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Failing Forward is Not So Fun

Weavers during the center

Weavers during the center's construction in 2009

This month, GlobalGiving has invited us to submit #FailForward stories. Since we have enough failure stories to easily fill 12 project reports per year, we thought we’d take the opportunity to share one with you! Here is our major #FailForward from the past year.

Rewind to nearly six years ago. Awamaki was brand new. We were a couple of committed volunteers and ten weavers with the idea to sell weavings in our tourist town so the women could earn an income. We didn’t have much money, but we spent every sol we had to build a weaving center with the women, who called their group the Songuillay cooperative. The center would be a place to hold trainings and meetings, and importantly, it also served as picturesque destination for tourists who paid us a (whopping!) $10/head to take them up to visit the women and learn about weaving. Over the years, Awamaki brought on 90 more artisans in four other communities, but thecenter remained the face of Awamaki, a retreat-like setting filled with traditionally-dressed artisans, crawling babies, and colorful weavings.

Earlier this year, the husband of one of our artisans came into our office and introduced himself as the president of the Songuillay cooperative. It is an understatement to say this came as a shock. Women’s leadership and economic empowerment are the principles behind every program we run and every decision we make. Thanks to a U.S. State Department grant, we had been running intensive capacity-building in women’s leadership with this cooperative for eight months. How had they elected a man president of thewomen’s cooperative? Had they just been tuning us out for five years? It was one of those not-so-fun moments that makes you question the point of your existence.

What we learned was worrisome. When we built the center, the husband of one of the weavers donated the land for its construction. We learned that over the years, as the cooperative became more financially successful, he had increasingly attempted to influence the cooperative so that his family members benefitted more than others. He told the women that he was the legal president of the group, and that Awamaki had built the center on his land and thus worked through him. He influenced who received weaving orders and who attended tourists’ visits. The women artisans are mostly illiterate and few have been to school. They don’t know their legal rights and couldn’t read their association's bylaws. In Peru, it is common for institutions to say one thing and do another. They feared that while Awamaki paid lip service to women’s empowerment, we knew and approved of the situation and this husband's control.

While we talked about women’s leadership, the women were being intimidated by a man we had inadvertently empowered. As a rule, we try to stay out of community politics as much as possible. However, this situation threatened the women’s progress and the popular tourism program, right in the middle of high season during which thousands of visitors come to the Sacred Valley.  We had dozens of tours scheduled, a center in contention, and the cooperative dividing into factions.

Through lots of hard work, the situation has improved. We phased out the center, and the women have found a new space. We will be able to bring much of our furniture and equipment with us, so our investment in the old center isn’t lost. We brought a Quechua-speaking lawyer to meet with them and explain their options. It turned out they hadn’t tuned out the skills-building; in fact, the women have been much more assertive in using those skills since we helped them restructure their leadership and made our values clear.

This was a learning moment for us at Awamaki. When we started working withSonguillay, we didn’t realize how important it was that the women fully understand their constitution and bylaws. We also didn’t require that the women take strong leadership in their cooperative business. In fact, it was our new emphasis on these principles with Songuillay that resulted in the airing of some of these issues. We already require more active leadership and responsibility from all our cooperatives. When our knitters approached us about building a center last year, we required that they obtain the land in the legal name of their association. They organized fundraisers, took out a bank loan, and bought a small plot of land to build their center. We are sure that no one will ever convince them it isn’t theirs.

Sabina prepared roof thatch during construction

Sabina prepared roof thatch during construction

Weaver Magdalena at the old center

Weaver Magdalena at the old center

The weavers in the new space

The weavers in the new space



Failure is milestone to success

I would like to sincerely thank you on behalf of the staff and on behalf of the poor women and youth trainings & sewing machines to poor youth and women to earn income program for your generous donations to CHHASE.

In this thanks giving letter we would like to share some of the most important events with you about the program you have supported. Your support has enabled us to provide free distribution of sewing machines to 40 poor youth and women, 11 embroidery cots distributed to poor tribal in 2013-14 and in 2014-15 we have distributed 12 machines and we are making arrangement to distribute some more on 15th of October. Your support enabled us to provide refreshment to the poor women and youth for better learning.

