The storm that has devastated Japan is hardly past. But as charities appeal and the public offers up their support, I cannot help but think of the three friends in southern Africa, all heads of local organizations serving vulnerable children, who have contacted me personally for help in the last month:

From Zambia: I need to seriously find out how you can help us raise funds. We are in very serious funding crisis. Pls pls I will wait to hear from you. We got funds last year from [donor] and one other partner but unfortunately the other partner is still not fulfilling. Jennifer [we] have done so well on the ground pls give us your hand.”

From Zimbabwe: At the moment we have funding problems and it has really been difficult for us to have long term funding so things are kind of tough really.”

From Malawi: “Jennifer, things are not financially working with us and I thought I should send you some information in case you might know one or two foundations or individuals that might be willing to help us.”

This Waiting for Pennies from Heaven is extremely frustrating for effective local organizations that are doing valuable work with children and families on the ground. They see the needs on a daily basis and are working tirelessly.

Unfortunately, I have had to respond to these people whom I respect and admire greatly, that I don’t have the time or money to contribute at the moment. What I could offer was my acknowledgement of their struggle and the fact that each of these organizations have much of which to be proud, as well as my hope that this is also just a storm that will pass.

My heart also goes out to the people of Japan in the wake of such tragedy, but let us never forget the long-term, slow-moving disasters of poverty, inequality and injustice around the rest of world. Given that Japan will not be relying on outside assistance, what can we do to ensure that funding also goes to grassroots organizations in the developing world where it is needed and can be readily utilized?

I worry, like many, that my prayers and compassion are not enough. But in response to my inability to help, one of my friends wrote back: “Thanks for the words of encouragement. The truth is things will work out as you say. Jenny you know you might think that you have nothing to offer, but just talking to you like this and reassuring our efforts helps to keep the momentum.”

So for my three friends, their staff and volunteers, for the relief workers in Japan, and for people working for social justice everywhere else in the world, here is my measly offering to help you all keep the momentum:

A Blessing By John O’Donahue

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work you do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light, and renewal to those who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.


May your work never weary you.


May it release within your wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration, and excitement.

May you be present in what you do.

May you never become lost in the bland absences.

May the day never burden.

May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams, possibilities, and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed, sheltered, and protected.

May your soul calm, console, and renew you.


For more information about these three effective local organizations working to protect the rights of children and families at the grassroots level in southern Africa, see:

(1) Lupwa Lwabumi Trust (Unfortunately, LLT does not have a website. You can read profiles of their work by other organizations here and here.)

(2) Justice for Children Trust (Here’s also a presentation made by JCT’s director on how the international community can more effectively support in-country advocacy.)

(3) Eye of the Child (EYC also does not currently have a functioning website. Profiles of their work by other organizations can be viewed here and here.)


This post originally appeared at:


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Comment by Jennifer Lentfer on March 23, 2011 at 6:23pm

Wiwin, Thanks for your comment and kind encouragement. has already registered over 110,000 local organizations and movements working on a wide variety of issues related to environment, social justice, etc. in 243 countries. They estimate that they may well be over 1,000,000 such local groups operating across the globe. I believe that rather than being the lowest common denominator of international assistance, local indigenous organizations should be regarded as the fundamental unit of effective development aid.


My blog recently features a series on small grants for community-based organizations in the developing world that might interest. “We all want to support the kind of people whose good work would not stop if you paid them to quit. That’s what small grants can do best.” ~Chet Tchozewski, Global Greengrants Fund

Comment by wiwin winarni on March 23, 2011 at 11:55am

Dear Jenniffer;


I find similar situation in Indonesia, where local NGOs face this frustration on funding crisis.  Your blog inspires me to support and encourage them and evoking their strengths to be self reliance.


Hope we can share more! Thanks



Wiwin from Indonesia

Comment by Jennifer Lentfer on March 23, 2011 at 10:07am

I appreciate your comments Laurence. I recently did a guest post on the danger in denying that people indeed HAVE the capacity to find their own solutions. I believe that acknowledging and working with this is the most important part of development practice


A commenter on my blog expressed frustration that the groups were pleading for funding. You can see my response here. Given the strength and courage needed to ask for help, I always want to offer compassion first.

Comment by Laurence Gilliot on March 21, 2011 at 8:25am

Hi Jennifer,


I really enjoy your writing style and also your original way of telling about your friends organisation. What you write in a several ways in line with the Constellation way of working and its approach (Community Life Competence).


1. Letting go of the 'White Mens burden': we are not responsible to carry the development of Humanity on our shoulders. Sometimes we would like to carry the burden and think that people need us so much. But actually, when we do this, we deny the fact that people and communities HAVE the capacity to find their own solutions.


2. Being present: You responded to your friends with compassion and offering your presence. You encouraged them in what they do. You appreciate and stimulate them. This is at the core of the SALT approach (Stimulate, Appreciate, Listen, Learn, Link, Transform, Transfer)


Thanks and happy to hear your thoughts on this.




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