“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
These powerful words by Margaret Mead seem to be a running theme with the various nonprofits and organizations we see at Loopah. This week’s Organization Spotlight is no different: All it took was one woman and an experience. In the two years since it was founded, Med Africa is blossoming into a full-grown organization devoted to assisting people of African descent.
Co-founder and Development Director Rhonda Smith kindly took time out of her schedule to tell the Loopah Blog about Med Africa.
Loopah: Could you give a little summary of Med Africa and it’s goals?
Rhonda: Med Africa was formed in May, 2008 in Indianapolis, IN. Our goals include assisting people of African descent who are in need, in the areas of medical supplies, educational materials, and HIV/AIDS awareness.
Our current projects include: 1) shipping medical supplies and equipment to Africa, 2) distributing back to school supplies to local children, 3) music enrichment programs targeted to inner-city children, and 4) HIV/AIDS prevention programs locally and in Africa.
Loopah: Why is there a need for an organization like Med Africa?
Rhonda: There still exists a need for an organization like Med Africa, because there are impoverished communities in America, and Africa, where people are barely surviving. Med Africa can help bridge the gap, and assist people to live healthier, more productive lives.
Loopah: How and why did Med Africa come into being?
Rhonda: When I traveled to Nigeria, several years ago, I noticed the great social-economic divide that existed in the different communities. I personally had an experience in a village area, where a young mother brought her child to the local chief for help. The mother had no money, or transportation to take the child to the hospital, miles away. She had been vomitting throughout the night, and couldn’t even keep down water in her stomach. The local herbal healer was called to help. I happened to travel with some pepto, for my own personal woes. I asked the chief if I could try giving the child some of the pink medicine, and he agreed. After a short time, the child was lively, and could eat some food without any problem. The chief was very excited that the pink medicine worked so well, and fast. The mother and child were extremely grateful. The herbal healer was surprised at how quickly the child felt better. At that point I knew, that I had to do something to make a difference. Having worked in the medical field for 15+ years, I knew that plenty of medical supplies, and equipment go to waste.
Loopah: What is the most rewarding part of working with Med Africa?
Rhonda: I enjoy knowing that our self-less staff and volunteers in the U.S., Zimbabwe, South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, and Zambia are working toward a common goal…to make our communities a better place to live, and enrich the future of our children.
Loopah: What challenges does your organization face?
Rhonda: Med Africa, like so many other organizations, are faced with financial challenges, due to a tough economy. The needs are increasing in the communities we serve, but obtaining the total necessary monetary support has proven to be difficult.
Loopah: Could you talk a bit about your current fundraising goals?
Rhonda: In March of this year, we had our first annual music benefit, featuring a South African gospel singer, and other local artists. We have African jewelry made in Uganda, and Nigeria that is sold at local venues. We also send out fundraising letters. Our goal for the upcoming year is to raise enough money to ship a full container to Africa. We will need $8,000-10,000 for that shipment.
Loopah: What advice would you share with other organizations that are trying to make a difference in their world?
Rhonda: My advice would be to stay true to your mission statement, when developing programs and delivering services. Be enthusiastic when talking to others about your organization. That excitement will be the light that guides people to volunteer and donate to your cause.