Kurandza (which means “to love” in Changana, the local language ) is a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. Founded by Elisabetta Colabianchi in 2014, Kurandza works to empower women and their community through education, entrepreneurship, and sustainable development programs in Guijá, Mozambique.
Elisabetta was first introduced to Guijá, a small village in southern Mozambique, when she lived and worked there as a Peace Corps volunteer at a local hospital. Her main role was to counsel HIV-positive women on the prevention of HIV transmission to their children. During her work she realized that many patients would abandon treatment because they could not pay for transportation to the hospital to pick-up their medicine each month. Elisabetta and her good friend, Percina Mocha who lived in the community, started an income generation project for the HIV-positive women, with the goal of teaching them a skill that would earn enough income to pay for the monthly transportation costs to the hospital. The impact was enormous and sparked the impetus for Elisabetta to do more.
In the Fall of 2014 after returning to the US, Elisabetta founded Kurandza to continue supporting the community through a variety of educational, business and sustainable development programs. Her good friend Percina works as the Country Director of Kurandza in Mozambique and is responsible for managing all of the programs on the ground.
This month, Kurandza has launched their second #IStandForGirls campaign with the goal of sending 200 girls to school in Mozambique.
What is the campaign?
In the month of September the goal is to bring-on 200 purpose-driven individuals who support girls education, empowerment and gender equality to become monthly donors and will afford an education to girls in Mozambique.
For $20 per month (or $240 a year), someone can join the movement and give a future to a girl in Mozambique. The $20 pays for school fees, uniform, backpack, school supplies, school books, photocopies for exams, and transportation to get to school.
This is my second year signing on to support a girl’s education. It is something I have always wanted to do especially as a mother of a ten-year old girl who has all the opportunity imaginable simply based on where she was born.
Why girls education?
I had the opportunity to interview both Elisabetta and Percina (who was the first girl to graduate from high school in her community) to learn more about the campaign and the impact an education makes on a girl. Here is what they had to say.
In 2013, Kathryn Pisco and her husband Mike left their corporate jobs and decided to take a trip of a lifetime in an attempt to unearth and discover the world. Over the next 250 days, the pair traveled to over 20 countries and volunteered at 5 different volunteer projects.
It was during their volunteer experiences that they learned the ins and outs of volunteering abroad. Although their time volunteering was meaningful, they were surprised to see how broken the system was.
A lot of projects charged tons of money for volunteers, were not exactly beneficial to the host community, and were not sustainable. The couple returned home and realized that they had to share their knowledge and experience of what they learned.
In 2014, they launched their social enterprise Unearth the World, an international volunteer organization that strives to improve the international volunteering industry by promoting cross-cultural learning, fostering reciprocal partnerships and elevating social consciousness through responsible international programs.
Today they work with 6 non-profit partners in Peru, Nicaragua, Mexico, Guatemala and Zambia which they have personally visited to ensure that each volunteer experience benefits the local community and provides sustainable change. Since they founded Unearth the World, 200 people have already dedicated 3,500+ hours of service over the past two years in collaboration with their six international nonprofit partners.
Teaching in Peru with Unearth the World
I first met Kathryn at the Women in Travel Summit in April and instantly connected. She is a mom like me and has a passion for sustainable travel and a zest for life. I knew I wanted to feature Unearth the World on my blog so I set up a phone interview to learn more. Here is a transcript of our conversation.
Me: What did you and your husband do for work in Chicago before setting off on your epic travel adventure? Had you ever traveled before? How did you pick your countries and volunteer projects?
Kathryn: Mike and I were both in sales for medical companies prior to traveling the world. While we had done quite a bit of personal travel in the past, it was more traditional tourism. We would maximize our allotted vacation time each year but that was the extent of our travel. Prior to our professional careers, I did a traditional study abroad program in Paris and Mike spent a summer living/volunteering in Nicaragua. Mike’s Nicaragua experience inspired us to volunteer on our epic adventure.
