Fifteen Years of Harambee

Fifteen years have gone by since Harambee Africa International, a solidarity initiative in Africa, began its activities in 2002 for the canonization of St. Josemaría. Two clear goals have guided this project from its first steps: supporting educational initiatives in and about Africa, and promoting activities that increase awareness about African culture and the challenges the continent faces.

Harambee was inspired by the founder of Opus Dei’s teaching on the social and educational responsibilities of Christians. As St. Josemaría wrote in one of his books, “Because you are a Christian you cannot turn your back on any concern or any need of your fellow men” (The Forge, no. 453).

During these fifteen years Harambee has carried out more than seventy projects in twenty countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Each year new programs providing assistance, education and awareness have begun, for which particular donations are requested. These projects all have a local partner, an African institution in charge of making the specific initiative a reality, so that the people of the continent—who best know its real problems—are the true creators of progress. Harambee was involved, for example, in seeking funds for the Marcello Semeraro School, a school in Sierra Leone that offers education and support to some 130 students, in educational projects in Togo to help street children find a path in life, and in training programs for young people in Ethiopia that provide them with the skills needed to find employment.

Besides its efforts in the field of education, Harambee seeks help from the private sector to obtain investments that can create jobs in African countries, stressing the spirit of local enterprise. It also seeks to encourage European enterprises to invest in and become involved in Africa, so that they recognize in the African continent an ally. Referring to the first ten years of its work, Bishop Javier Echevarría, then Prelate of Opus Dei, told those involved in Harambee: “We have to convince ourselves and help others to be convinced that society is not built up principally through contractual and utilitarian links, but through bonds that are more deeply human and that are based on love. This principle needs to become the main criterion for the development of society, and should be seen as the ‘soul’ of the whole social order.”

In these fifteen years, thanks to the support of many people, Harambee has also been involved in starting medical clinics, maternal-care wards in various hospitals, programs to fight malnutrition, funding micro-enterprises, etc. The NGO, with its offices in Rome, also has branches in Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Poland, and the United States. In each of these countries there is a national committee and various groups of volunteers who carry out the projects that are jointly agreed on.

In 2017 the NGO launched “Harambee Youth,” an international meeting of young volunteers aimed at sharing experiences on volunteer work in Africa, and at seeking creative solutions to the needs faced by those working in some of the sub-Saharan regions. The young people who participated in the meeting agreed that trips to Africa are not the only way of supporting the Harambee projects. The also stressed the need for new forms of volunteering and awareness activities, including the use of the social networks, that highlight Africa as the continent of the future.

Romana, n. 64, January-June 2017, p. 180-181.

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