By Layla Abdeljabbar
This Week on Hannah’s Desk / February 2, 2018
(NEW YORK, NY) Feb 2, 2018 — People often ask themselves how Non Profits operate? What do they do every day? This is a series of articles that will attempt to respond to these questions and give readers and potential funders a picture of how we operate, on behalf of those who have entrusted us with our humanitarian mission and support us financially.
With the start of the new year, the executive director of Palms For Life Fund, Hannah Laufer-Rottman, immediately began focusing her attention on two priorities: secure funding for a project in Swaziland and expand on current efforts in Namibia. The custom-developed project in Swaziland is mainly funded by the European Union (EU). This project works with 90 community childcare centers that provide service to about 3,000 very vulnerable children in Swaziland.
What makes a child vulnerable? Good question. In this case, children under six, who are either orphans or have already lost one parent to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has ravaged this small country over the last 30 years. Swaziland has the world’s highest estimated prevalence rate of HIV-infected adults! These families in Swaziland live in communities that have scarce resources to provide early childhood care and development (aka ECD). ECD is vital because it is the initial education that is essential to developing lifelong intelligence. It is during this crucial time period that a child’s social, emotional and physical development is most vulnerable (and has the most potential to be great).
Understanding and investing in young children’s development is critical. By providing them with all the tools they need, we are ensuring they grow into adults with the possibility of bright futures. On Hannah’s Desk is securing $150K that will allow Palms for Life to complete the largely EU-funded project in 2018. This may seem relatively easy from the outside, but for a small organization like Palms for Life Fund, it’s an incredible challenge. What happens if we don’t raise the funds? Providing a string of essential services for the small vulnerable children under 5 doesn’t look good. Building handwashing stations (which prevent diarrhea and other illnesses that affect young children living in poverty), decent child-friendly toilets, adequate cooking facilities, basic furniture (like tables and chairs in their classrooms); providing access to clean water and where possible, a better nutrition system with the help of vegetable gardens. In our lives, these are the basics, but, sadly, dramatically missing in the lives of these children who are born into poverty. We can all see how not having a toilet can directly affect their dignity.
Raising funds for valuable projects is one of the most difficult tasks that lie on Hannah’s desk 365 days per year. Seeking partners to collaborate and support valuable projects such as the one in Swaziland is always a top priority for Palms For Life…this year, especially.
The second priority on Hannah’s Desk is Palms for Life’s involvement with a project in Namibia. Hannah developed a valuable relationship with a private philanthropist in the United States, who is deeply committed to the survival and protection of the San people in Namibia. Working with this small community is what opened the door to building an ongoing partnership. She then partnered with UNICEF Namibia who offered a generous package of technical assistance and logistic support, and, with additional funding from OSISA (?), this new project completed in 2017 an assessment to integrate early childhood development among the San population in Namibia. Pulling in help from different sources is how we can help the world move forward. Many of the San communities, visited during the Assessment, face extreme poverty and marginalization in comparison to other ethnic groups. In addition to social stigmas, San communities, mainly the youth, feel that they have fewer opportunities in life, and families complain about the lack of access to basic services, mainly health, sanitation and education. This extreme poverty affects the community as a whole immensely, but in particular, their children. This is why the Executive Director of Palms for Life has been committed to finding sustainable ways for marginalized individuals, such as the San people, to break out of the cycle of extreme poverty and live the dignified life that they are owed.
Mrs. Laufer-Rottman has dedicated her life to communities like the San, not out of charity, but because of a deep conviction that this is the right thing to do. Basic human rights.
Coming up, UNICEF, in collaboration with Palms for Life and other partners will organize a national ECD conference followed by a Colloquium that will devise a strategy in response to the findings of the Rapid Assessment. So far, this is what we’ve got: a testimony about the reality and grievances of the San people and a way to bring this message out to light. A pretty good start to 2018.