When choosing where to travel, we prioritized regions that were far away and – therefore – challenging to get to on a typical 7 – 10 day vacation. We also sought out countries that were relatively secure and affordable. Once we had outlined our 20-country itinerary we tried to spread our volunteer projects evenly throughout the trip. Our idea was to have a few weeks of personal travel and then a few weeks of volunteering. It ended up working out quite well!
We did a lot of research on where we should volunteer but found it really challenging to understand what organizations were legit based upon online research alone.
Me: Tell me a little bit more about the five different volunteer projects you did. What did you learn about the world of international volunteering?
Kathryn: We taught English in Kathmandu, Nepal, worked at Children’s Homes in Chiang Mai, Thailand and Phnom Penh Cambodia, taught at a school in Ofaakor, Ghana and built homes in Mwandi, Zambia. Through these experiences we learned how important it is to ensure that you have the proper skills to engage in each project. I have adopted the belief that if you are not qualified to do something in your hometown – why would you be qualified to do it abroad?
We realized that so many of our projects were well-intentioned but not truly as helpful as they could have been. There was such a disconnect between the true needs of the community and the projects that were designed to appeal to volunteers. We heard horror stories about schools that were built and torn down each year with the sole purpose of attracting and making money off of international volunteers. We also experienced some great things! In Zambia for instance, the organization is 100% locally run and the entire community is engaged in the mission. Mike and I worked alongside local people and learned from them every step of the way. Finally, we saw how incredible cross-cultural exchange can be for both volunteers and local communities. We built authentic and lasting relationships at many of our projects and are still in touch with people from all around the world.
Me: How did traveling and in particular volunteering abroad change you?
Kathryn: In so many ways! I entered the trip thinking that – as a 30 year old woman – my values, personality and worldview were pretty set. On the trip I learned how to thrive outside of my comfort zone. I became a better communicator, leader, and person. I also realized that I have so much to learn from people of different cultures.
Me: Why did you decide to launch Unearth the World?
Kathryn: As I mentioned earlier, our five volunteer projects varied greatly in intentionality and impact and illustrated the pros and cons of volunteering abroad. We learned that there are many problems in the current multi-billion dollar volunteer travel space: a lack of financial transparency, an absence of meaningful volunteer training, and a shortage of community driven projects. So, we returned from our trip inspired to create our own social venture – Unearth the World – that strives to improve the volunteer travel industry by promoting cross-cultural learning, fostering reciprocal partnerships and elevating social consciousness through responsible volunteer exchange programs. We founded Unearth the World to make volunteer travel more transparent, accessible and positively impactful.
Me: Where did you come up with the name?
Kathryn: Unearth the World was actually the name of our travel blog during our nine month trip. We thought it really encompassed what we were trying to accomplish on our journey. We sought to unearth – or discover – the world around us in a meaningful way. We decided to give our business the same name because we believe that international service and cross-cultural exchange is a great way to understand the world around us.
Me: What makes you different from other volunteer organizations?
Kathryn: We saw that the industry lacked financial transparency and affordability with many projects costing several thousand dollars for just one week. We also saw a lack of community driven projects. Instead, we saw many volunteer opportunities that were created with the purpose of bringing in tourists rather than actually addressing a true need in the community. Additionally, we saw that many of the volunteer sending organizations fail to train and educate their travelers before and after their trip leading to uninformed and unqualified volunteers. These problems in the industry saddened us greatly. UTW’s innovative model addresses the problems in the volunteer travel market in three ways: transparency, reciprocity and volunteer preparation.
Me: What has been the most powerful experience you have experienced with Unearth the World?
Kathryn: That is a tough question. I am always impressed by the transformative effects of our programs.
