- August 12, 2015
- Posted by: Anjana Sreedhar
- Category: Ambassador, Partner, Wednesday Wisdom
Today’s post comes from Jean D’Amour Mutoni, the founder of one of EA’s newest organizations, Acts of Gratitude (AOG). Acts of Gratitude is an non-governmental organization based in Rwanda in order to engage local Rwandan youth in giving back to those in need. Mutoni created AOG to reciprocate the generosity he and other genocide survivors received after 1994.
The Queen’s Young Leaders 2015 Award winner, Acts Of Gratitude (AOG), is a Rwanda-based national NGO which is trying to sell a new service model to the world that aims to turn beneficiaries into socially responsible leaders. This post shades light on AOG’s founding history, work model, results, and prospects.
AOG was founded in 2011, by 13 Rwandan youths who believe that, for they have been helped by friends, family and organizations, they owe the community a debt of gratitude and active involvement.
Its founder, Jean d’Amour Mutoni had been assisted by many people and organizations throughout his life, and in 2009 a seed was planted to start an organization of his own. It all started with a challenging question that was put to him: “Can’t you now rely on yourselves?” In 2007, Jean d’Amour was part of a group of vulnerable students at Kigali Health Institute (now, College of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Rwanda) and Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (now, College of Science and Technology, University of Rwanda). During holidays, these students stayed on campus as they had nowhere to call home. In 2009, Jean d’Amour was voted the coordinator of that group where he advocated and sought assistance for its members. As did his predecessors, he approached donors–government, nonprofits, individuals, etc.–to request food, hygiene materials and aid. One such donor, an officer at a governmental institution in Kigali, asked Jean d’Amour, “Can’t you now rely on yourselves?” He went on, ”contact your brothers and sisters who graduated and ask them to contribute”. Jean d’Amour and his team contacted alums. On one hand, shockingly, almost all of them turned them down. On the other hand, luckily, university employees learnt about the problem, approached the group, and accepted deductions from some money from their salaries to help. The rest of that holiday went well. The later group inspired Jean d’Amour to follow their example to give back to the community. That is why when he graduated in 2011, along with 12 friends, they decided to launch AOG.
Acts Of Gratitude exists to foster the culture of giving back through exposing, educating, and empowering grateful people in order to create a new generation of changemakers who will save more vulnerable citizens and build a community of socially responsible leaders, entrepreneurs and volunteers for Rwanda.
Their concept is called a true partnership between benefactors and beneficiaries. People who join AOG pay a monthly contribution and participate in a monthly community service activity known as ‘Umusingi’. Umusingi is a Kinyarwanda word that means ‘foundation ditch’ – a trench that is created at the beginning of construction to underpin the commencement. In Rwanda, the umusingi is very often filled with stones and cement. In the case of AOG, we believe that through umusingi, we build a foundation of service to the people we engage. They get exposed to problems and solutions found in communities in order to stimulate empathy and ideas of change.
The amount of contribution varies from one person to another and everyone pledges what they can afford to meet consistently. Beneficiaries of AOG
are also encouraged to become and remain active members in order to experience service. In his speech, Jean Claude Bayisenge – the current AOG Executive Secretary and former AOG scholar – said that it feels rewarding to have the opportunity to serve in the same organization that supported his education not as an mere employee but a member.
As of June 30, 2015, 230+ people had joined the AOG community, 11 comprehensive high school scholarships disbursed to vulnerable but talented students, 26+ Ganira fora (conferences) had been organized in order to share ideas and leave a wisdom legacy, 1430+ meals were taken to patients, 230 health insurance cards were purchased for vulnerable people, 10, 822+ clothes were collected and distributed to the poor, and 20 short term loans were given to vulnerable entrepreneurs. In June 2015, AOG received two high recognitions: nationally, AOG received its legal personality from the Rwanda Governance Board and internationally, the organization’s founder was presented the Queen’s Young Leaders Award by HM the Queen of England.
In the future, AOG plans to polish its model (expose, educate, and empower) in order to create a lasting impact, build program and funding partnerships, and increase results. To achieve, this AOG invites all of you who believe in this cause to join the movement today.
In conclusion, AOG community members believe that there is a need for the aid industry to emphasize on turning beneficiaries into socially responsible leaders who, undoubtedly, understand problems they went through better, and thus should play a pivotal role in ending them.
“Wednesday Wisdom” is a weekly series curated by Everyday Ambassador Partnerships Manager Anjana Sreedhar. Every Wednesday, we will feature updates from our partners and reflections from the Everyday Ambassador community. To stay current with our latest posts, follow #wednesdaywisdom or #wordstoliveby on our other platforms, and check back regularly for updates.