Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1. Do the children actually use the books and the other educational materials that you have donated to them so far? Yes, they do, both as the only textbook (usually in reading and math) and reference/supplemental materials in the classroom and library. Most of our recipients have no textbooks in any subjects. Request our Video or download from here.
Q2. To what extent or degree are your donated materials and resources used in the classroom by the teachers and instructors? Approximately 80% of our donations end up being used this way. Our need assessment usually identifies the most needy/deprived schools in a school district.
Q3. Aren’t there a lot of charities and NGOs whose stated mission is to send books and educational materials to Africa? How are you different? Who are your “competitors,” or alternatives to your organization? Yes, there are quite a few that provide services to Africa. Most have been in operation since the mid-1900s of which some notable ones according to UNESCO are as:
Canadian Organization for Development through Education (CODE) www.codecan.org
In spite of the plethora of donors, HSRI’s late entry provides no competition to these early entrants. Indeed, we don’t consider ourselves to be in competition with other charities. We are merely trying to bridge a tremendous literacy chasm on the African continent. HSRI is still unable to exhaustively serve the needs of the few communities of deprived children, none of which has ever been a beneficiary of book or educational resources from our “competition”. This only goes to show the paucity of literacy materials in our target population – the great void. Further, the children, schools and communities in need do not have the access nor do they have the means to meet the financial and logistic requirements of donors who are located outside the reach of needy communities. On the contrary, HSRI takes the resources into the needy country and delivers them directly to the identified needy schools and communities.
Q4. When you do expand, how are you going to ensure that the twin curses of corruption and over-bloated NFP / NGO administrative overhead / inefficiency does not creep in? I do not want most of my donated money to end up as administrative support. HSRI and Kind Hearts Foundation are committed upholding high ethical standards in all our transactions. We exercise due diligence in screening applicants, and we deliver books and supplies directly to schools, not individuals, in the full presence and oversight of district or regional education representatives and community leaders who receive donations on behalf of schools. Both organizations provide annual accountability of their efforts and particularly, financial stewardship of their organizations – IRS, CPAs and auditors. Thus financial records of the two organizations are public records and open to scrutiny by the public and donors. Finally, we strive to avoid a bloated administrative structure by remaining structurally flat organizations. The directors are readily accessible and handle all daily and strategic activities within and with donors. Volunteers are used extensively to handle packaging and loading of books for shipping. Currently, 100% of our cost is in logistics. When we expand, we plan to peg administrative costs at 25% of our operational budget - driver, administrative assistant, and minimum stipend for two administrative officers.
Q5. Aren’t you just in this to make money for yourselves? Isn’t this one of those African (NGO) “scams”? HSRI is an IRS 501(c)(3) organization in the United States. It is also registered in the State of Illinois and its records are public. This implies that our operations should be above board and we file annual reports Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. To date (2007), the expenses of the organization, running into nearly $60,000 has been borne solely by the founders of the organization who see a need and are attempting to address it. Thus HSRI is governed by both state and national laws for charitable (not-for-profit) organizations. Further, in our improvement budget, only stipends (2x $20,000) have been proposed for two administrators (Executive Director, Financial Director) and $30,000 for a full time Administrative Assistant. Further, our host country partners must meet the national requirements and be certified as an NGO (equivalent of IRS tax-exempt organization) to be a partner. Since HSRI is the “donor” to the partner agent in the host country, we control the resources and audit the activities of partner organizations. No, we have the reputation of our USA Board of Directors as well as those of the Administrative staff at stake to be involved in scams. To date, no member of the USA staff nor Ghana affiliate has received any payment or on salary. This is not where staff and board members make their living; it is where their passion lies. All staff members are highly degreed working professionals who are passionate about global education and literacy.
Q6. What about computers, AV materials? Do you have any plans to collect and ship “high tech” educational tools and materials? Yes, we have shipped quite a few of these items. However, voltage differences between USA (120v; 60Hz) and Africa (220v; 50Hz) make it difficult to collect just any electronic equipment for donation. We usually accept universal voltage (110-240v; 50-60Hz) equipment (e.g. newer computer and HP or similarly standardized printers, projectors) appliances.
Q7. Do you have any plans to ship educational toys and games? Yes, we currently do this as long as they are battery operated or have universal voltage (110-240volts; 50-60Hz).
Q8. Where and how can I volunteer to your efforts? In Chicago in person or you can send donations or books, materials and money to HSRI at our address by contacting us by mail, email, fax, or telephone.
Q9. Where and how can I make (material) donations to your efforts? In Chicago, through parcel post, mail, email, fax, or telephone.
