A most common phrase heard all around the world is that no one gives you anything, you have to earn it or that no one helped me or gave me a handout, I just put myself in the position to be noticed. Perhaps people say this to encourage others, especially the younger generations, to build up their skills and work ethic, but really, this kind of messaging leaves out a much fuller narrative. Whoever and wherever we may be at any point in our lives, be it in Accra or Johannesburg or Hong Kong, we have all been helped one way or the other. Be it through employment that allows us to gain relevant experience, or a family member supporting one’s education or a kindly investor and advisor for a promising startup, we have all benefited from assistance and set upon a path to attaining our goals and dreams. From institutions as varied as universities, hospitals, museums to non-profit organizations and foundations, all of these institutions rely on the financial benevolence of donors, big and small, to maintain their services.
Non-profit foundations and charities the world over, rely on an array of donations, foreign and/or domestic, which helps them maintain their ongoing operations and long-term investment into the populations and issues of primary focus. Some organizations, on the other hand, rely exclusively on foreign aid and donations to fund their outreach initiatives and projects, an attitude that The Philanthropy Forum Ghana (PLFG) describes as simply unsustainable. The PLFG notes that such a dependence on foreign aid often results in organizations failing to adequately meet the needs and socioeconomic development of communities they serve. Rather, these non-profits or NGOs should switch to a self-reliant model that shores up local support and solutions, absent from external influences and agendas.
This form of giving, known as community philanthropy, is undergoing resurgence in countries across the globe, particularly in emerging economies, where citizens are eager to play active roles in their countries’ socioeconomic development and advancement. Community philanthropy finds its roots in the local context and culture of which it operates. It approaches funding and support like the adage oft cited in African communities, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Using this as a guide, community philanthropy pools together communal resources, be it money, time and skills training, to support the foundations and charities to which it has pledged to invest in and support. Charities source monetary support for their work through a variety of means, from fundraising events, text giving, one-time pledges to recurring monthly donations, etc. A method of support not often utilized or appreciated enough in Ghana is leaving a gift in one’s will. These types of donations, commonly referred to as endowments, are similar to how the Carnegie and Rockefeller Foundations operate. These foundations grew out of large endowments given by influential business magnates as a form of civic investment back into their communities; for example, Andrew Carnegie’s endowments led to the establishment of the Carnegie Mellon University as well as supporting library growth, education and scientific research.
These are strategies that Ghanaians should look to employ for countrywide socioeconomic development, particularly in underserved areas like Gbawe. As proven by the aforementioned foundations, endowment gifts from wills help maintain an organization’s long-term impact on a community. As well as leaving a positive legacy on the donors’ behalf, it ensures that current and future Gbawe youth will escape illiteracy and unemployment, both of which encourage cycles of poverty. Gift-giving via wills paves way for increased, strategic re-investments into Gbawe’s essential institutions, from its schools, foundations to community centers. With consistent resource funding, these institutions are much more likely to provide better services for the youth, resulting in improved levels of educational instruction as well as a more balanced teacher-student ratio in classrooms.
An example of community philanthropy and gift-giving though endowments includes Ghana’s very own pioneering industrialist, Ester Afuaa Ocloo, née Nkulenu. Through her microlending initiative, which sourced funding from various people into a collective sum, it became an entrepreneurial booster, granting local women, often at the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, the chance to turn their skills and interests into small businesses. It is in this vein that the practice of “leaving gifts in a will” can add further support to valuable local organizations like PAAJAF Foundation, in its outreach to the Gbawe children and youth. The impacts of these gifts go beyond finances, but more so the concerted effort to improve the quality of outreach programming, counseling and training schemes designed to uplift this overlooked population cohort.
Gift-giving through wills will help ensure that current and future Gbawe children and youth will be adequately empowered and skilled to dismantle generational poverty, illiteracy and unproductivity. Ghana’s brain drain arises not only when some of its brightest minds leave its shores for United States or Europe, but also those people at home, who because of financial hardship, are unable to complete schooling and attain marketable skills that grant them self-sufficiency as well as contribute to the national economy. When such situations arise year after year, it leads to massive numbers of unfulfilled potential and innovation, which negatively affects the economic productivity and resilience of both the individual and the national economy at large.
A concentrated effort of community philanthropy through wills stands to have an extraordinary impact on the Gbawe suburb, helping to erase the 25% national poverty rate of children. It can also place both children and youth into specialized training programs as ran by PAAJAF and connect them with local businesses and investors for apprenticeship and entrepreneurial ambitions. As is true globally, the young population is our future, and it is necessary to develop ALL of Ghana’s youth to their fullest educational and economic potential/ability. Failing to address these educational and employment gaps ensures a stagnant economy, making it difficult to support new hires and discourages small-and-medium business growth, which account for employing a bulk of many nations’ work force, a burden that Ghana cannot afford.