For 15 years, a St. Paul nonprofit has been bringing clean water, health care and education to several poor communities in Uganda and Kenya. This week it added something new: family-to-family connection opportunities between Minnesota and the two African nations.
In the months ahead, Give Us Wings Africa staff will visit people in their homes to learn what’s preventing children from going to school — a key priority for the nonprofit.
Maybe dad is too sick to work, so the children must earn money, said Therese Anderson, the nonprofit’s executive director. Maybe there’s a hole in the roof, and money is needed to repair that. Maybe the family’s fledgling business is stalled.
That’s where the family-to-family connections come in. Armed with detailed information, Give Us Wings will pair village families with U.S. counterparts who will provide financial support to address their obstacles. The recipients will correspond several times a year with progress reports — including their children’s report cards.
“Giving the whole family a chance to become economically self-sufficient is necessary for their children to escape poverty,” said Kevin Whelan, a longtime volunteer whose mother, Mary Steiner, started Give Us Wings in 1999.
“A long-term commitment between families here and there gives families a chance to do that,” he said.
Give Us Wings is the latest Minnesota nonprofit to add a person-to-person component. It comes after years of supporting schooling for kids, offering micro grants for start-up businesses and providing health care. Its clinics immunize more than 110 people each month, said Anderson.
“For those of us who have traveled to Kenya and Uganda, getting to personally know people and their struggles to overcome poverty has been a powerful experience,” said Whelan. “The family-to-family program will allow more people to relate to other families across the world who have their same hopes and dreams.”