why we exist
There is a huge need.
Despite incredible gains in health, education, and economic growth, many communities across sub-Saharan Africa still face significant interlinked challenges posed by poverty, HIV and AIDS, child marriage, poor quality education, poor nutrition, lack of health care, and more. These challenges disproportionately impact children and youth, who are unable to realize their full potential. In fact, more than half of the 50 million out-of-school children live in sub-Saharan Africa, and there are approximately 32.1 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who are either single- or double-parent orphans. At the same time, approximately 38% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa are married before the age of 18.
There is a huge opportunity.
By 2050, one in every three children under the age of 18 will be African. By 2030, in most African countries, there will be more young adults than the elderly, and according to UNICEF, it will be the region with the greatest number of children under 18, making up 40% of the world’s child population. It is essential to ensure that these children and youth are living in safe, strong, nurturing environments that prepare them to participate in growing economic opportunities.
Traditional aid is broken.
While large multi-national and institutional efforts and the work of NGOs and individuals have yielded many improvements on the continent, these outside interventions often can be piecemeal, short-term, and implemented without the input of the very people they are hoping to serve. Moreover, they are often not sustained after the donors exit – leaving pockets of deep inequity in the region, especially in rural communities.
Community-based solutions hold the key.
Children live best when supported by nurturing families and communities. Thus, while children are at the core of why Firelight exists, we focus our work on building the capacity of catalytic community-based organizations that are born from and embedded within a community. These organizations more deeply understand community needs than outside actors, and they are best placed to identify solutions that serve vulnerable children and the families and communities that care for them.
As our founders learned early on, and as our work shows us on a daily basis, community-based organizations are among the greatest assets in creating safe, strong, nurturing environments for children and youth – while also empowering communities to change the fundamental systems that impact them.