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Ndlovu Youth ChoirThe Ndlovu Youth Choir is a group of underprivileged youth from the Ndlovu Care Group in rural Limpopo, South Africa. They received the opportunity to build a unique musical community and have gained international exposure for their talent and mission. In the face of COVID-19, they have been working to educate those in their communities about the disease through song.

The Mission of the Group

Dutch physician Dr. Hugo Tempelman established the Ndlovu Care Group in 1994, aiming to deliver proper childcare, healthcare, education, and community development for all in the local community. Dr. Tempelman later co-founded the Youth Choir in 2009, with Ralf Schmitt as co-founder and musical director. It started primarily as an after-school extracurricular opportunity and transformed into a professional, internationally-recognized choir group. The choir has continued to greatly influence the lives of its members, emphasizing that everyone has the capacity to accomplish whatever they put their mind to regardless of level of education, birthplace, or background. The choir’s positive impact has stretched around the globe. South Africa has one of the worst education systems in the world, but the choir is working to change that in a unique way. The Ndlovu Youth Choir has been working to stretch its impact to children in the most need, providing them with a safe space to both develop their musical talents while also developing strong friendships with their fellow choir members. The goal of the Ndlovu Youth Choir is to “…strive to nurture values such as self-discipline, self-confidence, tolerance, respect and leadership in our choristers.”

International Exposure

The official website of the choir “…promises to deliver an experience of infectious joy, a toe-tapping and energetic South African music…” including “…Afro-Pop classics [and] traditional South African music and original compositions irresistibly combined with mesmerizing choreography.” They have been successful in sharing such “infectious joy.” In 2018, they released a cover of Ed Sheeran’s pop hit “Shape of You” and instantly went viral. Its fame escalated upon auditioning for Season 14 of the reality TV show America’s Got Talent (AGT) and, ultimately, becoming finalists. From performing originals like “My African Dream” for their audition and doing covers of songs like Whitney Houston’s “Higher Love,” the group has consistently delivered performances that caught the attention of a wide range of audiences, from the New York Times to Billboard. Its performance in the show landed it a 2019 record deal offer with AGT judge Simon Cowell and his company Sony Music.

Spreading Awareness

The Youth Choir recently released a song titled “We’ve Got This,” hoping to raise awareness about how to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The choir sings the original in both their native language of isiZulu and English and offers useful advice about how to stay safe in the midst of this pandemic. They gleefully sing, “Don’t touch your face. Wash your hands.”

In addition to producing the song, the choir also choreographed its own dance for viewers to follow along with. Its music video was filled with bright South African cultural attire and even brighter smiles. Its song ends on a positive note, with the choir singing, “Don’t panic. Don’t spread rumors. We will beat corona.”

It may be surprising to discover that it took the choir and its managing team less than a day to complete production. Even though the choreography is original and complex and the effort to coordinate production seemingly more time-consuming, the choir has been quick and dedicated to combating COVID-19 through their music. According to Ndlovu Youth Choir’s co-founder and director Ralf Schmitt, misinformation regarding COVID-19 was prevalent in their local community. In producing “We’ve Got This,” the choir was able to spread positivity while relaying accurate advice about how to stay safest and healthiest during these challenging times.

– Aprile Bertomo
Photo: Flickr

Millennium Villages Project
Bollywood printed silks garnished with sequins are exchanged at a West African shop in the Potou market. Shop owner Thiama Diaw is the president of Bokk Jamm, one of 25 women’s business associations in Potou. The village associations collectively pool their profits, so group members can obtain loans. Participants have used the money to cultivate hibiscus, invest in sustainable cookstoves, relinquish owed school fees or make home improvements. These women associations provide training sessions in farming techniques, nutrition and money management.

Throughout the Tibias Canal, members in Mali grow melons for their fund contribution. While Rwandan basket weavers used their loan share for roof replacement and school supplies for their children, a woman in Malawi ran a cassava bakery to pay for her loan cooperative share.

From 1990 to 2001, Sub-Saharan Africans who lived on less than $1 a day increased by 86 million. The poverty rate jumped from 45% to 46%. One-third of the region’s population is below the minimum nourishment level, making it the most undernourished area. Inhabitants are disease-stricken, living in a drought-prone climate that lacks proper irrigation and safe infrastructure.

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) launched in 2004 as a holistic, science-based approach to global poverty and empowerment for Sub-Saharan Africans. The program has benefited more than 500,000 people. Their development efforts have received generous donations from actress Angelina Jolie and the U.N.’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Safe drinking water and firewood require people to travel every day for several miles. The Millennium Villages Project aims to reinvent empowerment for Sub-Saharan Africans through sustainable development of healthcare, education and employment. The project operates with limited aid support and integrates science and technology.

For example, their services have decreased malaria in villages by 72%, access to clean water has tripled and maize productivity has doubled. The budget allots $60 per person for services, according to MVP. “The project’s approach has potential, but little can be said for sure yet about its true impact,” Nature stated.

Researchers of Millennium Villages Project started measuring the villages’ success rate, who had access to full intervention services. They compared the results to villages who didn’t receive aid, but data collection challenges prevented statistically sound results.

While children are dying of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa every 30 seconds and one in 16 women die during childbirth, the Millennium Villages Project teaches valuable skills to members. They stimulate empowerment for Sub-Saharan Africans, who learn alongside each other in improving their community’s infrastructure, health and economy.

