to productive technologies, credit opportunities and the chance to develop skills that enhance their productivity in the economic areas in which they are engaged.

Finally, YTF seeks to Build Human and Social Capacity by creating local content in the information and communication technologies as an effective development tool.

The Goals of YTF's program are to:

- Improve academic performance and foster a positive attitude towards technology.
- Increase exposure to employment opportunities by empowering youth to become not only users but creators of local content and applications.
- Develop local capacity at the grassroots level through the utilization of information and communication technologies.
- Serve as a scalable and replicable model for future Youth for Technology Foundation sponsored Digital Villages.
- YTF's training curriculum is created in-house for the use of our program members. To request an electronic summary of courses offered for each program, please send an email to our offices.

The organization focuses on assisting poor, disadvantaged and marginalized communities so that they can better participate in the digital economy. It is hoped that the primary beneficiaries of the program will be young people, ages 16 to 25 years, who will gain the knowledge necessary to be advocates of these issues. The secondary beneficiaries are the rural dwellers who do not have the adequate access to information and as a result become undereducated and isolated from the global economy.

During the course of its existence YTF has enrolled over 400 youth for participation in our programs with a 100% graduation rate.

One of YTF's major programs is the TechKids program. TechKids is offered to children between the ages of 8 and 12 years and allows them to explore their own ideas, develop skills and build confidence using technology. It is a three-month program are designed to generate an interest in technology at a young age through projects based on children's own interests and to teach young people basic computer techniques and basic computer applications. Another outcome of the program is that it identifies students at a young age who have acumen for technology.

TechKids (as well as its subsequent program: TechTeens) engages in community building by requiring each child to commit to 80 hours of volunteer hours in their villages after graduation. These 80 hours may be serve by mentoring other youth at the center, participating in rural development initiatives (such as farming or market-related activities) or volunteering in local schools, civil service organizations or local unions.

The TechTeens program is a four-month training program designed to develop an understanding of technology in students between the ages of 13 and 19 years.

Technology is not an integral part of the public educational curriculum and millions of young people have yet to achieve the skill level of their counterparts in more developed nations when it comes to digital technology. So TechTeens seeks:

- To train students in basic computer skills and to understand the benefits of technology.
- To assist students in using technology as a tool for learning and to improve academic performance.
- To enhance communication skills among students.
- To develop the essential technology skills to excel in the labor market. Courses offered at this level include Windows, Office, HTML/Front Page and Photoshop.
- After successfully completing the TechTeens program, graduates spend up to 8 weeks at a local community business as part of YTF's Technical Entrepreneurship Leadership Program (TELP).

Tech Communities is a community development program "designed to reach and educate underserved, grassroots community members on how to use technology to create more opportunities for themselves."

This program lasts 3 months and targets women producers in the community. During these 3 months, the participants attend workshops and are mentored on how simple technology tools can provide greater access to markets for their products such as traditional African handicrafts, textiles and jewelry. In this way, the TechCommunities program:

- Provides quality, technology-focused outreach and education to underserved communities.
- Educates families and communities about the economics of technology and use of technology in daily lives.
- Strengthens rural communities by giving people a reason to invest in developing their local communities instead of migrating to urban areas in search of employment or market opportunities; and
- Increases social capital by connecting marginalized community members to information resources.

Finally, there is the TechEnhancement program, which is a workforce development program and is designed to reach individuals who are currently in the workforce but need to develop or enhance their skills. This program provides bi-monthly workshops on career development and business plan writing and is offered at the Owerri Digital Village. (Read about the
Owerri Digital Village Owerri Digital Village here.)

YTF partners with existing community organizations and non-profit organizations. Thos non-profit organizations with which it partners are particularly focused on providing technology access to rural communities, leveraging existing resources to serve more of the community members and to share best practices. A short list of these partners include:

Community Technology Center Network (CTCNet)
Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP)
Global Education Tele-Community Initiative (GEI)
World Bank Foundations
World Bank Development Gateway
Digital Partners Institute (Grameen Foundation)
Nigerian IT Professionals in the Americas (NITPA)
Teachers Without Borders (TWB)
OneWorld Africa
World Bank Small Grants Program
Mgbala Agwa Youths Forum (MAYF)
SchoolNet Africa/Mtandao Afrika
Stanford University
Reuters Foundation
United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS)
Google, Inc.

This is a pretty impressive list of organizations that have confidence in YTF, maybe it would be good for you to go to their web site and find out more about this organization and why it has engendered so much confidence.
Youth For Technology Foundation