Saturday, July 02, 2005

Elements of African Philanthropy

A new mode of idealism is sweeping across the emerging African community in Australia; and one of its main features is the belief in the infinite potential of African philanthropy.

By way of definition, African philanthropy is a new type of giving and sharing; a utopian vision of reality. It is an effective grassroots movement that relies on the goodwill of ordinary people to resolve a number of nagging problems affecting the new generation of African migrants and refugees throughout the land.

In its most active form, the movement facilitates the resettlement process; helping the new arrivals, feeding the poor and housing the homeless. It has the power to alter the perception of the new environment in significant ways.

In fact, the real strength of the movement lies in its ability to identify the need and mobilise resources for the common good; creating linkages with well-established charitable organisations and individuals.

African philanthropists have worked cooperatively with community organisations to provide moral and financial support to the new arrivals. As powerful volunteers and care givers, they live modestly; giving and sharing and helping those in need.

It is the poor helping the poor at the local level, where it matters most!

Essentially though, it could be argued that the African philanthropists are the unsung heroes of our time; whose activities have remained largely unknown in the mainstream society.

Margaret Bako, a Sudanese woman of distinction who came to Australia as a refugee in the 1980s, has worked tirelessly with a number of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs); including the Australian Refugee Association; helping the new migrants and refugees make sense of the world around. Her recent appointment to the Women’s Health Advisory Council in South Australia has brought the work of the African philanthropists into sharp focus. Meanwhile, she is trying to carry women’s health issues over the cultural divide; thereby building an effective relationship between the public health system and the emerging African communities.

Yet, Margaret is not alone! Others have also made their marks in many areas of need.

One of the rising stars in the movement is Tony Oyet, a refugee with attitude. He is a selfless, highly motivated young man in his prime of life who has worked tirelessly to help others and never sought any reward or recognition.

He works with street kids, giving and sharing, offering advice on how best to access the mainstream services during the early days of arrival, where people are at their most vulnerable position in the community.

Meanwhile, through the generous support of Adelaide Central Community Health Service, Tony has found his real niche in life by getting involved in the inner city Youth Development Projects; including drug and alcohol counselling to run-away kids.

Thus, in a very real sense, the new way of giving and sharing is here to stay. The activities of African philanthropists like Tony and Margaret (and others) have done a great deal to improve the lives of the deprived and the homeless; helping those at the margin of society.
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