416 women and youth undergone various trainings in 2014 and 90 women and youth trainings completed and 60 are undergoing training in 2014-15. 350 women trainings are yet to be covered to achieve our target in 2014-15.

Without you, it was not possible for them to buy these machines and start their sewing at their homes or get trainings. Now their sewing business is going on well and they are working at their homes and earning handsome money.

Here, I must mention about our failure in 2004, when we distributed sewing machines to 12 mothers of child labor to earn income and educate their children without drop out from school. Out these 12 beneficiaries, two mothers, they sold their sewing machines to meet medical expenses of family members, for a very low price of $18, whereas the original cost was $120. In our casual follow up program, we came to know that they sold. While receiving the sewing machines these beneficiaries promised us that they will use it for earning to send their children to school and they will not sell it at any circumstances. But we have not checked their expertise in tailoring. These two learned tailoring from a tailor, while working as button stitching.

We recovered the machines by paying to the buyer and again issued it to the child labor mothers and also we gave training, which gave them confidence to do their business efficiently. We arranged a meeting with all the child labor’s mothers and we once again informed them that these machines were issued for them to earn and educate their children and we will regularly monitor their activities.

This was a good lesson for us to learn and now we are monitoring the beneficiaries in regular interval and giving them necessary further training, guidance and advice.

“From failures, we can become perfect and successful”

From our successful tailoring beneficiaries, I am proud to say that Mrs. Punitha, who received our free tailoring machine, is very good in her activities and earnings. She has taught Button needlework to her husband and they both are working on sewing business. They have planned to start their sewing shop in nearby big crowding center, where they can get plenty of stitching business.

It didn't work, but we learnt a lesson

Child protection meeting

Child protection meeting

We are happy to note down the little progress on some of the activities we carried out, failed and learnt lessons to inform our planning.

In the community we work, we are constructing a home for 50 kids, by November this year we will be putting up metalic windows and doors, we are doing all these because we want our children to be protected from harm and or abuse, in our community there are over 200 needy children living in 500 households, 80% of the children are abused and the very abusers are sometimes their own parents, we carried out several other sensitizations in our community to curb child abuse, in carrying out these activities during this quarter, Mountains of Hope carried out a mini survey on child protection issues to assess the cases of child abuse in relation to the reported ones, it was learnt that data on child abuse cases reported by community during child protection meetings varied with the police report in terms of figures and information.

Mountains of Hope used to rely on the reports of the village/community meetings alone, it was difficult to follow up on some cases with the police as the police was not aware of some cases we were following up, we discovered that these lower level cases were solved by the community locally without reaching police, this hampered the follow up process, a case in point is where a school girl that was defiled in one of the communities was not reported to police and none of the authorities neither our staff knew about it but the community was aware about it, the case was handled locally by the parents of the victim and those of the defiler who later on were not willing to release information on how it went about.

Mountains of Hope in an attempt to make its monitoring systems stronger leant that there was a weak partnership and linkages among agencies involved in Child protection including Mountains of Hope. A partner’s meet up was organized and systems availed for who does what? What resources are needed? When? And How?

So far in this new partnership, our project has been assigned the duty of mobilizing sensitization community meetings on child protection issues in the community as the police child protection and welfare office does the sensitizations.

This has eased provision of information as our project can easily get the right data from police office other than relying on the data provided by only the village committees, this information derived from the police helps to inform our planning process in the community we work, this has enabled us to target the activities that are beneficial to our community, a case in point is when we planned for the provision of sanitary pads to 50 school girls after a thorough sensitization carried out by the Mpigi District Health Officer and Police Child protection officer with facilitation from Mountains of Hope with Globalgiving donors.

Children help with home chores

When Free is Expensive!

Registration at one of Aravind


Registration at one of Aravind's 2600 Eye Camps

Aravind is always looking for more effective ways to reach patients – it’s one of our biggest challenges in our mission to eliminate needless blindness.  More than 70% of India’s population still lives in rural areas, with little access to eye care.  Usually, there is no resident eye doctor, and a cataract patient might travel 250 miles to have surgery. 

