Growing with Mama Maji

Hi! Summary of the past few weeks: summer in NOLA is hot and my internship is going fabulously!

I do most of my work with Mama Maji in Howard Tilton Memorial Library on Tulane’s campus. My boss and I meet up at 10 am and get to work. While he has assigned me a variety of projects, the main thing I am doing for Mama Maji is helping to set up their summer fundraiser for water projects in Homa Bay, Kenya.

Each day at Mama Maji has reinforced the idea that to run an effective fundraiser campaign, crafting a strong network of supporters is vital. Everyone has a network capable of doing great things. Tapping into this potential takes persistence. Knowing how to ask for help is important. Make it clear what you’re asking for, what it’s going to, and why the cause matters. After anyone gives, thanking them and updating them on the progress of your project is also key. Through the series of step-by-step crowd funding guides my boss has provided me with, I am learning the specifics of network building and outreach.

I have spent time taking notes on the guides and discussing them with my boss as he shares his tips and experiences with crowd funding. There’s a lot more to running a successful fundraiser than I thought, and it’s all in the preparation. After building your base network, important steps include categorizing your supporters, and reaching out to them in various ways through social media and email. In order to gain engaged supporters you have to present your story (the mission of your organization) in a clear, focused, and meaningful way.

To begin organizing Mama Maji’s network, I have collected Rotary and Rotaract Club (two of Mama Maji’s major partners) contact information into Excel spreadsheets. Another huge aspect of earning funds for the non-profit is grant writing. To assist in this process I have researched foundations that sought out Mama Maji for an application, in order to help tailor that application to best spark their interest.

In addition to my office work, I help out with the community garden at Ben Franklin Elementary School. I shovel soil into the beds, water the plants, and one afternoon I built a picket fence around the garden. I can tell that the garden brings the community together because there are always neighbors stopping to say hi and let us know when they’re going to come volunteer next.

I love that I get to do some work outside. Besides the garden, I assisted with the Catalyst Walk, which was basically a field day for Ben Franklin students. The purpose was to teach them a little bit more about water around the world. We hosted the event at the Audubon Park pavilion. My boss talked to the students about how some women in Kenya have to carry 40 pounds of water for 5 hours a day just to provide for their family’s basic needs. To give them a taste of what this is like he let them try to lift up a 40-pound water jug and hoist it on their heads. Then he sent them over to me where I corralled them for a relay race. The goal was to transport a bucket of water back and forth as fast as possible while spilling as little water as possible. Overall the day was hectic, fun, and showed me once again how important it is to be able to roll with the punches and react with a can-do when put on the spot. Non-profits are always dealing with issues such as limited funds and volunteers not showing up.

As I continue with Mama Maji I hope to soak in as much insight from my boss as possible, and plan a fundraising campaign bound for success.

If I were to give any advice to other college students looking for internships it would be to follow your passion! I had a competitive edge over the 30-some other Mama Maji summer internship applicants because of my connection to the cause. I want to dedicate my life to sustainable development work in Africa, so I found a non-profit doing just that.

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