Last week, San Antonio received a dynamic group of African NGO leaders and activists who brought their myriad perspectives on nonprofit development, partnership building, and social change to their professional appointments. The 14 visitors came from 13 different African countries including Benin, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe among others.
The group began by meeting with Scott McAninch of the Nonprofit Council at Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Antonio. Mr. McAninch was able to dive into how the Nonprofit Council is able to represent the local NGO industry and harness their collective power for better policy, fundraising, and action. He also shared with them the signature effort of the Nonprofit Council: Big Give SA. The Big Give is a day of giving that seeks to unite hundreds of local charities under one common day of giving where individual donors, businesses, and groups are encouraged to donate to their favorite causes. The tremendous success of the project inspired our visitors to adopt similar methods in their respective countries. While meeting with Mr. McAninch at the Big Brothers Big Sisters offices, they were also able to talk to Armen Babajanian about the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the impact such mentor programs have on young people. Some visitors who work with youth in their organizations were intrigued to hear about the best practices uncovered by Mr. Babajanian throughout his career.
After meeting with Mr. McAninch and Mr. Babajanian last Thursday morning, the group departed for lunch at North Star Mall, and then returned for programming that afternoon at the Children’s Shelter. The Children’s Shelter is a regular stop for many different types of IVLP delegations that SACIV handles, and Anais Miracle, their Chief Public Relations Officer, always graciously welcomes the delegations. Last Thursday was no exception, as the 14-strong delegation of visitors and their four liaisons were welcomed to enjoy fresh fruit and a captivating presentation from Ms. Miracle about the family of services that the Children’s Shelter provides. After exploring some of their programs and successes, the group then toured their 10-acre campus and saw the variety of recreational, residential, health, and therapeutic facilities they have to offer. Everyone was thoroughly impressed by the scale and demonstrable compassion of the Children’s Shelter’s work.
Concluding their appointments in the community for the day, the group returned to their hotel for a professional sharing session. This session allowed the visitors to exchange ideas amongst themselves that they had found of interest before coming to San Antonio. Before arriving on Wednesday, the group had been divided between three cities for a short time. The professional sharing session allowed the group to come together and share what they found most interesting from their time apart that others had not experienced.
The next day, the group began with an appointment at Haven for Hope. The downtown homeless shelter and resource center allowed the group to tour their sizable campus, discuss a variety of topics with the Director of Volunteer Services, Melody McCrea, and engage in a community service activity sorting donations. The sheer scale of the organization and what they offer to their residents impressed the visitors and allowed some insight into running a massive nonprofit with a variety of programs.
After a break for lunch, the group met with Growing Empowered Together, a local nonprofit which encourages apathetic voters and citizens to get engaged in politics and society through art and various multimedia projects. Executive Director Lauren Browning led a discussion of how GET was organized and what major projects it has undertaken. Then, she was joined by Richard Wilmore, host of the Richard Wilmore Show, for some political trivia with the visitors. Lastly, Kinyo Laditan, a local poet, recited some of his work for the visitors. Mr. Wilmore and Mr. Laditan are active participants with GET and have contributed their talents toward the group’s programming. The visitors were fascinated to hear their perspective on civic engagement and using art as a means of bolstering it.
Lastly, the group traveled to Texas Riogrande Legal Aid where they could discuss their work in providing legal services to the underserved dealing with a variety of issues from immigration offenses, domestic violence, environmental hazards, wage theft, and more. Mr. Ricardo Roman and Mr. Enrique Valdivia led a discussion on their programs and the issues they tackle. The broad range of their purview created an engaging discussion on U.S. society and the intersection of civic-minded NGOs with societal issues.
Overall, the visitors were overjoyed with the scope of their appointments and the information they were able to learn through them. Many suggested emulating components or strategies of the nonprofit organizations they met with in their home countries. Regardless of where they came from or what their area of focus is, all found intriguing new ideas and a renewed desire to make the world a better place.