Posts Tagged ‘school supplies’

Goods for Good

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Children at a school outside of Lilongwe. Photo by Soraya Darabi

I’ve had Malawi on the brain this week.  To be honest, it’s partially guilt because I couldn’t make it to the Gala 4 Good last week, a fundraiser for Goods for GoodGoods for Good is an organization with a simple mission: to connect surplus goods from the U.S. with Africans who could use them.  They get American companies to donate things like pens, pads and excess fabric that would have rotted in warehouses or been thrown away or destroyed and ship those materials to Malawi (they also work in Liberia).

What I love about G4G is their focus on sustainability.  They don’t just drop off boxes of crap in the capital city and hope that the overstretched government of Malawi figures out how to distribute them equitably (that would be more like exporting trash than helping anyone).  Instead, they set up partnerships with established community organizations and schools and take care to sort and match the goods with ongoing programs in need of support.  So the excess fabric becomes school uniforms, the pens get to teachers and students and donated clothes make it onto the backs of AIDS orphans. 

Over their tenure, G4G has rescued nearly 100 tons of goods and connected it with over 500,000 orphans and vulnerable children in Malawi and Liberia. When you consider that half of young people who leave school in Malawi say it’s because they couldn’t afford the materials to keep going, that’s more than recycling.  It’s lifesaving.

One of the reasons I get all ooey gooey about Malawi is because I’ve spent some time there and have remained in awe of Malawians’ resourcefulness under the severe constraints of limited resources.  In the poorest of poor countries, community organizations provide the services the government cannot.  Like caring for orphans (1/4 of adolescents in Malawi has lost one or both parents).

And the reason I get ooey gooey over Goods for Good is because I feel personally connected to their work through Brigitte, their program director and one of my sister Soraya’s best friends from high school.  I know Brigitte to be supersmart and  incredibly caring.  Last year she spent months in Malawi setting up and strengthening partnerships with well-run local organizations to assess the needs of Malawians and ensure the most efficient distribution of donated materials.  If you’ve ever worked in international development you know this kind of planning is not the norm.  In Malawi, it’s hard to find internaitonal interventions that aren’t a) one-off and unsustainable or b) clouded by the ugliest representation of religion.

Soraya visited Brigitte in Malawi last November and took the photo above while accompanying her on a round of visits to G4G partners.  On that day, in addition to pads of paper, the girls brought a couple jumbo  bags of lollipops for the students at this school.  What you see  are a bunch of kids who have never had a lollipop.  The reason they’re all looking in different directions is becaues they’re not quite sure what to do with them.  I so wish I had video of this cross-cultural encounter!

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