Radio Silence

So much for last year's resolution to use my free time to post updates. I brainstormed and even drafted I don't know how many posts that never saw the light of day. I was just feeling a bit uninspired it seems. So, no promises for this year, but let's see what happens.

Like I mentioned in my last post I resigned my position at RSC in Jan 2014 in order to take a little break and return to my roots, helping small businesses and nonprofits through resource development, communications, and strategic planning. I relaunched my company, Makusudi Consulting, (as some of you know, I worked as a consultant in 2010 after leaving another position in the region and continued with short-term contracts before joining RSC) and returned to work as a full-time freelance consultant. I've enjoyed setting my own schedule and choosing projects that complement my talents.

The foundation I mentioned in my previous post finally came to fruition. A few of my friends had been discussing how, as expats, we would like to give back to our host community; but they did not feel as though they had the understanding of how to go about it in a responsible way to ensure the money actually benefited the organization rather than corruption. With my background in grant writing, fund compliance & reporting, and the nonprofit world it was on me to make this conversation a reality. I have always dreamed of working at a foundation and being the person who gets to give out the money instead of always asking for it so I jumped at the chance. 

We decided on the name Jumuia Foundation, a Kiswahili word meaning community, as a nod to the East African community that we had come to call home. It not only represents the communal support we receive from donors, but also the communities our partner NGOs work within. Our objectives include: 

1) being a resource to individuals, expats specifically, interested in donating money to charitable organizations within their host community, without a means to ensure their donations are being properly utilized
2) providing grants to established NGOs that work with refugees, youth, widows, orphans, disabled, and impoverished (just about everyone) communities in sub-Saharan Africa and the Asian sub-continent
3) encouraging established NGOs to scale up proven, sustainable, capacity-building programming in the fields of poverty alleviation and education
4) encouraging established NGOs to start up programming promoting human rights.

We decided that we wanted to focus on working with established NGOs rather than start-ups since, in my experience, there are many similar organizations providing the same services and programming that could be more productive if they just joined forces rather than splitting the available resources. We would rather help existing groups scale up their successful programs and become sustainable so they are less dependent on donor support in the future.

I spent much of my time from March-June meeting with industry leaders for guidance, researching and creating a slew of governance and policy documents, recruiting board members, and seeking feedback from legal advisers. On 13 June we filed a Certificate of Foundation with the Texas Secretary of State and gained recognition as a nonprofit corporation. We quickly received several concept notes from regional nonprofits based in Kenya and on 31 October we awarded our first grant! This has truly been a labor of love, but one of which I am most proud to be a part. 

Most importantly, these changes allowed me the freedom to travel for pleasure again. I visited India for the first time in February 2014 and saw the Taj Mahal, the Pink City, and so many museums and sites around Delhi. 

In March I was able to go home for my Papa's 90th birthday and visit family and friends. April through September was spent hanging around Kenya with friends and being touristy. I did take a few short trips to Lamu, Navaisha, Elementaita, and Ole Pejeta in Kenya and Arusha and Zanzibar in Tanzania. I also celebrated my birthday in true Greek decadence and celebrated a friend's wedding. 

In October I moved to Gurgaon, Haryana, India, just outside of Delhi. I needed a small break from the insanity that is life in Nairobi and this opportunity was just the thing to do it. During my time here, I've visited Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and Uttar Pradesh and celebrated numerous festivals, including Diwali, and vacationed in Dubai, UAE. 

So, dear readers, that was my year. Let's see where the new year takes us!