To Bless Africa

How can we make the biggest impact with the most efficiency for the greatest good?

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On Taking that Next Step

Are wombs not wonderful? Strange way to start a post, sure, but think about it – they’re warm, safe, comfortable, loving enclosures where we ideally experience no want, no deprivation, no challenges, no pain. In them we are protected, cherished, and nurtured. We may only be able to grow so far in them, but while we’re inside, who needs to think about what the cold, hard outside world is like? We live in the moment, and love it.

I remember what I hope was the end of my formal education as if it were yesterday, when in fact it’s been almost 10 years. I didn’t realize until I was done how easy life was while I was in school – there was a set curriculum I had to learn and follow, I got tested in straightforward ways, and every year followed the other in linear progression. I knew exactly where I stood and what was next – the lack of need for any major decision was so warm, safe, comfortable…

By contrast, graduating from University is like running along a straight path right off a cliff and into thin air. All of a sudden there’s a wide world around you, and there are no markers, no signs saying ‘this is the best way!’, no way at all in fact. All of a sudden you realize that if you keep running you’ll end up a pancake, and you need to learn to fly, pick a direction, and try your best to avoid smashing your face into a rock without even knowing if the direction you picked was the right direction. Maybe you’ll find out… someday… down the line…

It’s so much easier to stay in the womb. No wonder babies cry so much!

I feel right now like we’re at another of those birthing moments in our lives. We’ve been puttering along nicely through these last few months – researching ways forward, finding what we think is the better way, making sure it’s ok, trying to learn more, trying to make connections, etc.; all the while comfortable and content in the safety of our ‘womb’ of learning, but not actually doing.

Increasingly though, we begin to find stretching difficult. Our movements become more constricted. We realize that if we’re going to keep growing, we need to ‘make like a baby and head out’. If we’re to keep moving forward we need to step off that cliff; and so, ever so grateful for this warm, safe time we’ve had to gestate in, we feel the time rapidly approaches to take the leap off that cliff and actually get back to doing. Time to learn to fly.

Don’t worry, I hear births are a breeze…

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Blessing Africa

So I may not have posted on here in a while – what with the baby and all, but that does not mean that the purpose for this blog has been far from our hearts. Our hearts still long to bless communities across Africa, our hearts still long to make a difference in people’s lives – to provide people and families opportunities to better their lot, to provide opportunities for greater education for those who wish it, and to provide better health education for those who could use it.

In the tension created between this desire and the knowledge of our limitations, this blog was created to explore avenues through which the impact we can make could be multiplied. We had ideas, but they were uncertain. After much thinking, talking, praying and research over the last few months however, we believe we see a possible way forward:

What if there were a company that connected with cottage industry, mom-and-pop enterprises, and hard-working co-ops in Africa, p186384000-5sourced the goods they were creating, and sold them in North America? This company would provide greater markets for existing enterprises, thus securing existing jobs and creating new jobs amongst the needy. This company would encourage and reward enterprise among hard working people with initiative by providing them with bigger markets, thus helping them expand and increase their economic impact in their communities (expanding farms/workshops, hiring more workers/new apprentices, all of who would then spend the money they make locally). This could make a considerable difference in the socio-economic development of poor communities, whether in rural villages or in urban slums.

This company could, through accountability and transparent business practices ensure honesty and responsibility in its operations and also foster a similar work ethic amongst the businesses it partners with. Furthermore, through its members’ blogs and writings, it could expose and try to combat corruption at all levels of government, which is currently rampant in most African nations.

This company could, by placing strategic people in strategic positions, provide mentorship and business education to its partners to help further increase the scope of their enterprise. Eventually perhaps even encouraging the formation of new co-ops and businesses that utilize locally-available raw materials and expertise in the fostering of new enterprises – more jobs, more opportunities.

This company could, through the reinvestment of some of its profits back into the communities that generate them – create scholarships, encourage education and promote a greater health-awareness – thus directly blessing communities even beyond the businesses it would partner with.

By operating as a trading company, this company would not only make a tangible difference to the communities it partners with, but it would help in the economic development of the entire nation; and it would seek to do so increasingly more efficiently and sustainably, and with detailed accountability.p1002763768-6

And finally, this company could – by making the goods it sources from across Africa available to the North American market, give consumers in North America – whether they’re buying woven carpets or wood carvings, coffee or jewellery, the opportunity to directly impact struggling communities and economies throughout Africa, to make a difference, to be a blessing. Furthermore, by making transparent the company’s ongoing relationship with partners in Africa, it could give consumers in North America the opportunity to see how their purchases are making a direct impact in the lives of individuals and communities. This would allow all concerned – from families in villages and slums in Africa to families in suburbs in North America, to move towards greater awareness and knowledge of one-another and a greater interdependence.

This idea has grown in my mind these last couple of months, but it strikes me that for anything to happen in this regard it would be imperative that people on this side of the ocean believe in it. Finding people making cool stuff in Africa is the easy part. Finding people who need jobs in Africa is even easier. But finding enough people in North America who believe in and are willing to stand behind such a venture might be more difficult.

What do you think? Would this kind of initiative even be viable? Would it be able to take off in the US and Canada? Would people be interested in buying goods made in small communities in Africa even if they’d have to pay a bit more than buying them at Ikea/Sears/Costco/Pier1? Would people in general even be interested in the welfare of others so many thousands of kilometers away?

As I mentioned in earlier posts, we’ve

spent the better part of the last 10 years in a different continent, so understanding the North American zeitgeist – how people are thinking, moving, what motivates them, is not really our forte. That makes your thoughts so valuable to us – would you please let us know what you think of this idea? Your insight/help/advice could make all the difference.

Is this how we are going to bless Africa?