I have seen the biggest impacts on people who have not had previous international experiences. For instance, we recently had a student from Cornell University join a group trip to Nicaragua. He had never been out of the country before. His experience volunteering in Nicaragua sparked something in him. He immediately booked a second trip – this time to Zambia – to continue to engage with the world. Upon returning to school, he is considering shifting his major to something more focused on social impact and he has begun to volunteer in his local community.
Another great story is from one of our Advisory Board members – Amy. She took her two daughters to Nicaragua as a way of exposing them to different cultures. A memorable moment from their program was when one of her daughters turned to her and said “Mommy, I want to do really well in school so I can continue to travel and learn about the world.”. Amy was so inspired that she joined our board.
Me: What kind of advice can you give someone who wants to try volunteering abroad?
Do your research and ask tons of questions. Make sure that you have a true understanding of the impact on the community and planet that your trip is having.
To learn more about volunteering with Unearth the World, please visit their projects page to learn more about our opportunities.
Have you ever volunteered abroad?
This has been an original post by Nicole Melancon of Thirdeyemom in the USA. Additional posts by Nicole on World Moms Network.
From September 21st-23rd, 2017 World Moms Network will be at the International Travel Bloggers Summit on Study Abroad and Global Citizenship using social media to engage more students and people to study abroad! Follow the Summit at hashtag, #studyabroadbecause.
What better gift is there than teaching your child the spirit of giving this holiday season! Why not create a family tradition that gives back by supporting one of these amazing organizations with holiday gifts that help people around the world?
A few years ago, I began highlighting different organizations that offer wonderful gifts that also give back to a cause. I began to curate these lists of Gifts that Give Back because I realized that we too as a consumer have a responsibility to make the world a better place, and there is no easier way than purchasing a gift that gives to your loved one and also gives back to someone in need. From purchasing a scarf that sends girls to school in India or a bar of homemade all natural soap that provides economic resources to communities in Africa, there is so much you can do. With the holidays right around the corner and millions of dollars being spent on gifts, imagine the difference we can make as consumers if we use our money to do good while giving. It is fabulous that so many amazing organizations exist today to help improve the world.
Here is a list of some of my favorite gifts that give back for this holiday season. Enjoy!
Bloom & Give
Bloom & Give sells beautifully handcrafted scarves and bags made in India using techniques passed on from generation to generation. Each product is designed in the US by one of Bloom & Give’s designers, and made in India with love. Bloom & Give donates 50% of their profits to support girls education programs in India through their partner Educate Girls to improve the lives of girls in Rajasthan.
Bloom & Give just released a new fall line with lots of beautiful products. Here are some of my favorites for the holidays. www.bloomandgive.com
Bird + Stone
A made-in-NYC jewelry start-up that invests in female entrepreneurs in the developing world. Bird + Stone uses jewelry as a funding vehicle for micro-loans and financial training and invests in single mothers in Kenya to start farming businesses, lift their families out of poverty, and follow their dreams. www.birdandstone.com
b.a.r.e. soaps is an all natural, socially conscious soap & candle company. b.a.r.e stands for “bringing antiseptic resources to everyone”. Proceeds from the sales are reinvested into social causes such as a soap rebatching initiative in India and a program to help children with essentials in Uganda. www.bare-soaps.com
Heart of Haiti
Designed to improve and enrich lives, Macy’s offers an extraordinary collection of art and gifts to promote change and hope in Haiti. Each purchase supports that artisans on the ground so they can have a sustainable income. http://www1.macys.com/shop/featured/heart-of-haiti
The Obakki Foundation is a small Vancouver-based foundation, created and run by local fashion designer (Obakki), mother and wife, Treana Peake, contributes 100 per cent of all public donations to their humanitarian projects. The foundation has drilled or rehabilitated more than 850 wells in the war-torn country of South Sudan, bringing clean water to an estimated more than one million people. And they have just promised six remote villages in the country that the foundation will help them to build a better future by providing each village with a much needed fresh water well. All that Obakki Foundation needs to do this is to sell 500 of each of the new, stylish colours of scarves – as a part of their Scarves for Water program. www.obakki.com
Preemptive Love Coalition
Preemptive Love Coalition brings emergency relief and medical care to families on the front lines of the world’s most polarizing conflicts—in places like Syria and Iraq. But we don’t leave once the fighting is done. We stay and empower refugees to reclaim their future from the ashes of war. www.preemptivelove.org
As a mission-driven brand, each and every detail has been thoughtfully planned to marry purpose and responsibility with practicality and, of course, beauty both inside and out. The company furthers this idea through its partnership with She’s The First, an organization that helps to provide education, mentorship, supplies and training to girls in developing countries. Every step taken in VEERAH is one stylish step closer to ensuring women everywhere can make their mark. www.veerah.com
Cotopaxi (adventure outdoor apparel and gear)
Cotopaxi is an outdoor company that funds sustainable poverty alleviation, moves people to do good, and inspires adventure through innovative outdoor products and experiences. Their unique business model enables their grantmaking in developing countries and represents a commitment to sustainable product design and charitable giving. The Luzon Del Dia backpack is created with salvageable materials that would otherwise have been headed to the landfill, and no two backpacks is alike.