Rachel Williams

Photo: Flickr

free trade productsAlaffia is committed to empowering communities in Togo, West Africa through the marketing of its fair trade products. The company was founded by Olowo-n’djo Tchala who grew up in Togo and came to the U.S. after meeting a Peace Corps volunteer.

Alaffia’s Empowerment Projects are funded through the marketing of its fair trade products. The company believes that African products should be available at a fair price and contribute to a sustainable future.

Their Empowerment Projects include “several Education-Based Projects, Maternal Health, FGM [female genital mutilation] Eradication, Eyeglasses and Reforestation. All of Alaffia’s projects empower Togolese communities to provide their skills and knowledge to the rest of the world and rise out of poverty.”

Education Projects

Proceeds are dedicated to projects which help get children to school and keep them there. So far, Alaffia has constructed 10 schools, helped 23,700 children get school supplies and built 1,855 benches for children to sit on at school. One of the most important projects the company participates in is supplying children with bicycles to ride to school.

To date, Alaffia has provided 7,100 bikes for children to attend school. According to the company’s website, “95 percent of Bicycles For Education recipients graduate secondary school.”

Maternal Health and FGM Eradication

Alaffia helps protect mothers and babies by funding prenatal care and clinics. The funds raised from sales of products goes to help fund over 3,500 births to date. Profits are also used to build women’s clinics in Togo, which help to fight against Female Genital Mutilation.

Reforestation and Eyeglass Collection

The company has planted 53,125 trees and invests in alternative fuels. The Alaffia team also collects eyeglasses and has distributed 14,200 pairs to those in need.

Fair Trade

Alaffia defines fair trade as a “movement of individuals and organizations working to ensure producers in economically disadvantaged countries receive a greater percentage of the price paid by consumers.” To that end, the company pays 15-25 percent more than the fair price for the shea nuts that are used to make its products.

In addition, Alaffia employees make four times what most in the area do and get full benefits. Not surprisingly, the company’s production costs and overheads are higher than other shea manufacturers, but Tchala will not compromise.

Alaffia sells fair trade products certified through Fair for Life: Social & Fair Trade. The Fair for Life website states that the organization “offers operators of socially responsible projects a solution for brand neutral third party inspection and certification in initial production, manufacturing and trading.

It combines strict social and fair trade standards with adaptability to local conditions. The system is designed for both food and non-food commodities such as cosmetics, textiles or tourist services.

Rhonda Marrone

Photo: Flickr

The What Took You So Long Foundation Solving Local Issues
The What Took You So Long Foundation (WTYSL), founded on June 14, 2009, is a team of storytellers that uses multimedia outlets to tell the stories of farmers, nomads and entrepreneurs from around the world. They use these stories to inspire small communities to work together to solve issues with health, education and social justice. Through lectures, workshops and movies, the organization works with people living in rural villages in overcoming speed bumps preventing them from using their resources to create new markets.

The organization collaborates with NGOs, friends and institutions to develop projects in communities based on the issues they are facing. They document the process using videos and photographs, which in turn are used in future workshops or lectures in new communities. WTYSL uses guerrilla filmmaking, a form of filmmaking that works with a low budget, skeleton crews and simple props, to capture the situation, culture and people of different countries.

During the filmmaking process, the members of WTYSL live where they’re filming and build relationships with members of the community. They also follow local customs, use local transportation and encourage residents to participate in their project to gain a better understanding of their everyday life.

In total, WTYSL has filmed in over 60 countries, including Mauritania, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea. The members of WTYSL believe everyone, no matter what their age is, has an imagination and can use their imagination to help those in need. WTYSL will take on amateur filmmakers and train them on the job in creating quality films and working with underdeveloped communities. Working together, the team is able to motivate positive change in these communities.

The team of WTYSL consists of a variety of filmmakers, storytellers and photographers from various backgrounds. The team’s most recent project had them travelling to Rwanda to document the impact of solar energy on the community. Before Rwanda, WTYSL created films in Liberia to observe the quest for camel milk. The team continues to travel the world, documenting achievements, encouraging empathy and creating projects to make the world a better place.

Julia Hettiger

Sources: What Took You So Long, Co.Exist, Afritorial
Photo: What Took You So Long

USAID Supports The Philippines
Zamboanga City, a city in the Philippines, will be the recipient of a new USAID program started by the United States Ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K Thomas, Jr. These three new programs will improve the local government, education system and health service accessibility. The US Embassy Manila’s USAID Mission Director, Gloria D. Steele, will also assist in ensuring the projects’ successes.

Since the main focus of the projects is government accountability and responsibility, the name of the five-year program will be ENGAGE (Enhancing Governance, Accountability and Engagement). Through government improvements, Ambassador Thomas hopes to create a stable society and economy in the Philippines.

Another goal of ENGAGE is to include more citizens in government programs and policy-making. This sense of community empowerment is vital for Filipinos to feel they are being accurately represented and looked out for by politicians.

The other two five-year projects address the Philippines’ education and health issues. The first, Mindanao Youth for Development, will help youth have equal access to education and provide post-school training services. The program will work with the government to increase its ability to offer such services and tools for its young population.

The third project is called Integrated Maternal, Neonatal, Child Health and Nutrition/Family Planning Regional Project in Mindanao (MindanaoHealth). This program aims to distribute healthcare services to rural and conflict-prone areas of the Philippines, including 19 provinces, 2 cities, and 366 municipalities.

The combined efforts of these three projects will create a better economy and equal society in the Philippines.

– Mary Penn

Source: Zamboanga Today
Photo: Cultural Survival