Archive for June, 2012

After First Year, Tested Nonprofit Renews Pledge to Create Jobs In Cameroon

June 18th, 2012 by bobebill

Peace Tree Africa Underscores Development Pledge Amid Tough Economic Conditions

Ask Peace Tree Africa founder Tara Smith what those words mean, and she’ll refer you to her website, which asks for funds needed to create sustainable jobs for 20 family providers in Cameroon, West Africa.

“It’s easy to think of your own plight and sit on money or spend it on a latte,” she says. “But the reality is that people need assistance everywhere. That’s why I started Peace Tree Africa.”

The 26-year-old Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and Texas native recently commemorated one year in business for her organization, which acquired 501(c)3 nonprofit status and tax-exemption this time last year.

By all indications, Smith put that tax-exemption – a hard-won stamp of approval from state and federal authorities that she obtained after close to two years – to good use.

While juggling three part-time jobs, she raised more than $3,000 in small and in-kind contributions in July last year to retrofit a 200-student orphanage in Badzuidjong, Cameroon, with solar power.

“It was a wonderful experience,” she says of the project, which she dubbed Light in Sight. “That was the first source of sustainable energy for the village in its entire history.”

But like others caught in a down economy, Smith came to understand the difficulty involved with calling for contributions to a cause overseas.

Figures seem to suggest she isn’t the only development leader to face tough financial headwinds. According to GlobalHumanitarianAssistance.org, the level of unmet needs for humanitarian funding in 2010 rose to $4.2 billion for the United Nations, a rise of nearly 7 percent over the last five years.

Smith’s campaign to create jobs in Cameroon contends with recent news that the U.S. economy added fewer jobs in May than in April. She admits that current conditions make doing good – even in a country that currently ranks 146 times below the United States on the UN Human Development Index – even harder.

So far, her campaign to create jobs for 20 families has netted a little more than $1,000 in donations – far below what she says Peace Tree Africa needs to facilitate livelihoods and market access for families in Cameroon.

Still, she feels encouraged by the project’s progress so far and by the words of the person who founded the Peace Corps.

“‘Everyone can make a difference, and everyone should try,'” she says, quoting John F. Kennedy. “We’ll create 20 jobs in Cameroon and make a difference, sustainably, even in a cautious economy.”

ABOUT PEACE TREE AFRICA

Peace Tree Africa is a first-of-its-kind nonprofit organization that aims to make the world a safer, better place by financing development projects in sub-Saharan Africa. The organization competitively selects project proposals from around Africa with criteria that include social and economic sustainability, project feasibility, and cultural sensitivity. Peace Tree Africa subsidizes 75 percent of the cost of projects, requiring the remainder in financial and in-kind contributions from select communities.

To learn more about Peace Tree Africa, visit www.peacetreeafrica.org.

Media Contact:
Ryan Schuette Peace Tree Africa, 9403903729, contact@peacetreeafrica.org
################################

After Two Years, Irving Native Returns to West Africa to Complete ‘Light in Sight’ Initiative
BY IRVING WEEKLY STAFF

Irving, Texas. July 27, 2011 –

For Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and Irving resident Tara Lynn Smith, a promise to her village is a promise she planned to keep, even if she had to juggle three part-time jobs.

Smith, 25, gathered with friends and family at Empa Mundo Thursday to celebrate a promise kept and her recent return from Cameroon, where she retrofitted a 60-student orphanage with solar power in tiny Bandzuidjong—a feat which she funded by collecting over $3,000 in direct and in-kind individual contributions.

“This was an exhilarating—if sometimes difficult—project, and I am thrilled to finish it,” Smith says. “Finally, Bandzuidjong has light. Sixty orphans and their community members will be able to read, see, and do more at night, thanks to a few solar panels.”

The project caps her “Light in Sight” initiative, the first such project for Peace Tree Africa (PTA), the 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization she founded upon returning from Cameroon in 2009.

For Smith, it also represents the culmination of a pledge she made to Bandzuidjong residents two years ago by agreeing to come back with a sustainable solution to their energy needs.

With Kentaja Orphanage able to provide light during dark hours, the 100-plus residents of Bandzuidjong—a remote village lacking in basic infrastructure like roads and power grids—will be able to learn and communicate when the sun goes down without relying on outdated and sometimes dangerous forms of energy, like kerosene lanterns and stove light.

“Light is so important to a small community like Bandzuidjong,” Smith adds. “If a child falls sick from malaria, or someone suffers from a sudden injury, families in the community need a place to gather. Kentaja Orphanage can now make that place a visible one.”

According to the World Bank, nearly 589 million people across Africa lack consistent electricity access. A report by the International Energy Agency adds that by 2030 the number of energy poor will jump to 700 million—with one in three relying on kerosene and other unhealthy energy sources that make communities susceptible to fire outbreaks.

Smith facilitated “Light in Sight” from start to finish by making contact with solar power provider Acrest, negotiating a sustainable shared-cost plan with Kentaja benefactors and Bandzuidjong residents, and rallying donors with YouTube videos and Facebook posts.

Friends and admirers who came to know through her videos provided her with individual contributions that ran from $5 to $150. An American Airlines employee halved her airfare—a bulk of the costs—by sponsoring her for a standby ticket to London.

Smith collected the donations and managed her project while working three part-time jobs, which included her roles as a call center representative, part-time teacher and sales associate at the Galleria in Dallas.

Asked how she managed three jobs and an international project, Smith quotes Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “’There’s only one way to eat an elephant: one piece at a time.’”

“We ate that elephant,” Smith told her donors in a YouTube video before her July departure.

Founded in 2009, Peace Tree Africa is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization that aims to fund sustainable development projects across Cameroon.