This is the first in a series of blog posts highlighting the work done by our volunteers. This week’s blog was written by Marie Levy, a member of our grants team.
“Woot woot!” A chorus of celebration rings out over the phone. There could be any number of things to celebrate: The submission of a grant application, the receipt of a grant award, an exciting update on program implementation; even personal news from individuals solicit celebrations.
These celebrations take place on weekly phone calls with a volunteer team of grant writers for the Asante Africa Foundation (AAF). Each week there are anywhere from four to eight people on the call. I have not met any of my fellow volunteers in person as I live in Chicago, far from the organization’s headquarters in California, and all business is conducted via conference calls and emails. On the calls we discuss ongoing research regarding possible funding sources, and the status of and next steps for grant applications, and hear program updates from Erna Grasz, Asante Africa Foundation’s founder and CEO.
I initially sought a volunteer opportunity with an organization working in Africa for two main reasons. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit my initial motivating reason was rather selfish. Having recently made a career shift from international development to higher education administration, I wanted to keep my toes in the international development world. I felt it would be good for my resume to stay involved, at least a little bit, in the international world in case I sought to return there professionally sometime in the future. Behind my resume driven focus, however, is my love for a part of the world where I have, over time, spent almost two years of my life. I have lived and worked and traveled back and forth to Tanzania for years. I have developed many friendships during those travels and a love for many things Tanzanian, including nyama choma (grilled meat) and bongo flava (a style of music). Thus, given the organization’s regional focus on Kenya and Tanzania, as a volunteer I could stay involved in a part of the world that is important to me.
Almost one year into my time as an Asante Africa Foundation volunteer, I remain committed, however, other motivations have been added to my list and now take top billing. Despite changes in my life that have limited the amount of time I have to dedicate to volunteering there is one primary reason why I continue to volunteer with the organization: the people involved. Erna, the staff, and the other volunteers are all inspiring in their work, their personal outlooks on life, and their focus on the important work they do. The weekly volunteer calls are always uplifting, no matter the topic of conversation, as everyone seems to have a ‘cup half full’ approach to life and the work that we do. From the moment I joined the first call I felt a part of this extended family and truly felt welcomed. As my time as a volunteer has progressed, despite the fact that I have never once met anyone involved with the organization in person, I have felt comfortable and appreciated as part of the Asante Africa Foundation community. The organization is doing great work, led by a wonderful team of people in the U.S. and in Kenya and Tanzania. While I can only contribute a bit of my time, I am proud to play a small part.