More Than the Power of Hope: Leaders With Persistence, Passion, and Partnerships

07/02/2015 11:34 am ET Updated Jul 02, 2016

In a recent New York Times article titled "The Power of Hope is Real," Nicholas Kristof wrote about how innovative thinking and outside aid are changing the landscape of development and poverty alleviation. Two of our partners, The Boma Project and Village Enterprise, were featured in this article and we were happy to see their work recognized. But having spent a decade in Africa, working with exemplary partners who are innovatively and systematically changing communities all over Sub-Saharan Africa, we have to wonder if the power of hope alone has the power to transform the lives of those living in poverty. We might argue that there is power that goes beyond hope: the power of persistence, passion, and partnerships. In Segal Family Foundation's work, we have seen that the impossible becomes possible when leaders unwaveringly seek the change they want to see in their communities, their countries, and the world at large.

This is certainly true of the individuals we are honoring at our Annual Meeting on July 9-10. This gathering is an opportunity for our partners and likeminded funders to make valuable connections, learn from one another, and celebrate each other's work. We are proud to highlight the achievements of our partners, especially this year's outstanding award recipients:

Obed Kabanda, executive director of Action for Community Development (ACODEV), will be given the Angel for Africa Award, which goes to an individual who builds communities and serves as a resource for others. He founded ACODEV with a vision that there could be a society where children, women, and men are healthy and economically productive. Educated in the U.S., Obed was compelled to return to Uganda where he built a team working to empower members of society regardless of age, gender, or socioeconomic status. The ACODEV team now extends its work beyond Uganda and works in Rwanda, Eastern Congo, and Malawi. Recognizing the need for resources for young people and training opportunities for leaders, Obed and his team have established the Africa Centre for Leadership Development (ACLED). ACLED will run short, tailored fellowship leadership and governance for development courses throughout the region. Under Obed's leadership, ACODEV has thrived and now partners with various organizations, including our own partners such as BESO-Foundation, Set Her Free, Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU), and Komo Learning Centres.

How do you make meaningful contribution to communities that have been ravaged by war? This is a question that Spès Nihangaza of FVS-AMADE Burundi, Grâce Françoise Nibizi of SaCoDé, and Stefanie Weiland of LifeNet International have struggled with in the wake of the decade-long civil war in Burundi. Often enough, when a country goes through turmoil, the people who suffer the most are the women and youth. The process of recovery is harder still as they are sidelined from economic and social empowerment programs. As such, the work of these organizations has been critical in Burundi.

Our Grassroots Champion awardee, Spès Nihangaza, has deep connections within her community and has empowered the community to achieve its own vision of development. She's actually known as "mama" to many in Burundi. FVS-AMADE care for orphans and vulnerable children through an incredible grassroots network of 1,541 solidarity groups caring for 49,347 orphans and other vulnerable children in Burundi.

With the Rising Star Award, we recognize Françoise Nibizi as an emerging leader whose work reflects an ongoing and exceptional dedication to her organization and beneficiaries. Under Françoise's leadership, SaCoDé has grown in numbers and the impact has been tremendous. To date, SaCoDé is the only non-profit organization in Burundi that utilizes SMS mass messaging as a means of health promotion and education. Since its foundation four years ago, thousands of youth across every province in Burundi receive and send SMS educational messages on sexual and reproductive health- a critical need in a country with a dearth of progressive information for young people.

Stefanie Weiland, recipient of our Systems Innovator Award, serves as executive director of LifeNet International, which partners with church-based health clinics in Burundi to build medical and management capacity and connect them with needed pharmaceuticals and equipment. LifeNet's progressive partnerships with 57 health centers improved care for over 740,000 patient visits last year. By strengthening local capacity in every link of the healthcare delivery chain, LifeNet International is transforming primary care for Africa's poor. In the face of the current political crisis in Burundi, LifeNet has empowered these clinics not only to remain open, but to continue providing critical health services for impoverished rural families.

As we build a community of creative collaborators at Segal Family Foundation, it is an honor to work with each of these visionary leaders. We are grateful for the change they are making possible through their persistence, passion, and partnerships.

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