 From the beginning of Aravind Eye Care System in the 1970s, its founder, Dr. G. Venkataswamy, traveled to rural villages to bring eye care to the rural poor.  His early efforts have evolved into an enormous community outreach effort; in 2014, we screened more than 558,000 people through 2600 eye camps.

Eye camps provide essential care to people living in the most remote, poorest parts of the country.  We work in close partnership with community organizers to publicize the camps.   Aravind doctors and nurses travel to rural villages to examine patients, treat common ailments, prescribe glasses, and recommend surgery for those who need it. 

Today, about one-third of Aravind’s surgical patients come from eye camps.  But in the early days, a lot of people didn’t show up for their “free” surgeries.  Why not?   

It turns out “free” can be very expensive to the average Indian worker, who has to pay for transportation and take off time from work, losing a day’s wages.  A blind beggar told us, “Your ‘free’ surgery costs me 100 rupees.”

We learned that we had to address all the barriers that people might face in accessing eye care – even when it’s free!  So, Aravind revised the eye camp program to include transportation to and from the hospital, food and medicines, and a follow-up visit in their village at no cost to the patient.   Now more than 80% of patients who are diagnosed with cataracts at an eye camp come to Aravind Hospital for surgery and receive the gift of sight!

Cataract patients at Aravind


Importance of Training Local vs. Importing Foreign
By Tom Neill - Operations Director

Alfunsi & Owen reading an x-ray in the ED
Alfunsi & Owen reading an x-ray in the ED

GECC has developed a sustainable, train-the-trainer model that educates nurses to become Emergency Care Practitioners (ECPs) to provide quality acute care in order to save lives. However, this train-the trainer model was not the initial model that GECC developed to increase access to acute care in Uganda. Our original model was a failure and taught us some very important lessons about education, capacity development, health system strengthening, and international development in Uganda. We attribute our initial failure to our continued success today.

In the beginning, Global Emergency Care Collaborative was founded to help raise funds to construct an emergency department at a small, rural hospital in southwestern Uganda. The GECC founders, four emergency physicians from the U.S., thought that opening an emergency department would drastically reduce the incidence of preventable morbidity and mortality in the surrounding communities. After the construction of the only emergency department in all of Uganda, a U.S. emergency physician, working for a different non-profit organization, was slated to volunteer at the hospital for a three-year period. According to the original plan, this physician was going to manage the day-to-day operations of the new emergency department and train the providers at the hospital in emergency care.

Looking back, one of the most surprising aspects of our plan to us was the lack of long-term vision. We knew the positive impacts that a functioning emergency department would have on preventing deaths from malaria, pneumonia, trauma, and other sources, but we were very green when it came to the long-term planning of a sustainable program that would earn the trust and buy-in of the local community. The plan from the outset was to have a foreign emergency physician at the hospital for the first three years to get the program up and running and provide training to local providers, although no formal curriculum was created.

What unfolded is the physician and his family arrived in Uganda shortly after the emergency department opened, and for personal reasons, they were forced to return home a month later. We had a newly constructed emergency department in rural Uganda with no one trained to run it. After intense self-reflection and dialogue, we determined that a program that was dependent on one individual was in no way a sustainable way forward.

Our solution was to train an inaugural class of local providers with a formal curriculum. Not only were local nurses trained in the necessary clinical skills, but they were also trained to become educators to teach the incoming classes of nurses. By designing and implementing a train-the-trainer model, GECC developed a replicable model that serves as a model for emergency medicine development in other similar resource-limited settings.

Although our failure was a problematic beginning for the organization, it forced us to strategically rethink our mission and vision to design a program that is successful, replicable, scalable, and affordable. We learned about the importance of long-term planning and engaging the local community and used this initial failure as a springboard for inventive problem solving and creative visioning. Had we not learned from this failure, our organization would not have learned the importance of building local capacity through education, and the 25,000 patients that have been treated in the past several years would not have received the life-saving care they desperately needed.

