The origins of the Stepping Stones for Africa foundation lie behind a piece of apple pie and a large cup of cappuccino on a rainy sunday afternoon in a café in The Hague. The situation could have not have been be less Ghanaian.
Focus on Aids in Ghana
It is summer 2003 and Cindy Noordermeer is ready to fly to Ghana to start working in the IHCC clinic, a clinic in Accra dedicated to treating people with HIV/AIDS. Her cousin, Remco Kalf poses the idea of setting up a website where Cindy can share her stories with family and friends in the Netherlands. The goal of the website is to bring the reality of the AIDS epidemic closer to the readers.
Remco develops the portal Aandacht voor Aids (‘Focus on AIDS’) and Cindy writes stories and portraits about people in sometimes devastating circumstances. The website triggers lots of reactions. The appeal for donations was not the main goal, ‘Aandacht voor AIDS’ was not a formal foundation, but the network that formed and the incoming donations made a big difference for the situation in the clinic.
The doctor and owner of the IHCC, Naa Ashiley Vanderpuye, wrote the following in a letter in 2011: “I will not dispute the fact that Aandacht voor AIDS assisted tremendously in advertising and networking for the clinic. Through a website almost completely dedicated to the clinic, sponsors, donors and other partners were sought for. This let the organization getting lots of contacts and help in various ways, some targeted directly People Living with HIV, and others for the clinic itself.”
All projects and events in those two and a half years were documented on the Aandacht voor Aids website, and were shared among our readers in monthly newsletters.
For both Cindy as Remco, this period was very exciting, productive and inspiring, professionaly as wel as personally.
A new foundation
In 2006 the decision was made to officially restart as a foundation, so projects and finances could be managed better. The focus of the foundation was deliberately made a lot broader than HIV/AIDS. We had learned that the local people behind a cause make all the difference. We decided to focus on supporting local leaders by providing them with stepping stones to reach their goals in making a difference for the society.
From 2006 to 2014 this focus produced results in a large variety of projects. We completed a wide range of projects contributing to eco-tourism development, education and improved health and sanitation in the Volta Region in Ghana and Southern Togo. We also conducted various programs with the International Health Care Centre in Accra contributing to the prevention and care for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Refocus, and a Ghanaian branch
In 2015, we decided to transform the organization to ensure more focus, efficiency, productivity and sustainable results in the future. We implemented a few major changes. We attracted three new board members who are living and working in Ghana and who are consequently more connected to the African context. These changes have enriched us with in-house expertise and a significant network. We revised our mission and vision statement and adopted a new strategy for the design and implementation of our projects.
To be able to be more effective in the Ghanaian context and administrational structures, in August 2016 we formally registered Stepping Stones for Africa as an NGO in Ghana. All Dutch board members are also in the board of the Ghanaian branch.