My Experience With Sawa

My Experience With Sawa

I’ve been a communications coordinator for Sawa World since September 2009 and first joined the team because of its innovative approach for solving extreme poverty. In accordance with the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Sawa World knew that solutions to poverty related issues already existed in struggling communities worldwide. In a world of top-down foreign aid, Sawa’s approach was refreshing. Needless to say, during my time with the organization, Sawa has continued to grow and inspire! So much has happened at home and abroad -- from a name change and complete rebranding, to new partnerships and a restructured model! Here are some highlights:

When I first joined the team, three Sawa Heroes (now Sawa Leaders) were invited to Vancouver to collaborate with 120 social change leaders at the Connecting for Change Dialogue through the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education. These three leaders presented their stories to the Centre of Sustainability and Social Innovation at the Sauder School of Business and the Simon Fraser University, Segal School of Business. They also talked with marginalized youth about overcoming trauma and violence. Meeting these incredible leaders face-to-face was a great inspiration to me!

The following September (2010), with only five years left to solve global poverty, Sawa Founder, Daphne Nederhorst joined UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and 300 Heads of State and Government from around the world to participate in the United Nations Private Sector Forum on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Nederhorst, who hoped to inspire a new way of thinking said, “The world doesn’t need another traditional foreign aid model. What we need is to recognize the expertise of local leaders living in extreme poverty and already making a difference by championing their communities out of poverty. We should be learning from their accomplishments and finding ways to assist them in replicating models that already work.” Nederhorst’s vision struck a chord, and Sawa World connected with Virgin, CEO, Sir Richard Branson and the Grameen Creative Lab’s Muhammad Yunus.

In April 2010, Sawa was quick to respond to the devastating Earthquake in Haiti, and spent time setting up partnerships with film institutes and training disenfranchised youth in video production. With their revamped model, Sawa began to share the proven solutions of leaders who were working to fight extreme poverty with surrounding communities. Sawa’s groundbreaking work gained media attention, which drew critical attention to their cause.

This September finds Nederhorst back in Uganda, one of Sawa’s four African focus countries. Since March 2011, Sawa has been working with film institutions in Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, and Kenya to train youth in video production and has created partnerships with key organizations such as UNICEF Uganda. Upon commencing the project, Nederhorst stated, “For this year we are aiming to work with four local media partners, train 40 new unemployed youth, and document 40 new Sawa Leaders. We aim to have the Youth Journalists share the Sawa Leaders’ easily replicated solutions with one million people in their communities.” And we are well on our way!

Looking back at my time with Sawa World, my inspiration is renewed - I have played a part in creating critical systemic change. With every new success story, lesson learned, or partnership formed, we are one step closer to a sawa world!

To find out about Sawa’s continued work in Africa, and see where we are today, keep reading the news, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter!

Sarah Mathias,
Communications Coordinator