We are writing you today because today is a very important day for GECC. Today and today ONLY GlobalGiving is matching every donation (up to $1,000) to GECC by 30%. Starting at 9am Eastern, every dollar you donate will provide us with $1.30 to expand our work training ECPs to provide life saving care in resource limited settings. We are at a critical juncture as our expansion in Nairobi, Kenya needs $100,000 to move forward and our scaling up in Uganda needs a similar amount to get the program up and running at one of Uganda's ten Regional Referral Hospitals. We plan to fund these expansion programs with a combination of grants and donations from people like you - so every dollar counts! Donate HERE

Thank you for your continued support and for creating sustainable change and improving the lives of others around the world. We assure you that your hard earned dollars will be used to expand our life saving ECP training programs in Uganda and Kenya. As always, please tell your friends and family about the important work that you are doing through your support of GECC and ask that they get involved as well. Together we continue to change lives.

Defeat into Victory!

Maitri Ghar and Ageing Resource Centre

Maitri Ghar and Ageing Resource Centre

Dear Maitri friend,

We are most delighted to let you know that the construction of Maitri Ghar and Ageing Resource Centre is finally complete! Congratulations to each one of you on being part of this huge success!

Currently the ground floor is complete, with beds and cupboards purchased, enabling 30 widows to be moved in. The sewage line has also been put in place permitting us to shelter another 30 widows shortly.  Traditional (Madhubani) Indian paintings of Lord Krishna and Radha adorn the prayer halls where widow mothers can freely pray each evening as part of their daily devotions. Those who are residing there are continued to being served a daily mid day meal along with provision of other basic necessities. 

With winter round the corner, Maitri is also preparing to procure blankets, comforters, sweaters, shawls and other essentials to help widow mothers in Vrindavan brace the biting cold season.

In the midst of this success, we look back and see how far we have come, the gaps we have filled, the obstacles we have crossed and how the effects that had been felt in the past have influenced where we are today. We wanted to share a part of this journey with you that you may know how big of an achievement you are part of. 

Our project in Vrindavan started in July 2010 with a promising note. We aspired to restore dignity and respect to as many abandoned and destitute widow mothers through the provision of food and basic necessities. Later in May 2011, Maitri signed an agreement to maintain a Government Old Age Home in Vrindavan. For a time, the programme worked well and we were able to provide services to the widows how ever, none of the funding came through from the State Government as promised.  Unable to meet the needs of the women living at the Home due to lack of resources, we were left with no choice but to let go of our services at the Government home in July 2013. Discouraged by this experience, Maitri transitioned to independently providing services to other abandoned and destitute widows across Vrindavan. This wasn’t easy.

In July 2012 Maitri was featured on "Satyamev Jayate," a popular TV show in India and was generously funded by viewers and The Reliance Foundation for our work with abandoned widows. This opportunity enabled Maitri to buy land to construct our own “Maitri Ghar and Ageing Resource Centre” in Vrindavan. 

Till date Maitri has not been paid by the State Government for the tenure we served at the Government Old Age Home however today we chose to focus on the fact that we have been able to build our own home and that too in a record time of one year. Maitri Ghar is not only going to give abandoned widows a home but also provide them with a loving environment where they can live together and grow.

Adequate space has been catered to incorporate the most unique feature of our home, an Ageing Resource Centre. On completion, this edifice will be one of a kind in the country addressing all aspects of ageing. One of the facilities of the Ageing Resource Centre will be an empowerment project for resident widows, which will include making of incense sticks, beads and organic soaps.  Further to this, the Centre will also carry out research and policy analysis on the aged and related issues.  Finally, we are also happy to announce that Maitri is in the process of partnering with two Hospitals and a University to provide training for old age care. Campus enrollment will commence in due course.

Today we want you to know that had we never gone through the setback with the Governement Old Age Home in the past we would have probably not envisioned building something of our own. Today, we want to thank you for extending a helping hand in making this big dream a reality. We are pleased to have taken this initiative with you and look forward to your continued support to sustain the achievement you are so largely a part of. 


No matter how much you love an idea, it pays to be flexible.

FAF Hats for Sale at Art Market

FAF Hats for Sale at Art Market


Fabrics is our middle name.  Well, sort of.  We are Fabulous African Fabrics, founded in 1999 to make and sell items made from imported African textiles, raising funds for widows and orphans in Kenya. We were crafters and artists enthusiastic about African textiles and how we could make beautiful items out of them.  Proceeds went to a Kenyan Orphanage, The Good Samaritan Children’s Home.   By 2010 the passion for fabrics was ripping our foundation apart.

