[Klicke hier für die Deutsche Version]
This is part 1 of a 3-part blog series introducing the story and people behind Students for Amani. Stay tuned for the other articles and happy reading!
Being born and raised in a country where quality education, decent employment and social security are a given, is a privilege. It is especially a privilege when taking into account the living standards in many other places in the world.
Places where people don’t know if the next harvest will be enough to feed their family. Places where people don’t know if they will be able to pay their children’s school fees. And places where someone’s fate is largely determined by external factors and not by one’s own choices.
The hardship that children suffer in disadvantaged communities is a situation that Students for Amani set out to change. Amani is the Swahili word for harmony and peace which are core attributes to the organization’s work. The non-profit founded by a diverse group of students has the ambition to provide transparency, impact and tangible progress in the world of charity.
So far they have collected more than €7,000 in donations that directly contributed to pay children’s school fees and materials in an orphanage in Kenya. But according to the team that’s just the beginning. They say that once you feel the satisfaction of unconditional giving, there is hardly a way back.
So who are the people behind Students for Amani and how do they fulfill their mission? In the first article of this 3-part introductory blog series, we will take a look behind the scenes.
The founding story
In 2018, Anissa, Camille and Julia met each other through their studies and one day discussed how they could create and work on a meaningful project next to their academic life. Having grown up and living in Western Europe, they were aware of their fortunate upbringing being able to access quality education and comfortable living standards.
Since we are so accustomed to the thought of free basic education, it can be hard to grasp what it would feel like not to go to school due to excessive school fees. In a world where diplomas are given a much higher weight than attitude the consequences are far-reaching. Education is typically the gateway to a brighter future.
As they have experienced first-hand, wealth is distributed unequally in the world. While some people have seemingly endless resources, others lack the most essential ones.
Despite the existence of many charitable donors, this situation still persists in the world. The use of donations to cover overhead costs, lack of transparency and fraud make for an uncredible image of large charity organizations.
Consequently, the team validated a core hypothesis. On the one hand, many people are eager to donate to a charity for a good cause but face the difficulty of finding a reliable and trustworthy association. On the other hand, there are various small organisations around the world that work on great projects, however, they are not visible to the average donor.
That’s how the three girls came up with the idea to be an intermediary connecting local community projects and donors who are on the lookout for reliable and transparent charities. This setup makes for an effective agency model. Local project teams know best how to carry out their work on-site while Students for Amani steps in to cover the financial needs for these projects to ensure their continuation.
In search of a supportive and reliable team Yunus, Luca, Olivia and Josephine joined in the beginning stages. The mission was clear: raise awareness of small-scale and transparent projects that support children and youth rights in order to connect them with sponsors and donors from around the world. Students for Amani was born.
With a complementary set of skills, the team set out for an exciting but sometimes bumpy ride without ever losing track of their goal. As you can imagine, setting up a non-profit organization from scratch presents many challenges and uncertainties, especially when taking into account a lack of external funding.
Essential legal matters need to be taken care of, awareness needs to be raised, members have to juggle their academic and work schedules, and the list goes on. To support the expansion after a year of existence and to organize more fundraising events two more people joined the team, Philipp and Paulina.
Why Students for Amani is not just another charity
Students for Amani puts an emphasis on sustainable, small-scale, high-impact projects that tackle issues related to children and teenagers at the local level. The bottom-up philosophy is Student for Amani’s defining principle in selecting projects as their beneficiaries. As the team believes in access to equal opportunities with a life full of possibilities ahead, young people are the target of their donations.
The most important element of a charity is the donations because without donors you cannot make an impact. So here’s how Students for Amani does it:
Through a multitude of fundraising events like charity bake sales, social media campaigns and their website, the non-profit collects donations. But before actually putting the donated money to use, Students for Amani decides on a specific cause to be targeted within a project. In this way, they ensure that donors know a priori which tangible effect their money will have on a local level.
In the case of the first supported project called Makungu, a Kenyan care home for orphans, the donations serve to pay for children’s school fees and uniforms on a quarterly basis. Yet, education is only one out of many causes that Students for Amani wishes to support in order to offer a broad set of options to which to donate.
Trust and transparency are the centerpieces of Students for Amani’s value proposition. In the end, money intended to pay a child’s education is a very precious thing to handle. Therefore, all team members work on a voluntary basis while overhead costs are paid by them. This means that 100% of the donations end up at the beneficiaries unless a donor has explicitly chosen to cover administrative expenses.
