Kulanu’s board recently affirmed our goal of doing economic development work in selective situations. When deciding whether to get involved in a new project, we consider the community’s cohesiveness, requests (initiative), needs, and ability to manage funds and carry out a project. We then consider the ways in which we can ensure long-term benefit to the community from the project, which is where sustainability comes in. Here are a few examples of how we are encouraging sustainable development in Jewish communities worldwide:
- In 2001, Kulanu’s president Harriet Bograd visited Sefwi Wiawso in Ghana. She loved the colorful fabrics used for clothing and decorations, and asked Ben Baidoo, the community tailor, to make her some challah covers to use as gifts. Harriet and her husband donated $1,000 of seed funding, meaning that Kulanu have been able to sell embroidered challah covers and Kente cloth tallitot created within the Ghanaian Jewish community. Of more than $50,000 raised in sales, the community has reinvested much of this money to grow the business and build a guest house and they have also used it for community needs. You can get your own here [link to http://www.kulanuboutique.com/sefwi-wiawso-ghana/] to keep this sustainable development going!
- In Zimbabwe, in 2016 there was a serious drought, adding to the uncertainty faced by a country in political crisis with over 90% unemployment. Kulanu volunteers created fundraising pages to raise funds for an emergency food fund for the Lemba Jewish community in Harare. To minimize the risk of needing this kind of short-term aid in the future, we then worked with community leaders to develop a crop drip-irrigation system to allow the synagogue members to become self-sustaining in food. When Kulanu was approached by two teen foundations who were looking for proposals related to the environment and at-risk children, Modreck (Lemba community leader) and his volunteer mentors were ready with the research and plans to add new projects for soil and water conservation. They were awarded $18,000 in grants, and started work on the new phase in the summer of 2017.
- In summer 2017 a donor came to Kulanu who wanted to know how to respond to reports of hunger in Uganda. We were able to plan a program for serving meals while our Kulanu Global Teaching Fellow was volunteering in the Nasenyi community. After our Fellow left, the community got to work planning a pilot agriculture program. They worked alongside an agronomist and an accountant to ensure improved farming practices and stronger community governance and accountability.
- Even when a sustainable development project doesn’t work out perfectly, the skills and ideals that the community gains in the process can bear fruit in the future. In Uganda, Yoash Mayende worked on a grain mill project that didn’t end up succeeding, but he has gone on to found the Tikkun Olam School for more than 200 children in Namutumba.