Selling at art markets, bazaars, and craft fairs was no longer viable.  After the Twin Towers came down, exotic textiles became suspect.   Crowds looked, but no one bought.   Enter the recession when fancy linens, jewelry and clothing were luxuries for the cash-strapped middle class.  Textile prices rose.  How many times did we hear “Your work is beautiful,” as people hurried past our booth, afraid to stop where they might feel the temptation to buy? 

Our work was so closely tied to the street fairs--our interest in surface design, and the crowds of people whom we met and talked to about our mission--it was hard to give up.  Earnings fell and fell until 2013 when our sales broke even with our costs.  I learned from reading Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits (Bray) that no fundraiser should cost more than 7% of the profits.  That was it. This summer we called it quits.  FAF still sells hats and silk scarves when contacted, and participates in a large craft fair in Spokane each year; but our long days at the craft fair and sewing machine are done.  No matter how much you love an idea, it pays to be flexible.

In 2010 we joined GlobalGiving, filling the hole in our budget. We enjoy exchanges with other non-profits and NGO’s on line, and being a part of a worldwide group through membership in GlobalGiving UK.  The boys and girls of the Good Samaritan Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya remain in good hands.

Hats for Sale, Hats for Sale!

Hats for Sale, Hats for Sale! 

New Life for the Girl's Rescue Center

The Rescue Center and Site of the Academy
The Rescue Center and Site of the Academy

Several years ago, Expanding Opportunities was seeking the best way to assist the girl child. We sought the input of successful Kenyan women. FGM, female genital mutilation, early forced marriage and girl child education topped the list.   Along with community members, it was decided that a rescue center was needed to ensure a safe place for girls to be while they were educated. Research, meetings, agreements and a location in a supportive community, and our new project to assist Pastoralist Girls was begun. We conducted a successful community education day, rescued girls and continued to add sponsored pastoralist girls but the funding journey for the rescue center was long, tiresome and unfruitful for quite a while. After a few years we were awarded a grant to build the center! The Community Based Organization signed the agreement and the work began. Many things had changed and people had moved forward in other directions. It wasn’t long before we discovered that the CBO would be unable to hold their part of the agreement so the construction plans were rapidly scaled down. A bit fearful to admit the changes in the agreement, they continued to hope we would change. The agreement stated they were to operate the Center after construction. They hoped we would operate the center. In the end the Center was built, not to completion but to a stage it could be occupied. Expanding Opportunities placed a woman in the center and one rescued girl and left it for the CBO to operate. They were unable to operate the center so the project, though still funding rescued girls, was not making proper use of the Center.

Expanding Opportunities learned a great deal from this stalled project. We continued to work in the community and kept lines of communication open.  Slowly all the members of the CBO understood what had happened and understood that we were still committed to the community and the girl child.

When a church asked that we build a school in memory of a parishioner, we explored three rural areas. The community where the Rescue Center is located pressed to be selected. Because of our ongoing relationship and their eagerness to have us, their community was selected.

We have both learned a great deal:

1. Agreements need to be clearly discussed with ALL individuals in a group to assure total understanding in as many language groups as represented.

2. Keep the lines of communication open always. State and restate what you can and cannot do clearly and often.

3. Misunderstandings are bound to come. Working across and through different languages, cultures, needs and dreams makes a rocky path. Keep your organizations’ mission in the forefront.

3. Don’t Give Up. Change, mold, reform but don’t give up!

 We dissolved the MOU for the rescue center, obtained legal possession of the land and Expanding Opportunities is building the school on the site of the rescue center and will incorporate Girl Child Rescue into the school program.

As they say in Kenya – “We must persevere.”

Filmmaking training in East Africa

Hot Sun Foundation graduates training others

Hot Sun Foundation graduates training others

Fail Forward: the construction continues

Options For Homes Caterpillar ....

