NASHUA, New Hampshire — It seems sometimes that global poverty is an impossible issue to alleviate, especially when we become aware of the different forms of the suffering of so many people. However, it is inappropriate to ignore the various organizations that have contributed to the enrichment of so many impoverished communities with the hopes of promoting equity worldwide. Ripple Africa has done outstanding work in this field in Malawi in Africa and has made it its mission to empower struggling communities. With a focus on sustainability, Ripple Africa reduces poverty through its commitment to the environment, health care and education.
What is Ripple Africa?
In 2003, Geoff and Liz Furber founded Ripple Africa. The pair bought some property in Malawi and felt inspired to create an organization to generate positive change. Its mission is to improve standards of education and health care and preserve and sustainably develop the environment while creating opportunities for the local communities in the Nkhata Bay district of Malawi. Their motto is to provide a hand-up, not a handout. Many of their efforts directly affect the local village of Mwayi, but their projects have now gone on to span over six districts. Though Ripple Africa began as a grassroots organization and still maintains a close and connected relationship with all workers, eventually the organization began to grow and now has more than 8,000 employees on different projects.
One of the most unique attributes of Ripple Africa is that it only hires employees from the local community of Malawi. Thus, on top of all the projects that Ripple Africa does to assist the Malawian community, the charity also provides job opportunities to the unemployed. The Borgen Project had the opportunity to interview the Director of U.S. Operations of Ripple Africa, Kay Yoder. Yoder claims that despite hiring from the local community, Ripple Africa takes volunteers overseas which includes teachers, therapists and medical professionals. One volunteer, Nikki, shares in a testimonial that she worked on projects such as the Family Planning and Sexual Health Project as well as the Disability and Rehabilitation Project. Nikki claims that she sees a bright future ahead for all of the work that Ripple Africa does. Ripple Africa reduces poverty in different ways while ensuring that local people are first in terms of job opportunities.
Ripple Africa Projects
There are many Ripple Africa projects to include and the charity focuses on three different sectors of improving Malawi including the environment, health care and education.
Ripple Africa is currently working on six different projects in regard to the environment. These include:
- Tree Planting – The destruction of the indigenous African forests inspired Ripple Africa to create a tree-planting project, with 19 million trees planted since 2004.
- Forest Conservation – Similar to the aforementioned project, Ripple Africa seeks to protect forests in Africa that provide air and food for the Malawian community. Lumberers cut down an area the size of a football pitch every 10 minutes in Africa and conservation is crucial.
- Fuel-Efficient Cookstoves – Together We Rise has reported that Ripple Africa’s work to provide fuel-efficient cookstoves has saved women’s lives. Gender-based labor divisions make women more susceptible to respiratory disease and other health implications from daily cooking. The stoves that Ripple Africa encourages limit the time needed to cook, which lowers the exposure of dangerous substances to women and is better for the environment and health by releasing less smoke production.
- Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potatoes – Malnutrition is a significant issue for especially mothers and children in Malawi. Ripple Africa reduces poverty by providing resources for farmers to plant sweet potatoes, which are high in Vitamin A.
- Fish Conservation – Yoder informed The Borgen Project of a specific case involving Goodall Zomba Kodowe, who had been using illegal fishnets that were difficult to manage, desperate to provide for his family. The Fish for Tomorrow Project by Ripple Africa told Kodowe that the nets he used were bad for the environment. After changing his ways, he ended up switching to alternatives with Ripple Africa’s help that were more effective at catching fish. Kodowe was able to afford to construct a house and send his son to university because of the increase in profits he experienced.
Ripple Africa splits its projects in education into different grade levels.
- Pre-School Education – Ripple Africa runs eight pre-schools, serving more than 850 children a day in Malawi. About 5,000 children have gone through Ripple Africa’s pre-school program.
- Primary School Education – In total, Ripple Africa supports six government-instituted primary schools around Myawa. The organization seeks to reduce classroom size to better engage students and to hire more teaching aids.
- Secondary School Education – Near the primary schools that Ripple Africa funds, the charity has created the Kapanda Community Day Secondary School so that students do not have to walk 15 kilometers far to the second nearest secondary school. New innovations for the school like updated desks and even a girls’ dormitory are emerging to better the conditions of learning for the Malawian community.
Yoder told the Borgen Project of a success story in which one of its university-sponsored students, Richard, recently graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Disaster Risk Management. Yoder credits Ripple Africa for the financial support in making his dream of going to college come true.
Ripple Africa has four current projects that aim to improve health care as a whole in Malawi.
- Disabilities and Rehabilitation – Ripple Africa has helped 130 children, adults and their respective families in accommodating disabilities near the Mwaya base. Local carpenters receive employment to help craft devices, like walking frames. Kay Yoder told The Borgen Project that in 2015 a young child named Mphatso struggled to walk because of cerebral palsy. Ripple Africa provided Mphatso with weekly rehabilitation therapy and she could walk and feed herself by 2019.
- Mwaya Dispensary – The Mwaya Dispensary, funded by Ripple Africa, provides about 10,000 people with access to health care and medical treatment. About 70-100 patients receive treatment per day and do not have to walk long distances to find medical help.
- Clean Water – As many Malawians do not have running water in their homes, many rely on boreholes to get water. However, many of the boreholes were not working during the pandemic. Ripple Africa has worked closely with District Councils to repair boreholes with urgency.
Ripple Africa reduces poverty in a number of ways, mainly through its commitment to advancements in the environment, education and health care. Ripple Africa is a wonderful, local organization that seeks to improve the lives of the Malawian community by directly employing the people themselves. There are several opportunities to volunteer or contribute to Ripple Africa’s mission on their website.
– Rachel Reardon