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DISA 2018 | African Road

African Road, a nonprofit organization based out of Tigard, OR, received the 2018 Distinction in International Service Award (DISA). The DISA committee is formed by students and staff at the Martin Institute, part of the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Idaho, and seeks to recognize particularly noteworthy accomplishments of internationally focused nongovernmental organizations based in the Pacific Northwest.

Kelly Bean, executive director and co-founder of African Road, visited the Martin Institute to receive the award on behalf of the organization.

“We have the privilege of friendship with leaders who are doing astounding work. We get to tell those stories. We get to sit at the table with them and hear what their communities are dreaming of and consider then what we might be able to add to the equation, to be able to help those dreams flourish,” she shared.

The nonprofit organization works to lift entire communities out of extreme poverty. They partner with local changemakers through collaborative project development and strategic funding.

The local changemakers are leaders already in the communities themselves. They know the dreams, assets and capacities of their locale and their people. Those local individuals are the owners and the stakeholders—they run the business and they gain the income, dignity and purpose. African Road provides one-time startup funding to start a business through direct grants.

“No matter how fabulous a project is, if the community doesn’t have ownership for it, there’s not a way for it to be self-sustaining in the long haul,” explained Bean.

African Road was born when Kelly Bean and Lori Martin visited Rwanda in 2007. They met inspiring East Africans who had a vision for their countries and communities and formed long-term friendships.

From these friendships developed a new model of giving: one that was sensitive to the local economy and culture and the significance of the individual. African Road received tax-exempt status in 2010 and has now funded multiple startups, businesses and cooperatives in Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania.

“I’d just like to say thank you to the Martin Institute and University of Idaho and all the students and faculty. It’s really an inspiring and welcoming place and great program. We are honored to be recognized as Distinguished International Service Award recipients,” Bean said.

The Women’s Bakery at the Togetherness Orphan Cooperative in Rwanda
The Women's Bakery in Rwanda (photo credit: African Road)
A group of African women hold up their new ID cards
A group of people, known as the Batwa, in Burundi, holding up their new government IDs (photo credit: African Road)
Vicoba Plus training in Rwanda
Vicoba Plus Training in Rwanda (photo credit: African Road)

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