“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” —Nelson Mandela
To mark the close of their program year, Obama Leaders from across the African continent volunteered to design and implement collaborative service projects that positively impacted their local communities.
To build cross-cohort relationships, 2018 and 2019 Leaders came together by country to organize a service project. Each team selected a service project theme and focus that best met the needs of their local communities. With our team’s guidance, Leaders created projects that reflected the values of the Obama Foundation in a sustainable and scalable way.
Beginning the first week in July, Leaders from 20 nations across Africa implemented their services projects during a two-week period. From COVID-19 response efforts, including mask creation and distribution, to mental health support and food insecurity relief, the Leaders served over 4,500 people through their projects.
At a Glance: 2020 Service Projects’ Impact
Take a closer look at the Leaders’ inspiring projects below.
Service In Action
When Leaders from The Gambia sat down to develop their service project idea, it was critical for them to ensure that no one was left behind. The group of changemakers united to hand sew and provide 1,200 cloth face masks for every prisoner and prison officer in all three facilities in The Gambia.
In Côte d'Ivoire, Obama Leaders tackled food insecurity and weakened supply chains brought on by COVID-19 lockdowns across the country. The group created an SMS platform to help women, people living in rural communities, and people with disabilities to more easily access food products at prices up to 80 percent off. The platform allows users to order goods for direct delivery.
Obama Leaders in Nigeria provided 100 families across six districts of Lagos with food boxes, hygiene packs, workbooks, and radios to help children tune in to their remote schooling. They also awarded educator Mariam Babaloa a special plaque and a cash prize for her sacrifices to ensure that her students are engaged and supported during the lockdown.
Through their “Transforming Lives Through Internet Connectivity” project, Obama Leaders in Namibia did their part to bridge the digital divide. Leaders partnered with a local service provider to establish accessible and inexpensive Internet connectivity to a remote school and its surrounding households, clinics, and public institutions.
In Zambia, Obama Leaders collected books for their local school library and gathered hygienic products for students at Jennifer Memorial Special Community School, a learning center that provides free education for deaf children and children of deaf adults.
Leaders in Angola addressed food insecurity issues heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Save a Family Project safely helped distribute staple food items to underserved parts of the community.⠀
In Botswana, Leaders ensured front line workers fighting COVID-19 in their community knew they were appreciated. On top of personalized thank you messages for healthcare workers, the group also planned a game night for a local clinic once lockdowns concluded.
In Uganda, Obama Leaders united to support their nation’s next wave of leadership by organizing distance learning webinars, which provide young people with practical skills and resources that they need to run their organizations and grow their businesses. The target audience for the webinar series included emerging young leaders, entrepreneurs, and start-up founders.
Obama Leaders in Burkina Faso and Mauritania created a culture of civic engagement and community action among young people across West Africa. Through a series of community focused projects, including leadership training in schools, community clean ups, and blood donations, Leaders encouraged young people to embrace service and taught others how to advocate for and engage in positive social change.
In Zimbabwe, Leaders uplifted and supported the mission of The Drug-Free Young Generation program, which is committed to reducing the prevalence of drug abuse among young people. The Leaders amplified the organization’s online awareness and support campaigns, as well as advocated for reduced drug abuse and drug-related activities among students. In addition, Zimbabwean Leaders are taught youth life skills and addressed the importance of mental health and wellness.
Through their “Education Seed” project, Obama Leaders in Mozambique created a network of virtual reading clubs for children. They also launched a fundraising campaign to raise funds for local libraries. Their reading clubs run online once per week, and once lockdown ends, the Leaders intend to organize in-person reading clubs in schools.
Mauritian Obama Leader Lalita Purbhoo Junggee is the Founder of Eco Hustle Ltd., a company that manufactures upcycled bags and biodegradable sanitary napkins. In the wake of COVID-19 and the increased need and demand for protective masks, Lalita quickly mobilized her team to sew and distribute masks to her community members.
Through their “Angano angano arirarira” project—which translates to Tales in Malagasy—Leaders from Madagascar were inspired to revive the tradition of storytelling in their local communities. In traditional Malagasy culture, elders would often sit down with their children and grandchildren to share life lessons and values like respect, friendship, and integrity through tales and fables. To keep traditions alive, Obama Leaders in Madagascar recorded fourteen Malagasy tales and shared them with over 200 young people.
Valerio Thompson Boco from Equatorial Guinea is the Founder of the nonprofit Girl Child Empowerment Initiative, an organization focused on empowering girls through education, skill building, entrepreneurship, talent discovery, art, film, and culture. For his service project, Valerio and his team developed an online campaign to build awareness and fight against rape and rape culture. As part of his work, he brought together young people in his community to discuss how they can work together to end violence against women.
In Togo, Obama Leaders created the “Operation One House One Plant” service project to tackle deforestation. The initiative aimed to educate communities on the importance of the environment and equip young people with a plant to care for in their own homes.
With their “Masking Covid N Washing Covid Out” end-of-year service project, Obama Leaders in Liberia protected their communities from COVID-19 by distributing protective masks and promoting social distancing, hand washing, and other COVID-19 preventative measures.
Obama Leaders from South Africa and Lesotho united to raise awareness and provide information, tools, and support for the mental health and wellbeing of their fellow leaders in the Obama Foundation network and beyond. The inspiring changemakers created virtual safe spaces for participants to heal during this unprecedented time, all while becoming mindful leaders and mental health ambassadors who can relay the importance of wellness to their employees, coworkers, and beneficiaries.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, blood banks across Cabo Verde ran dry. To address the issue, Obama Leader Pedro Lopes created an online campaign and platform to encourage those in his network and community to donate blood. To help limit the number of people who would visit the hospital on a given date, Pedro’s online platform allowed users to plan which day and time they would visit clinics.
Obama Leaders in the Republic of the Congo joined local entrepreneurs, members of Marien Ngouabi University’s science and tech faculty, as well as the National Standards Agency, to locally produce 250 liters of certified hydro-alcoholic gel along with hands-free mechanical dispensers. 150 liters of the gel and several dispensers were distributed to schools and medical centers.
For their service project, Obama Leaders in Benin installed handwashing stations to ensure the families of park rangers could protect themselves from COVID-19. The group of Leaders also created public health campaigns to keep their communities informed on the symptoms of the virus as well as how to prevent transmission.