Mission Belt Company makes no-hole leather belts, nylon belts and an assortment of licensed NBA, NHL and NCAA belts that give back. Giving back has been part of Mission Belt since day one and is the reason behind the company name. A dollar from every belt sold goes to fight global hunger and poverty. To date, over 28K Kiva (peer-to-peer micro lending) micro-loans have been funded from the sales of Mission Belts.
Health 2 Humanity
Health 2 Humanity goes beyond soap. Every H2H purchase helps fund international vocational programs that create jobs, grant scholarships, develop skills, and improve the lives of people around the world by offering hygiene solutions in developing countries. Through the development of these programs, the company plans to put an end to global health inequality.
TOMS (shoes and eyeglasses and coffee)
With every purchase you make of either a pair of shoes or eyeglasses, TOMS will help a person in need. One for one. It feels great to know that when I buy a pair of TOMS shoes, someone else far away who who really needs shoes is getting a pair as well! TOMS also supplies fair trade coffee. If you buy one bag of coffee, TOMS supplies one week’s worth of clean water to a family in need.
For the Kids
Happisnappi kid’s accessories are the perfect way for your little ones to accessorize with ease! Happisnappi accessories have interchangeable pieces, making matching different outfits as easy as can be! Simply choose an embellishment and snap it on to the hat or headband! For every hat sold, Happisnappi gives another to a children’s hospital. www.happisnappi.com
Goodbye Malaria, an initiative by African entrepreneurs who aim to eradicate malaria in our lifetime. Malaria is a disease that is completely preventable and treatable, although it kills more people in Africa than HIV/AIDS and is the biggest killer of children on the African continent. Goodbye Malaria enables Africans to raise funds and advocate against malaria, whilst creating employment across the continent. Their beautiful online shop which sells products that “save a life in your sleep” offers African-made pajamas, bracelets, slippers, pencil boxes and teddy bears, all which employ local women and protect families in Mozambique against malaria. www.goodbyemalaria.com
Bureo makes skateboards and sunglasses from recycled fishing nets. Operating a recycling program in Chile, ‘Net Positiva’, Bureo’s programs provides fishing net collection points to keep plastic fishing nets out of our ocean. Preventing harmful materials from entering the ocean, these recycling programs protect wildlife and supporting local fishing communities through financial incentives. Bureo is on a mission to find innovative solutions to prevent ocean plastics, and inspire others to join them in the movement to protect our oceans. www.bureo.co
Love your Melon
Love Your Melon began with a simple idea of putting a hat on every child battling cancer in America. Since 2012, they’ve donated over 80,000 hats to children battling cancer and with each product purchase, they donate 50% of net proceeds to their select charity partners to help end the fight against pediatric cancer. Over $1.5 million has been raised so far! One of the biggest days of the year for Love Your Melon in terms of raising money for their nonprofit partners is Cyber Monday. This past Monday $414,095 was raised, over double that of last year. www.loveyourmelon.com
Pals Socks are socks for kids that come mismatched on purpose, because it’s fun to be friends with someone different than you. They are all about inspiring kids to keep an open mind to all kinds of people and new ideas/experiences. Pals Socks also give a percentage of their profits to an organization that also helps make our world a better place. They support anti-bullying, animal rights, the environment and more. www.palssocks.com
And of course World Moms Network’s very own mini-shop!
