1. Tell us about your mission.
The mission of Giving Back To Africa is to educate and empower young people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), enabling them to become agents of change in their community and country. We work to fulfill our mission by partnering with Congolese educators in Mpasa II—a third-generation
refugee camp turned urban slum—to integrate 21st century leadership skills into the DRC
national curriculum and facilitate real-world learning and leadership experience through
Community Service Actions (CSAs). Malembe Rise (formerly Giving Back to Africa) helps
teachers and students to recognize and seize the opportunities they have to lead for change in a
country that, though burdened by issues of poverty, hunger, and violence, boasts a young,
capable population who can lead DRC into a bright future.
2. How is The West Foundation supporting your mission?
Since 2014, The West Foundation has brought power to our mission through financial support
3. Considering your impactful work to eliminate poverty, how is The West Foundation’s
philanthropic support providing you with sustainability and mobility?
Malembe Rise invests in people—not projects. We prioritize the long-term development of our
educators and students over the production of quick-fix programming. The long-term support
we’ve received from The West Foundation has equipped us with the financial resources
necessary to encourage professional development of teachers, through our provision of proper
wages and impactful trainings, and to educate and empower the students we serve through our
provision of real-world learning exercises such as the Student Learning Garden and assets-based
problem-solving activities called Community Service Actions (CSAs). The West Foundation’s
philanthropic support has allowed us to sustain and further develop these investments in the
Mpasa II community.
4. How are you realizing your potential?
Our commitment to fostering innovative, leadership-based learning has been showcased
especially well during the turmoil of the Covid-19 pandemic. When schools shut down in the
DRC, the Ministry of Education produced educational programming through television and radio
platforms across the country. However, many of the Congolese, including many living in Mpasa
II, do not have access to electricity and were left unable to provide education for their children
through the government offering. The Malembe Rise team in the DRC, however, quickly adapted
to the unprecedented circumstances of the pandemic as our educators conducted door-to-door
visits to students’ homes to ensure they could continue learning during the lockdown. Though
the pandemic has challenged our organization in many ways, it has also proved that Malembe
Rise exhibits the problem-solving skills and spirit of innovation that is seen throughout DRC.
5. What’s one important thing you want others to know about your organization?
Malembe Rise is an organization dedicated to collaboration—to walking alongside one another
rather than doing for, and to encouraging the realization of agency among those with whom we
work. We strive to amplify local voices as we acknowledge that locals are the experts of both the
issues and the assets in their communities. We believe in the responsibility for each of us, staff
and board, to unlearn our biases and embrace listening and growing in our understanding of the
complexities and beauty of cross-cultural work. We reject the “West-always-knows-best”
mentality as we firmly believe that change-making initiatives must be embraced and advanced
by local leadership in the DRC for the change to be appropriate and sustainable. We value
collaboration as we work together to further our mission. By supporting teachers, we invest in a
positive future for a strong DRC and a better world. May we all embrace the spirit of Ubuntu, “I
am because you are.” May we work together to achieve equity through education.
6. How can people reading this help you?
Use your voice to bring education to the forefront of philanthropic investment. Whether in DRC
or in the US, education is the answer to a better world for all. Share our work with your family
and friends! Donate or host a fundraiser! Acts of generosity, big or small, are both inspiring and
impactful! Attend one of our events this year. We seek to come together several times per year
to discuss and engage with thought leaders and changemakers. Follow us on social media,
subscribe to our newsletter and be a part of the Malembe Rise community!
7. What are your deepest needs as an organization?
We are growing! This year, Malembe Rise will “graduate” our long time partner school to
expand our impact with another local school. We are looking for strategic partners who share
our vision and will join us in the next chapter of expansion and impact in Mpasa II. We believe
all children deserve a quality education–no matter where they live. We believe quality education
begins with great teachers.