As part of an ongoing series, Matt Clark, from the Center for Citizen Diplomacy at PYXERA Global, is interviewing leaders of organizations that belong to the Citizen Diplomacy Network. The Center provides a cohesive voice for the citizen diplomacy effort and serves as a hub of best practices, recognition, and visibility, equipping organizations with tools and resources to enhance their impact and broaden their reach. The diverse work of these organizations encompasses international exchange, education, culture, and service, but they are all united in a shared vision of citizen diplomacy: advancing purposeful global engagement at a person-to-person level.
Hopeful Africa works to foster sustainable prosperity in Africa through educational development and equal partnership. The organization’s efforts are focused on building educational resources at partner schools in Kenya, driven by a belief that quality education is the best way to ensure that future generations of Africans enjoy the peace, health, and financial success that they deserve. Moses Bomett is Founder & President of Hopeful Africa, an organization he started to empower young people to work together around the world after he was struck by the difference in public education between his native Kenya and second home in Des Moines, Iowa.
CLARK: Beyond your mission and vision statements, what overarching beliefs drive your organization? If we asked your team members what gets them out of bed in the morning and into the office, what would they tell us?
BOMETT: Knowing that we can and are making a difference is what keeps each and every one of us from Hopeful Africa encouraged. Every time we hear success stories from the communities that we work with, we are reminded of why we do what we do. Whether it is creating access to quality education for five additional students, or providing a computer lab to hundreds of students for the first time ever, each moment of hard work spent making that happen is worth it.
CLARK: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces to carry out its work?
BOMETT: Like many non-profits, funding is usually our biggest hurdle. The challenge is ensuring that each year we receive the funding required to not only run our programs, but also adapt and expand. To better address this reality, we work to diversify our revenue streams – looking for different avenues for funding and to avoid over reliance on one source. While we haven’t fully achieved this, we are working on getting there.
CLARK: How are the dynamics changing in the space where you work, and how do those evolving realities demand innovative approaches?
BOMETT: The organization thrives on equal partnership between the organization’s key representatives and the people that we work with in Africa. This means having flexibility to allow for different outcomes than what is expected from time to time. This flexibility has allowed for the creation and development of innovative new programs at the partner schools in Kenya bringing maximum impact for the locals.
CLARK: What is one story of success and why do you count it as such?
BOMETT: We have had several successes over the years, but one that stands out in particular is through our student sponsorship program. This program provides academically talented students who come from less fortunate backgrounds with funding to attend high school. We are proud to announce that all the students who have been a part of the program have graduated high school. That is a 100% graduation rate, where the average graduation rate is only 60%.
CLARK: How does citizen diplomacy – people-to-people interactions across cultures – shape the world we live in? What is its potential for impacting our shared future?
BOMETT: Citizen diplomacy is key to solving the challenges that face the world today. It is about people reaching out to one another, working in partnership to make the world a better place. A lot can been learned from literature and education, but arguably, more can be learned from simply spending time with people, that’s why people-to-people interactions allow for these key learning opportunities. As more people act as citizen diplomats, communities thrive, which impacts nations, regions, and ultimately the globe.
CLARK: What is an example of citizen diplomacy in action that your organization has helped to facilitate?
BOMETT: Every year we have the opportunity to visit Kenya, where Hopeful Africa’s partner schools are located. During one of the annual visits, we set out to install our first computer lab at Ogilgei Primary School. After successfully completing the installation, one of the students went home and told his mother, “Mom, today Moses and his friends from America came to our school, they brought computers for us to use. I have never seen a computer before so am going to master how to use it. I will work hard in school and someday I will go to America like Moses.” This shows the motivation that can be realized by students knowing that there are other people thousands of miles away working to benefit and support them.
CLARK: What milestones of impact do you see coming in the year ahead? What is your future vision?
BOMETT: We seek to ensure that at the center of all Hopeful Africa programs, the people from Africa are the ones benefiting and in a sustainable way. Therefore, through annual visits and monthly correspondence, the organization ensures that programs are revisited to ensure continuous success. As the organization grows and programming opportunities expand throughout Africa, it will be key to find a full-time regional director. This will allow for a constant and permanent presence for the organization in Africa.
Matt Clark is Program Manager at the Center for Citizen Diplomacy where he designs and implements global engagement projects to promote and celebrate person-to-person interactions across cultures. Matt has coordinated and hosted international conferences that explore opportunities for enhanced collaboration between thought leaders in K-12, higher education, community-based exchange programs, and cultural organizations. He is a magna cum laude graduate of Drake University and serves on the Board of Directors for the United Nations Association of Iowa, is Vice President of the Japan-America Society of Iowa, and represents the JET Alumni Association as the Iowa Chair.