It is hard to believe that we did not meet up with our great objective of finishing the construction work of the first floor of The Home For The Vulnerable Children in Limbe. This has been due to the following reasons:

1) The majority of the staff of our organization have had lookwarm attitudes towards Globalgiving.

2) Total reliance on the founder to solely continue her project of the construction work by offline donors.

3) The organization suffered from heavy reverse of frudulent donations made by an anonymous credit card hacker in conplicity with one former volunteer of the organization. This made many staff to lost faith in Globalgiving.

However, we resolved to holding a series of meetings and seminars with our staff members not to accept any further negotiation with a donor who wants to make donations through us in Globalgiving and then afterward the money will be shared with the donor. We also came up with the idea that we will continue to do genuine campaign for funds to spend on this construction work.

Despite all this failures, we are encouraged to let you know that OPTIONS FOR HOMES Cameroon has not been sleeping. Options For Homes recently used their new caterpillars to escavate the surroundings of the new orphanage ready for landscaping. The Building now has its  clear view from the main road. We hope that you will join us to take advantage of the next bonus day coming up on the 15th of October and the GlobalGiving End Of Year Campaign to complete this down floor and let the kids in this December.

Thanks once more for your support.

Expression of Joy on the completed deck.

Expression of Joy on the completed deck.

Founder talking about the next step with donors.

Founder talking about the next step with donors.


In November, 2012 Chinseu CBO Education Sector for Orphan and Vulnerable Children/Students realises funds short fall that turn be debits to three Community Day Secondary schools of MK120, 000. The schools are Mlomba CDSS,Chilangoma CDSS and Dziwe CDSS. These are the schools our Orphan Children learn. There is also school funds debits forwarded to Chinseu from four Primary Schools of MK30, 000 schools are Mlomba F.P. School, Kachere Full Primary School, Chilangoma F.P. School and Muonekera Junior Primary School. These debits occurred due to poor fundraising tools we were admitting during our fundraising campaigns, BUT the most failure of all is the one Chinseu CBO is openly sharing to our supporters.

Chinseu CBO organises a fundraising BIG WALK of 300 kms from Lunzu to Lilongwe, a journey that three years back. Last time we did the same big walk and yielded almost 61 percent of the targeted amount. Before the journey there were supporting events like Selected CBO Team moving around Blantyre City with one word Support An Orphan Child finish Middle Education. Chinseu CBO saw several Companies and Organizations expressing their pledges, and less amount of cash than expected. 

On 22 November, 2012 the Chinseu Community Gathered together of some of the speeches were to wish all the Best Lucky to our friends who Volunteered themselves to take a 300 kms journey inoder to raise funds that will help reconcile the debit Chinseu had at its Education Sector. The community did not just wait for our friends to do but at this Day people were contributing towards the same theme. On 23 November, 2012 our friends starts the journey again speaking one word Support an Orphan Child Finish Middle Education on 25 November, 2012 they reach the planned destination Lilongwe. On 26 November, 2012 our friends board Lilongwe - Blantyre Bus at the end of the day Chinseu realises it was a failure/ poor fundraising events of which we see only 13 percent of the targeted MK500,000 was collected.

1. Poor fundraising tools prepared by Chinseu CBO team we admits failure to preparation of the events.

2. The event were conducted  while our local currency Malawi Kwacha was not stable to US$ exchange rate always our currency were going down against US$, that contributed to commodities prices hike/gone-up.

On 29 November, 2012 the Chinseu CBO Team meets to review the outcome of our fundraising. This Report Title; Successs begns at Home and many people says  WHEN THE MAIN DOOR IS CLOSED FOR YOU LOOK FOR AN ALTERNATIVE ENTRY proved positive as everyone proposed to
look for an alternative way.

The meeting agreed to approach one of our local Musicians to join us during the Dinner fundraising events one to be at Lunzu Community Hall and the second one to be at Lirangwe TDC hall. Fortunately the musician agreed to help Chinseu CBO fundraise in all two venues,  the outcome was very encouranging as it was realized that it was 109 percent against the targeted amount of MK500,000. From that time Chinseu realizes that every time it planned fundraising events it has to making a research starting with looking on the available locally and internally resources then go for  external resources as there is a saying - CHARITY BEGINS AT HOME.

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