This is the part you have been eagerly waiting for. Get to meet the faces behind Students for Amani and the work they are doing.
Anissa - Co-chair a.k.a. Our driver and motivator
“I have family in developing countries and know how hard it is to break out of the poverty cycle. This is a crucial driver for me to support projects that have an impact on children and young adults so that they can build a better future not only for themselves, but for their communities.
I realised that there are people that would like to donate to an NGO, but often hesitate because they do not clearly know what their money is invested in. With Students for Amani it is possible to choose the exact cause of a donation while seeing how the specific project develops.
Within the organization, I oversee the team and maintain direct contact with the representatives of the projects we support. My fellow teammates would describe me as a joyful and energetic soul with an organized and ambitious style of work. My long-term vision for Students for Amani is to improve our organisational structure so that we are able to grow and support more projects.”
Luca - Co-chair a.k.a. Our calm soul
“I have been involved in fundraising and development work for many years so when Students for Amani came into my life I did not think twice about whether to join the initiative.
Many community projects do not have the resources to launch awareness campaigns leading to achieve a higher impact. They often see themselves at a crossroads due to inconsistent cash flows while trying not to abandon their work. With Students for Amani these small-scale projects maintain their impactfulness on individual lives of children.
As co-chair I am leading the team organisationally and strategically together with Anissa while improving internal processes and communicating to project stakeholders. My long-term vision for the project is an established and well-known platform where people can choose to donate to various projects.”
Yunus - Treasurer a.k.a. Our diplomat and financial backbone
“The thought of helping disadvantaged people has always been with me. But from time to time I wondered where my contribution could have the most impact and how I could make sure to know where exactly the donation ends up.
With Students for Amani we would like to cooperate with several partners in the future, who we believe form a trustworthy and impactful portfolio of projects. We offer smaller organisations an advertising platform/scope while making donors feel very close to the beneficiaries and seeing them develop.
As treasurer, I am responsible for financial accounting and ensuring a safe and 100% transparent processing of the donations. In doing so, we inform our donors about donation income and donation targets every step of the way.
I hope in the future we will be able to support other organizations besides Makungu e.V. through a resilient organizational structure.”
Camille - Legal Affairs a.k.a. Our optimist
“During my studies I received insights into the workings of charity organizations as well as the challenges related to children’s rights around the world. Being aware of incidences of fraudulent behavior from large NGOs including their lack of transparency, I proactively try to counter this.
Together with my teammate Phillip, I am in charge of all legal aspects of the charity. This involves drawing up contracts with partners, clarifying legal questions and ensuring that the charity operates within the legal limits. With my contribution, I want to turn Students for Amani into a well-functioning and sustainable organisation that can make a lasting and meaningful impact on the projects that it supports.”
Julia - Marketing & Social Media a.k.a. Our smile and idea generator
“Access to education largely affects a children’s vulnerability in society. In the fight to break down institutional barriers, I want to use my resources and energy to support others in achieving their dreams.
By targeting our efforts to underprivileged children, I aim to contribute to their empowerment and independence that are so important for a brighter future.
On a daily basis, I manage social media accounts, creating written and visual content to keep in touch with our community. Additionally, I initiate contact with external stakeholders to meet our organizational needs. My long-term vision for Students for Amani is to build a reliable and transparent organisation that supports those in need.”
Olivia - Marketing & Social Media a.k.a. Our Miss sunshine
“I have always wanted to reach out to communities where kids might not enjoy the same privileges as me, simply due to the fact they were born in a different country where free education is far from the reality.
Working for Students for Amani shows me that a small group of people with the right mindset can significantly contribute to equal opportunities for children, regardless of their race, gender or background.
Within the marketing sphere, I am responsible for graphic design and corporate identity in order to streamline the communications of our association. I want people to know which exact values Students for Amani stands for and how we consistently try to tackle inequalities.”
Students For Amani is the expression of human kindness, a story of young changemakers challenging the status quo and aiming to provide equal opportunities one step at a time.
Are you hooked and want to contribute to their mission? Be part of their community of donors and provide a brighter future to disadvantaged children.
Stay tuned for the second part of the blog series, Meet the project coordinator!
This post was written by Max Kückels. Visit his personal blog to check out more of his work.