You’ve seen the television specials, heard the news, and seen the pictures: children dressed in rags, mere skin and bones and starving in refugee camps, hundreds of thousands of refugees wandering from country to country in search of safety, the reports of famine and war, small children carrying machine guns almost as big as them–the list can go on and on. It’s very common to feel like there’s nothing to be done, but there are real options and organizations that you can be involved in, whether from a distance or in Africa yourself.
How do you know your money is going to be utilized in the right way or that you’re working with a legitimate organization? Money donated to corrupt governments in the past has been squandered away quickly and used for different purposes than it was intended. With a little bit of research or a quick internet search, you’ll find hundreds of charity groups and NGOs or non-governmental organizations dedicated to making a change. Check out charity watch to make sure the group is reputable and can give a good accounting of funds, then choose one and get involved.
A common sight across Africa is women and children walking along a dusty path, hauling large containers called jerrycans. They are either headed to get water or carrying it back. Over and over, often multiple times a day. Water for cleaning, water for cooking, and most importantly, water for drinking. Many of the places where water is collected are just small ponds filled with murky brown water. Dirty water spreads disease. Hundreds of thousands of people, most often children, die in Sub-Saharan Africa every year. This is entirely preventable, and there are a number of NGOs and other groups dedicated to building wells and providing clean water to villages. Again, do your research and make a donation. Some groups might even give you the option of traveling there and helping to dig the well yourself. Once a well is dug, this frees up access for education among children who are no longer needed to fetch water.
Education is a big problem in much of Africa, especially education for girls. Girls are needed at home to carry water, watch over the younger children, and help out with chores so education isn’t valued for them. Some children even must walk miles to school every day and some schools are simply a bunch of children meeting under an acacia tree. There are groups that are dedicated to building schools and groups that will send volunteers to teach subjects such as drama, english, and math to the understaffed schools. Here again, you have a choice whether to simply donate or become an active participant.
If the pictures of small children carrying weapons have touched your heart, know that there are resources available to rehabilitates rescued children abducted from their families and forced to participate in terrible atrocities. There are groups and organizations that focus on reintroducting them to society and providing extensive psychological care. Many of these children have been orphaned while they were in captivity and they’re given a place to live and the opportunity to go to school. Again, a little research will find you a NGO or other group dedicated to helping these children and you can contact them to find a way to get involved.
There are a number of ways to get involved and help the people of Africa. You can choose to go to a country in need and work in orphanages, travel with a trusted organization and build schools, wells or infrastructure, or donate from your own home. The need for aid is great, and even the smallest effort will be appreciated. Next time you see heartbreaking photos or listen to news broadcast about the suffering, you don’t have to feel helpless. Whether you want to build a well, help a former child soldier, give access to education to girls and women, or get food to starving people in Ethiopia, there are a number of groups and resources available to you to get involved with. Take some time, do your research, and find a way to serve that works for you.