By Starrla Cray
DELANO, MN After a business trip to Uganda in 2008, Funwi Tita knew he couldn’t ignore the poverty-stricken people he had encountered there.
“I saw children with one limb cut off, lost to a parasitic infection,” he said. “A pair of shoes would have prevented that.”
He gave away everything he could during his trip, but when he returned to his home in St. Michael, Tita wanted to give more.
So, he created Making a Difference International (MADI), a non-profit that partners with communities to address the problems that perpetuate poverty in Africa.
MADI provides a range of interventions, including education, health, economic development, microfinance, agriculture, water, and sanitation.
Taste of Africa Friday
In order to raise funds for the grassroots effort, a Taste of Africa event is planned at the Delano American Legion Friday, Nov. 18 from 5 to 8 p.m.
The dinner features authentic African dishes, such as Egusi Pudding, Puff-puff, Sambossa, Chapati, Perper Soup, and more.
Spaghetti will also be served for those who are less adventurous.
Throughout the evening there will be African music, a presentation, and a silent auction.
“If any businesses can donate, we would love to take anything,” said MADI board member Jill Hood of Delano.
Tickets for the meal are $10 for adults, and $5 for children. Student volunteers from Delano’s Youth as Resources program will be pairing up with the cooks to share information about each dish.
“This is a wonderful opportunity,” Hood said. “Americans, in general, are incredibly generous. I hope people will be motivated to give above and beyond.”
One way MADI stands out from other organizations is its founder’s unique background.
Tita grew up in a poor family in western Africa. In the 1970s and 1980s, an international non-profit provided families in his area with agricultural support.
“My dad was a beneficiary,” Tita said. “We ended up having a little dairy farm.”
Now, when Tita sees others in need, he thinks of how much he has been helped.
“These people feel like they have no hope, no chance,” Tita said. “I was in their shoes at one point. I am living testimony that you can literally save lives.”
Help from America
Tita came to America in 2001, and earned a master’s degree in public health. He enjoys living in Minnesota, and loves the snow.
“The weather is good,” he said. “Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you can’t make something good out of it.”
Through MADI, Tita has been able to ship a 40-foot steel container of supplies to impoverished places in Africa.
“I was there all the way,” he said. “The results were so motivational, so inspiring.”
Because MADI is a small organization, supporters can be directly involved in the donation process.
“I encourage people to go to Africa,” Tita said. “It does change your life.”
According to Tita, seemingly small contributions can make a huge impact on a person’s life.
“Whether it’s $5 to help with shipping or donating a single pair of shoes, we can collectively make a difference,” Tita said. “Everyone has a responsibility to help others, and you can do that in your own little way.”
Health and hope
Hood, who works as a hospice nurse, is the newest person on MADI’s board of directors.
She had been looking for a way to send medial supplies to people in poor countries, and is now partnering with MADI to do just that.
“When hospice patients pass away, oftentimes their families are left with a mountain of really usable medical supplies,” Hood said.
The supplies can’t be used in the US because of government regulations, and families are typically told to just throw them away.
Through MADI, however, they are now boxed up and shipped to Africa, where medical supplies are in high demand.
“What we’re doing is so cool,” Tita said.
To learn more about MADI, call Tita at (612) 578-9461, email email@example.com, or click here.
People who are interested in donating items for the silent auction can email Jill Hood at firstname.lastname@example.org.