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Nyla Rodgers is a Waislitz Award finalist for training social entrepreneurs around the world

The Waislitz Award is given to an individual that demonstrates merit in Global Citizenship, Impact, Innovation, and Potential. Check out last year’s winner Anoop Jain here. This year, Nyla Rodgers is one of four finalists nominated to receive the award. We asked her a few questions to learn a little more about her work.

What should we know about you and your work?

My mother was a peace activist, and growing up she taught me three things that have shaped my identity: 1. We live in an interconnected world. 2. Every life matters. 3. Everybody deserves to be happy and healthy. These are the guiding principles that have fueled my passion to build Mama Hope in her honor.

Mama Hope trains social entrepreneurs from around the world and partners them with visionary leaders in developing countries to build thriving communities. Since 2008 we have worked with partners in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana to provide healthcare, education, food and water security to over 150,000 people and this year we are taking our work worldwide.

When I was 15 years old I saw the movie Gandhi and my eyes were forever opened to the power of one person to change the world. I have always been taught that the purpose of life is to offer your unique talents to build a better future. When I finished college, I traveled all over the world to see how I could help. My passion for development has been fueled by the stories of the incredible visionaries I met on these journeys. These people have devoted their entire lives to transforming their communities. These relationships showed me that my unique talent is to connect visionaries to the resources they need to make lasting change and to help people who want to make an impact channel their passion in the most effective way.

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What are you currently doing to end poverty?

Right now we are working on the worldwide expansion of the Global Advocate Fellowship. Our fellowship is a 9-month social entrepreneur training program.  It is split into three, three-month increments: professional training, on the ground experience and impact evaluation.      

So far, through this fellowship we have trained 45 Advocates who have raised $1.2M for our community partners in Africa to build schools, water projects and health clinics that are being recognized as the best in their regions.

We have the dream to take this model global.  The expansion of this fellowship will allow us to train and place Advocates around the world alongside visionary community leaders. We will use this award towards the training of 20 new Global Advocates. Each Advocate will raise a minimum of $20K and take action to help communities build sustainable projects. This unique funding model allows us to leverage the $100K grant from Waislitz into $400K in new funding that will directly support life-changing projects worldwide.

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What do you think a world without extreme poverty would look like?

In a world without extreme poverty, every person’s access to fundamental human rights and resources is a guarantee. Women and girls have equal opportunity to create their own path, and everyone’s voice is listened to.

A world without extreme poverty is a world where all of us can maximize our potential. As a global society we can exponentially increase the number of innovative minds contributing fully to unlock scientific, intellectual and emotional greatness. 

I envision a future where each person is able to live their passion, and all resources, skills and ideas are shared with abundance. Where people across the globe are seen as brothers and sisters and we celebrate one human family. The values that guide this future will be the pursuit of progress, an upholding of peace and a love of humanity.

I believe that we will soon live in a world where “extreme poverty” is only used in the past tense. I have dedicated my life to ensuring this future by training the next generation of leaders through our Global Advocate Fellowship and partnering them with global visionaries to build sustainable projects. Mama Hope was created from the belief that by fostering human connection and bridging financial capital to the people making a difference we can truly change our world.

What do you think is the most important issue facing the world today?

The most important issue facing the world today is a lack of collaboration within the global development sector. Too many organizations still work in silos. This often results in intense competition for limited funding and a lot of wasted aid where synergies could be unlocked through partnerships among like-minded organizations. As Mama Hope expands into other parts of the world, we are looking to form a coalition with other organizations that value a similar approach. We believe that creating partnerships with organizations that are committed to these values will allow us to create holistic and sustainable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.

What advice do you have for other global citizens?

Global Citizens of the world - each one of you has unique gifts and talents. When you make the effort to discover these gifts and give them to your community, you can transform the world forever. I believe that the key to living a meaningful life is contributing your time, skills and resources to give back to others and build the world you want to create for future generations. Our souls are hungry to contribute because, at the end of our lives, all that we leave behind is what we give away.

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Lastly, why should we vote for you?

In 2012, I stood way in the back of the crowd of the first Global Citizen festival in Central Park.  I remember looking at that stage and envisioning myself up there one day. Not as a celebrity or a political leader, but as a representative of Mama Hope and everything that we stand for - collaboration, human connection, and building from eye-level. I envisioned a future where there is room in the discussion about global poverty for grassroots voices to be heard alongside the voices of the rich and influential. Winning this award not only broadcasts these voices and signifies a change in the tides of how we approach development, but would also bring strong validation for our unique model that builds equal partnerships. This award will allow us to scale our innovative model and enable us to train the next generation of changemakers to end global poverty in our lifetime.

By giving me this award, you are directly supporting the life-changing projects of global visionaries focused on empowering women and girls; projects like a girls’ school in Kenya, a maternal health clinic in Uganda and a children’s center in Ghana. Too often, the success of an organization is attributed to its founder. Mama Hope is not me; I am just a catalyst. If I win this award it will be on the behalf of these global visionaries who are devoting their lives to transforming the futures of their communities. Winning this award will celebrate the magic that is only possible through equal partnership.

This award will also allow us to expand our Global Advocate Fellowship worldwide. This program provides people who want to make a difference the training to transform their hope and passion into immediate action. This award will also help us broadcast our impact to passionate Global Citizens, and train selected individuals in hands on global development work resulting in massive change for generations to come.