Q10. Where and how can I make financial donations and contributions to your efforts? To HSRI in Chicago. You can mail a check to us at our address at the end of this section. We will be sure to send you some of our DVD footage of donations in Ghana.
Q11. As elsewhere in the rest of the world, African children now and immediately need access to the Internet and the global Information Highway. What are your plans to address the issue of the “Digital Divide” as it affects poor children and illiterate adults in Africa (especially in your targeted areas of operations)? Where the infrastructure exists in the community, our Community Learning Center (CLC) concept provides opportunity to set up communication centers in the CLCs that contain at least one computer with internet access, printer, telephone, copier, and fax machine.
Q12. Africa is ridden with tribal tension, competition and discrimination. To what extent are your efforts broad based, so that all children in need have “equal opportunity” in your resource allocations, irrespective of background: ethnic group, tribe, religious affiliation, gender, etc.? HSRI is committed to serving children and communities regardless of their ethnic or tribal affiliations. Our donations are precipitated by school need and our financial ability to deliver supplies to a particular school since we have been self supporting to date. As illustrated in our regional distribution of our donations earlier, the warehouse and offices of Kind Hearts Foundation are located in Accra. By January 2007, we have temporally increased the radius of our service area from Accra to Eastern Region and then Volta Region. Obviously, we are able to identify the need in schools that are initially closer to the warehouse (proximity advantage) but also with proximity come reduced cost in distribution charges. As our finances get better and our learning curve improves (faster and efficient) we naturally expanded our services. By the way, the founders of HSRI come from the Volta Region, yet that region got served only in the third wave (1.Accra à 2.Eastern à 3.Volta) of distribution in 2006, consistent with the increased radius of our operation. HRSi is a true equal opportunity service provider. We serve children and communities in need regardless of gender, tribe, religion, or political affiliation.
Q13. How do you plan to address the problem of “donor fatigue” as it especially pertains to Africa? Donor fatigue sets in when donors no longer contribute to a cause because they have become tired of receiving appeals for donations. Our donors are two types – those who donate resources (books, furniture, equipment, etc.), and those who donate cash for ensuring transit and distribution of donated resources. We cannot conceive in the near future when the divide between Africa and the developed world would be so close that both systems recycle or adopt books and educational resources at the same rate (e.g. textbooks, computers, school furniture). As long as this gap exists, our donors would be happy to donate their old (not obsolete) books, equipment, and furniture to HSRI. In fact, our current concern is financial resources are not available to collect and ship donated resources fast enough to beneficiaries in Africa – not whether we receive them. We usually turn donors down when our warehouse is full awaiting financial resources to help us send shipments.
Yes, donor fatigue will occur with individual financial donors. Our strategy is to seek multi-year grants from foundations to support our operations. Further, the digitized book approach suggested in our plan will save us a lot of money in moving from shipping hard copies of books to “shipping” electronic versions of books both for international donors and local publishers (copyright issues being addressed). Our concerns at that time will be to secure the right to digitize, transmit, and print/duplicate for the end user in schools in Africa.
Q14. How do you address the evil of “book dumping”? We, like other donors are cognizant of the low percentage of books in Africa and its adverse effect on the continent's various educational and human resource development programs. Specifically, the book-to-student ratio of the majority of students and associated staff is extremely low especially at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Unfortunately, unusable books as well as equipment is being donated or sold to developing nations in Africa by recycling businesses in the developed countries as a way to dodge the expense of having to recycle it properly. Thus the good intent of some donor agencies is in most instances marred by the donation of a substantial quantity of irrelevant and obsolete books whose usage does not impact positively on end users. We operate strongly with the knowledge that there is an acute need for beneficiaries of our book donation program to improve their reading skills through exposure to reading materials and reading enhancement programs from both international sources (as we currently provide) as well as access to indigenous reading materials (the latter which we hope to accomplish through grants) . Our current bias in collecting and donating books has been towards reading and numeracy (math) directly in the classroom and science and technology in the libraries as reference materials. We use magazines (e.g. National Geographic, Nature, Time, Black Enterprise, and Ebony) for the worldview exposure of children and adults in the libraries as well. Emotionally but probably more important, HSRI was borne out of the direct experiences of immigrants from Africa. These founders could not afford to waste limited personal financial resources on collecting, warehousing, shipping, re-warehousing and then dumping irrelevant educational materials in Africa. As an intermediary between donors and beneficiaries in this chain, the cost is too prohibitive for HSRI to be engaged in dumping from USA to Africa. We are neither a recycler of unusable books, nor are we in the garbage disposal business!
For donations to HSRI please contact us at: Human Service Resources, Inc. 2232 Carroll Pkwy, Flossmoor IL 60422.
Tel: 773-259-6899 Fax: 708-206-0993 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org