Conversations with Child Steps International’s Founder and President, Tenneh Johnson Kemah
Tenneh Johnson Kemah is originally from Liberia. She left the country after the civil war broke out, when she was just a teenager. She promised herself that she would return, that she would be a part of healing her country – but she didn’t know how. In 2012, she founded Child Steps International to ensure that the rights of children in war-torn and impoverished countries were protected and that they had the opportunities they deserve to live prosperous and healthy lives in the places they call home.
In this finale to our blog series with Tenneh, we hear about the long-term impact pro bono projects can have on an organization and a community.
PART V: DEEPENING IMPACT
Taproot: I have one more question for you – do these pro bono projects have an impact in the communities you serve?
Tenneh: Oh definitely! One of the good things about Taproot+ is that we take what we learn here, and we’re able to transfer it back to the people who have limited access to resources.
So one of the ways Taproot has had an impact on our communities is, we use a lot of volunteers in Liberia to do community outreach. We now have an HR policy manual—here and in Liberia—and as part of that we have a formal contract that the volunteers sign. They know what they can expect when they work for Child Steps International, and this contract helps our volunteers go into the communities knowing that this is legitimate work, that they have a formal role.
We even had a project on our financial policies. Our staff now knows how to do things like invoicing, and that is really helping us keep our books on track. We weren’t able to keep our books up to date before because we didn’t know how, but then a volunteer came in, fixed it up, and it was incredible! So, not long after, a funder called UN Women was look organizations to support, and we applied. A little while later, they called and said that we are among the top three that they are thinking of choosing for funding. One of the things they needed was our compiled financials. If that volunteer had not helped us, I would not have had financials to send. Now we are close to being selected for a United Nations grant.
And now, as we’re getting ready to apply for more grants, funders are asking for our financials, about our strategies – all of these things that we didn’t have before!
Quick Tips from Tenneh:
- Use pro bono projects to build resources for your community: Tenneh mentioned how their pro bono-created HR manual ended up impacting their outreach workers in Liberia. Consider how you can use pro bono to provide resources for those you serve.
- Get your finances in order with support from a volunteer: Establishing sound financial policies and processes can have positive implications for your nonprofit’s health. If you don’t have finance expertise on staff, explore how a skilled volunteer can help you create a strong foundation.
- One project, long-term effect: Pro bono projects can impact your organization in more ways than one. Tenneh referenced how important it was for Child Steps to put financial best practices in place. What came out of that work, though, was even more exciting – an opportunity to receive funding from the United Nations!
About Child Steps International
Child Steps International (CSI) is committed to solving some of the world’s biggest problems faced by its most vulnerable citizens—children and youth—through partnerships that engage local and international stakeholders, working collaboratively for lasting solutions. CSI’s mission is to improve the lives of children and their families who have been affected by war, poverty, and discrimination. CSI accomplishes this by assisting communities in the development and strengthening of innovative, progressive, and effective services, which protect children’s rights and gives families the opportunity to be prosperous, healthy, and safe in the place they call home. http://www.childstepsinternational.org/