Two weeks ago, I posted a request asking for suggestions on ways RPCVs and other Guineaphiles can help Guineans.
I got a couple of responses. Mark Lynd*, who lived in Guinea implementing a USAID education project, wrote to tell of an organization he and his wife started.
He writes: School-to-School International is an effort to provide a more holistic type of support to kids in elementary schools. Since its founding in 2002, STS has been working in one country – Guinea (we intend to expand to others some day). I go there 3-4 times a year to work with our staff of 3 and 24 schools. We’re VERY SMALL – no big funding, just donations, small grants and contracts – but everything in Guinea is done by Guineans – we expats just provide assistance as we can.
We can always use support in a variety of ways – we do pen pal links with elementary schools in the US and Guinea , send books… Of course cash donations are always very much appreciated.
SIS's website is sts-international.org
RPCV Wayne Kleck writes:
I have been helping people informally by paying their costs to go to private schools, or to pay the costs of living in cities where they can attend Lycees. I am in the process of helping two members of my host family (Thiam) from Gbereire attend a private Uiniversity in Conakry. I keep in touch with these folks by phone and email. I send money by way of Western Union and have a network of friends who support the cause by sending money which I forward directly to these students. I have done this since before the strike and now am expanding my contributions to help even more. I am also in touch with the Fullbright Scholar who lived down the street from me in Kankan. She supports several other students in this same manner.
I support two Lycee students in Kankan (one originally from Kissidougou, one from Gueckedou). I also send periodic contributions to a student in Kindia, and have been informally sending assistance to my host family in Gbereire for illnesses, funerals, etc... ( I served my first year in Falessade, only 50 km. away from Dubreka. My third year was spent in Kankan working for WFP).
I am in the process of establishing a 501(c)(3) through an organization in Austin, TX, but will not complete the process until I establish a contact in Guinea to distribute the funds. Now that the strike is over and things are stabilizing, I am once again pursuing a local NGO in Kankan to accept the funds and distribute them. I hope PC will be back there soon to oversee this process. Until I get this up and running. My friends are still willing to contribute without the tax deduction, but I figure I can get much more money to help folks in Guinea if the Americans have the added incentive of a tax deduction.
After more than three years in Guinea, I am reluctant to trust ANY organization to distribute funds directly to those who need it. But I am making progress in getting something set up. Meanwhile, I send money directly to these students. I am not concerned that they waste the money as I send just enough to pay tuition and daily expenses. They, of course share their money with family and continue to live a very basic existence. Most of the students I am helping have assisted me in projects I implemented while in Guinea, so they know about my demands for transparence, honesty, and accountability.
If you hear of any news of how to get funds distributed in a better manner, please keep me posted. The main problem with my 'direct' system is the high cost of using Western Union or moneygram. Thanks to good broadband internet service in Korea, I am able to manage all of this from Busan.
Keep me posted on what you know and feel free to give my email address* to anyone interested in improving methods of getting assistance to Guineans in need.
*-Note: if you are interested in contacting Wayne or Mark, please email me at communications @ friendsofguinea.org
Got any more ideas? Let me know, either by leaving them in the comments section of this entry or by sending me an email at communications @ friendsofguinea.org