Nonprofit Partnerships – Unexpected Benefits
To see Lisa and Philippa together today, you might wonder how this founder of an organization that builds sustainable farms in developing countries and executive director of a breast health education nonprofit came to be such good friends. The fact is, their relationship was cemented on a trip to Kigali, Rwanda when they both were stranded in a Montreal airport for three days.
It all began when Philippa, who was traveling to Kigali to lead the nation’s first breast cancer awareness walk, the Ulinzi Walk (“ulinzi” is Swahili for “protection”), invited Lisa to join her. Lisa, whose nonprofit Step-One had recently built its first model farm in Rwanda, jumped at the opportunity. Neither of them realized then how intertwined their lives, and their nonprofits, would become. Before leaving, Philippa asked if Lisa would be co-signer on a bank account that held grant funds from the Houston Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®. This grant was to be used to conduct an educational workshop and Health Fair for East African refugees in Houston upon her return. Since Philippa’s U.S. Board members are spread out around the country, Lisa agreed.
First Ulinzi Walk June 2011
The delay in Canada meant that the women arrived in Kigali, without their luggage, mere hours before the walk was to take place. Even though many of the supplies were still en route, Philippa’s Breast Cancer Initiative East Africa (BCIEA) staff in Rwanda had promoted the event well. As the anxious crowd of participants grew, Lisa was handing out t-shirts when Philippa’s brother-in-law, Roger, suddenly appeared with the missing luggage! So, 15 minutes before the official Start, balloons and banners were being passed out, to be blown up and unfurled by all. The resulting spirit of community and cooperation only added to the excitement and significance of the event. This was Lisa’s introduction to Rwanda.
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The weeks passed magically. Lisa was able to see the farm she had helped create, meet the mother and son, Mary and Methode, whose lives have been forever changed as a result, and see the difference that Step-One’s rain catchment system has made throughout the community, where residents no longer have to spend hours each day carting water to the village in order to survive. Philippa introduced Lisa to her sister Faith who, along with husband Roger, runs an orphanage for 20 children. It was decided that Step-One’s next model farm in Rwanda will be
Step-One Model Cowshed & Rain Catchment System
built in Bugesera, to benefit the orphanage and nearby village. As time to return to the U.S. drew near, Philippa grew increasingly ill and it became clear that she would not be able to make their flight; but her workshop for African refugees in Houston was scheduled to begin. As a retired teacher, Lisa reviewed the curriculum with her and agreed to run the first workshop in Philippa’s place.
When she was finally able to travel, Philippa returned to the U.S. where she underwent surgery. Her rehabilitation has been slow. She will return to her own teaching job soon and, with Lisa’s help, three extremely successful breast health workshops for African refugee women have already been conducted, and the Health Fair is in its final planning stages.
Neither woman could have foreseen one year ago when they met, where they would be today. Not only have their nonprofits thrived due to their alliance, but the people they both serve have benefited as well. And the bond that has grown between them is the best benefit of all.