Celebrate Solutions: Investing in Local Communities to Transform Lives

By: Lauren Himiak, Women Deliver

Half of the world’s population is under the age of 30 making today’s generation of young people the largest in history. Their choices and opportunities define the present and the future of our world, yet barriers such as child marriage, HIV, poverty, and others, hold back our youth from realizing their full potential. Luckily, there are organizations working to combat these issues and empower the next generation of leaders. Firelight Foundation, created in 1999, believes in the power of African communities to create lasting change for children and families affected by poverty, HIV, and AIDS. With a development approach that is child-centered, family-focused, and community-based, Firelight works to identify, fund, and strengthen community organizations that support the health and education of children in Africa. Since its inception, it has funded nearly $20 million to 359 African organizations.

How do they do it? In a four-staged approach:

Stage 1: Find & Invest

  • Financial management
  • Mobilizing the community
  • Organizational governance

 Stage 2: Develop Stability

  • Staff management
  • Plan for financial stability
  • Build collaborative partnership

Stage 3: Build Impact

  • Expand impact
  • Build advocacy skills/networks
  • Grow community support

Stage 4: Sustain

  • Provide sustaining resources
  • Connect with Stage 1 partners
  • Leverage-knowledge base

A prime example of success is Firelight’s recent digital storytelling campaign in Rwanda. In the project, girls were taught digital storytelling on iPhones so they could capture their personal stories and share them within their community to start conversations about girls’ rights. Learning the skills to create storyboards, shoot footage, and edit, the girls inspired so many that government officials have now invited girls to speak about effective tools for change. “Many people can learn from my storytelling because when I share my testimony, my community can know that change is possible in their lives,” said a young girl named Agnes in the video. “The girls around me can know that everything is possible for them and I feel free in my heart when I am talking about the story of my life.”    

Firelight works to understand social norms and culture in all areas they work to ensure that investing in communities can stop poverty and transform lives. They believe that communities are the safety net of support for vulnerable children and families, and that local organizations are best places to strengthen that net. The organization directs in its investments to local organizations in order to have the greatest possible impact on the well-being of children. In a three-year initiative, Firelight supported three African organizations that resulted in transformational change for more than 4,000 girls. The project was launched by the Nike Foundation and the Grassroots Girls Initiative to unleash The Girl Effect.

To learn more about the Firelight Foundation, click here.

Entry Comments

  1. This is a superb initiation. I feel it could be used as a model to extend such girls right to other countries as well.

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