Last week, I attended my fifth Social Good Summit in New York City along with five other amazing friends from World Moms Network. The Social Good Summit is a unique convening of world leaders, new media and technology experts, grassroots activists and voices from around the world that come together for a two-day conference coinciding with the United Nations General Assembly meeting held during UN Week. The Summit is held at the 92nd Street Y and is truly a global conversation as it streamed around the world in multiple languages.
The Crew of World Changers from World Moms Network and other social good bloggers
The theme of the summit– #2030NOW: What kind of world do you want to see in 2030? – challenged speakers, participants and a growing worldwide community to explore how technology and new media can be leveraged to benefit people everywhere, to spark discussion and ignite change in creating a better world for all by the year 2030. The 7th Annual Summit was kicked off with a great promise to connect the world with more humanity and give everyone a voice in improving poverty, inequality, injustice and climate change through the 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed upon last year by 193 global leaders at the UN General Assembly.
In July, the first report card was released that maps the scope of the SDGs progress, giving leaders an idea of the challenges that lie ahead in order to ensure the SDGs are achieved and no one is left behind. Much progress has been made thanks to the successes of the MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) yet much needs to be done in order to achieve the SDGs.
Some challenges that lie ahead include:
- While poverty has been halved, 1 in 8 people were living in extreme poverty in 2012.
- An estimated 5.9 million children under 5 died in 2015, mostly from preventable causes.
- 216 women died in childbirth for every 100,000 live births.
- In 2013, 59 million children of primary school age were out of school and 26 per cent of women aged 20-24 reported that they were married before their eighteenth birthday.
- In 2015, an estimated 663 million people were still using unimproved water sources or surface water.
World Moms Network contributors talking with Stephanie Sinclair, Founder of Too Young to Wed, about her quest to end child marriage around the world.
As we sat at the conference and listened to all the heartbreaking and inspiring tales facing people around the world it was hard at times not to get overwhelmed or discouraged. The amount of issues and acute challenges at times seem almost impossible. Quite frankly, it can also make one feel quite powerless.
Throughout the two day summit, we learned that there is much work to be done yet there is hope. The Social Good Summit is all about making a plan for the future. The world has a plan and 14 years to deliver it. Despite how enormous the challenges may seem, they are achievable and the Global Goals are our guidelines to make the world a better, more equitable place. It is clear that the future of our planet and our people depend upon it. And, every single human being has a role and a responsibility to make it happen.
Top Tweets of the Social Good Summit:
(Click here to watch a powerful video on what the Global Goals mean).
I also asked my friends and fellow World Moms Network contributors what was the most meaningful quote or event of the Summit. Here is what they had to say.
For Jennifer Iacovelli
For Elizabeth Atalay
For Tes Solomon Silverman
For me, Two things stuck: Carolyn Miles of Save the Children talking about refugees: “Refugees are people with skills great for opportunities”. And Tiq Milan, Journalist & Spokesperson for GLAAD re: LGBTQ in the Media: “My existence may complicate yours, but it doesn’t invalidate yours.”
For Jennifer Burden
“The UNICEF vigil for refugee children was the most moving for me. Standing in a crowd, holding up candles near the UN and listening to the stories of 4 children from around the world who were refugees was incredibly important and moving. The story of the boy who was kidnapped and was going to be sold if his parents didn’t pay ransom broke my heart. And when the high school choir sang John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the end, I lost it.”
