Stories From Smaller Nonprofits: Isipho

12/24/2009

StarsYes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. ~ Francis Pharculles, The Sun

There are people who play Santa year long. Many bring their talents and hearts to the important work they perform for nonprofit causes. Throughout December Diva Marketing will highlight stories from smaller nonprofits that light the way for causes but rarely pull mentions in the main stream media. 

It's my wish that together we can help raise their visibility, perhaps find a new volunteer or even encourage a donation or two. Because as Laura King Edwards, Taylor's Tale, says, "Nothing should stand in the way of a dream."  Also the nonprofits that are using social media have agreed to share their strategies so we continue to learn together.

The Isipho Story

Miranda Lynch The story is told by Miranda Lynch who is the 15-year old co-founder and vice president of Isipho. Miranda's story is as much a part of the fabric of Isipho as the children she is passionate about helping.

My name is Miranda Lynch. I co-founded Isipho in December 2009 so I could do everything possible to improve the lives of the children in Nzinga, South Africa after visiting there in August 2008 while on vacation to celebrate my 14th birthday with my dad.

When we first got to Nzinga, all I wanted was to turn around and leave right away.  I had never experienced such hardship or poverty. It was really overwhelming.

But I didn’t have time to be overwhelmed, because the second I got out of the car, a girl my age handed me a saw and pointed to some wood. I understood that she wanted me to cut the wood; something I had no idea how to do, but was embarrassed to admit that, so I just started sawing. As the evening evolved, I realized that the wood I was sawing was the wood we needed to make a fire to cook our dinner. Just making and then cleaning up after dinner was such hard work and took so long that by the time we finished, I was exhausted and went straight to bed. I guess it’s good I was too exhausted to leave!

The next day my life was changed forever, because I met Amahle, the beautiful, smart, precocious two-year-old daughter of our host. Amahle doesn’t have the same opportunities in life that I do -  the opportunity to receive a quality education, the opportunity to have three healthy meals per day, and the opportunity to earn a living and support herself once she’s an adult. Amahle became my little shadow, and I came to love her like a little sister.

When we left Nzinga, I kept thinking about Amahle, and was determined to do all I could to change the inequality in her life; to do everything possible to give Amahle and every other child in Nzinga the opportunities that I believe every person deserves.

  • I know I’m just one American teenager, but I knew I had to at least try, and that I couldn’t just leave and never look back. When my mom and dad saw my passion for this, they agreed to help me help Nzinga overcome their biggest obstacles to a better life.

The municipality where Nzinga is located has identified severe and chronic malnutrition and illiteracy as two of the biggest contributors to the poverty in Nzinga. It seemed so simple to me that if they could grow their own fresh vegetables and had the proper resources to be able to receive an education, their lives would vastly improve. So we decided to start a non-profit to focus exclusively on this small village and to make a difference one child, one family, one food garden, and one classroom at a time.

I decided to name the nonprofit Isipho, which is the Zulu word for “gift,” and the nickname that Amahle gave to me because she couldn’t say “Miranda.” Our Isipho, or our gift, is to help the people of Nzinga create a better, self-sustaining community. 

We do not give them more hand-outs that just extend the cycle of dependence. We give them the tools they need to feed and educate themselves within five years without any outside assistance. Specifically, we provide them with fencing, gardening tools, seeds and gardening training so that they can learn how to garden for themselves, and be able to protect their gardens from grazing animals.They do all the rest. 

We also provide books, school supplies, educational toys and teacher training so that the kids in the village are all going to school and are learning when they get there. Before we started Isipho, only 44% of the villagers had ever attended any school at all, and only seven percent had ever graduated from high school. Our goal is to get 100% of the children in the village enrolled in school, and to increase graduation rates so that their poverty begins to improve.

In our first year we raised almost $20,000, and on just that limited amount of money we’ve been able to send:

~23 villagers through a 3 day sustenance gardening training program with the regional agriculture college.
~Provide fencing, tools and starter seeds for more than 500 square yards of community vegetable gardens
~Provide fencing, tools and starter seeds for 40 smaller, individual family garden

~Deliver over $3,000 worth of books, mathematics tools (calculators, protractors, etc.), and other needed school supplies.
~Encourage development of a local committee that will oversee and lead the programs going forward so that the villagers have ownership and ultimate responsibility for long-term success. More than half of the committee is comprised of women.

Isipho is run by me, my mom and my dad, so far on a 100% volunteer basis.

I’m founder and Vice President of the Board of Directors. I spend most of my time working on public relations and fundraising, and I’m also busy making a short film about Nzinga, using video footage that I shot this past August when we were in Nzinga building vegetable gardens and working in the schools.

My dad, Tom, is President of the Board.  He does marketing and fundraising, and is always spreading the word about Isipho.

My mom, Sheri, is Executive Director of Isipho. She handles all the day-to-day operations.

The three of us work together to plan all of the programs. We’re also putting together a really great Board of Directors right now.

It’s been really interesting to work together with my family like this. We’re a business, so we have weekly meetings, as well as quarterly planning sessions and an annual planning retreat. I’ve learned a LOT about what it takes to run a business, like how to do strategic planning, how to organize fundraisers, what it takes to do even a simple program, and a lot about business etiquette. Most of that I’ve learned by making mistakes and embarrassing myself. But that’s OK – that’s one of the nice things about learning all this stuff as a teenager – people are quick to forgive my mistakes!

Social Media Strategy

Social media is important for us, but also very natural. My dad has worked in digital marketing for a long time, and I’m 15, so I’m on it all the time. We have a limited budget, so social is a great way to spread the story and get people involved. It has been great for us, and also a lot of fun.

It also is a lot of work though, because you have to stay active. Sometimes we’ll find that too much time has passed before we’ve interacted, and other times we’ll find we’re all on our individual Facebook pages saying the same thing.

  • Sometimes being consistent and coordinated is not as easy as it would seem.

 Isipho logo
More About Isipho

Web site
Blog
Facebook page
Twitter
YouTube
Donation link

For the greater good sites from Miranda:: Idealist Gold Star

Read More Stories About Smaller Nonprofits

Trackbacks

Trackback url:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b4b169e20120a77876fd970b

Comments

Post a comment