Cover of the Firelight Foundation 2011 Annual ReportLast year was the first full year that Firelight Foundation operated as a public charity. So when we started talking about the annual report, we asked ourselves how we could really show the entire community of Firelight including donors and African grassroots groups through one story. We decided on the theme 1+1=3 because as we work with both donors and African grassroots groups, the impact really does add up. Here's the story...

When poverty and AIDS affect a family, the life of a child is marked by a lack of food, clothing, opportunity for schooling, and the comfort of a parent’s love. In Africa, millions of children face these hardships daily. Vincent Worms believes that children should not have to struggle for their basic human needs. He also wants his philanthropic giving to provide opportunities for a brighter future. When searching for an organization that would help families meet their children’s needs while creating long-term change, he learned that Firelight grantee partners do just that. Since 2004 Vincent and his family have funded 29 organizations identified and supported by Firelight. “Each year we are impressed by the quality of Firelight’s relationship with its grantees and the results that are achieved by the organizations they support. We know that by funding Firelight, we are getting resources to the grassroots, where they are needed most. Through modest resources we are improving the lives of hundreds of children.”

Most donors understand that lasting change happens when those affected by the problem develop the solution. But they don’t know how to identify the organizations that are delivering results. That’s where Firelight comes in. Our experienced staff, a vast network in the countries where we fund, and an in-depth evaluation process help us to find effective organizations that improve the lives of children. Funding from donors like Vincent Worms allow us to resource, mentor, and network grassroots organizations.

children jumping rope outside

Sunlight. It’s one of Africa’s most abundant natural resources. Association Inkoramutima is leveraging this abundance to solve multiple problems. Using Firelight funding, they purchased solar panels, then leased them to 40 families. As families pay off their leases, Inkoramutima uses the revenue to buy solar panels for another group of families. Replacing oil lamps and batteries with solar power means a cleaner and safer source of energy, reducing respiratory problems and fire hazards. Spending less money buying oil and batteries increases money for food. There is also the potential to earn a modest income by recharging cell phone batteries for a small fee. This kind of creativity and resourcefulness illustrates some of the qualities that grassroots organizations draw upon to solve multiple problems with a single solution.

Grassroots organizations often struggle to secure funding from donors. Their leadership and understanding of the challenges facing children and youth are essential to reaching and effectively serving their communities. When Association Inkoramutima applied for Firelight funding, staff recognized their enterprising spirit and their ability to foster sustainable livelihoods. A site visit confirmed their skill in translating vision into tangible results. Firelight funding, advice, and networking all make a critical difference to this grassroots organization realizing its full potential.

children playing in tall grass

A survivor of the Rwandan genocide, Yves is responsible for providing food, clothing, and schooling for his younger brothers and sisters. When he joined Association Inkoramutima, the support of peers eased his burden. But it’s the cow donated to Yves by Inkoramutima that is the talk of the neighborhood. Purchased with Firelight funding, the cow is a source of nutrition and income. When it had its first calf, the cow produced seven liters of milk per day. Yves and his siblings used two liters. They gave one liter to a neighbor with a malnourished child and sold four liters to a local restaurant. And that’s not all. Manure from the cow was used in the vegetable garden and shared with neighbors. The next calf will be passed on to another family in the community. Now, Yves and his siblings can count on regular meals, afford school fees, and go to the clinic when they are sick. There is joy and laughter in the home. Support to and from the neighbors helps to overcome daily challenges. One cow. One household. Community-wide benefits.

Transforming the lives of poor children and their families takes patience, tenacity, and problem solving skills. That’s where grassroots organizations make a difference. They coordinate community support and local contributions such as food, clothing, and land. Firelight funding provides financial resources to purchase equipment or pay for training. Guidance from Firelight staff helps to refine programs, increase confidence, and provide links with new donors to expand the numbers of children served. Each player—the donor, Firelight, the grassroots organization—adds something to the equation. The radiant smile on the face of a thriving child makes it evident that the results equal more than the sum of the parts.

Child receiving a book with adults behind him




This story was written by Firelight Director of Programs Zanele Sibanda.

Let us know what you think of this new report!  You can view the full 2011 Annual Report here.