For Nicole Morgan
Loved this … Imagine a world where children are innoculated for measles AND cancers. This is not about some day … but a moment, the days, a month … there is much we can do. #cancermoonshot is about never giving up. It is about promise. And hope. VP Joe Biden.
For all of us
Being together with such wonderful like-minded friends who we could share our hopes, our dreams and our fears together was amazing. Often during our busy lives as a mother, we don’t get much time to spend together with each other. It was amazing, inspiring and fun.
I was so moved by the Social Good Summit and the dedication, enthusiasm and commitment people have towards changing the world and making a more equitable place. Despite the immense challenges, there is hope. We can’t give up. We all must do our share.
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Nicole Melancon.
In your mind what is the most pressing Sustainable Development Goal?
Meet Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder of Kurandza, a non-profit social enterprise that invests in the future of women in Mozambique. I have featured her work and organization before on my blog and include their products under my Gifts that Give Back Guide. Kurandza uses education, entrepreneurship and sustainable development programs to help create opportunity and change for women and their communities. A devastating two-year drought in Mozambique has caused widespread hunger inspiring Elisabetta to shift gears and focus on hunger relief. Here is her heartwarming story.
Percina and Elisabetta, two wonderful friends who met in a village in Mozambique while Elisabetta was a Peace Corps volunteer. Photo credit: Nicole Anderson of Sorella Muse Photography
“Kurandza: To Love”: Written by Elisabetta Colabianchi, Founder and Designer, Kurandza
I’d known there was a hunger crisis in Mozambique, but what really got to me was hearing that HIV positive mothers were faced with choosing between letting their children starve or nursing their children past the recommended time despite the risk of passing on HIV.
Prior to founding my non-profit organization, Kurandza, which means “to love” in the local Changana language, I lived in Mozambique as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years. While there, I worked at a rural hospital counseling mothers on the prevention of HIV transmission to their babies, and had successfully prevented the transmission to hundreds of children.
At first, I thought that maybe the mothers who continued to nurse despite the risk were doing this because they forgot their training. Or I thought perhaps I hadn’t taught them very well after all.
But when I counseled one of these mothers over the phone last month from my home, now living thousands of miles away in California, I realized she knew exactly what she was doing, and that it hurt her to do so. She knew that by continuing to nurse her child past the recommended time, she was putting her baby at risk to contract HIV. She knew that when a child contracts the HIV virus, it often leads to mortality.
This mother has already successfully raised five HIV-free children because she followed the prevention techniques. But this time is different. This time there isn’t any food for her to feed her child because of the two-year drought. There isn’t any water to grow crops on her farm to produce the food that her child desperately needs to survive. Water is a life source that they are without. Like all the women in her community, she knows that if she stops nursing, her baby will most likely die of malnutrition. So she is making the best choice for her baby by nursing despite the possible outcome.
The women facing this impossible choice is what made me pause and reassess the work I was already doing in Mozambique through Kurandza. Even though we’re in the middle of creating new educational and entrepreneurial programs for the women there, we’re refocusing our energy to something more urgent this month, because I know in my heart that we need to address the hunger crisis now.
Over 25 million people in Mozambique don’t have enough food or water
The drought has caused crops to die and food prices in the nearest stores to increase by over 200%. In a community of high unemployment and dependence on farming their own crops to survive, villagers are unable to purchase food for themselves. Because of the hunger crisis, children are eating one meal a day.
In response to the hunger crisis, Kurandza is raising $250,000 this month to provide immediate food along with long-term water and sustainable agriculture solutions so that the community can continue to farm, growing their own crops if the drought persists. All the food aid will be sourced in the local community to boost local commerce.
It’s important to supplement humanitarian assistance with long-term solutions such as building multi-functional water wells so that the community will be able to continue farming and growing their own crops even if the drought continues.
If you would like to learn more, visit www.kurandza.org.