By Abdikariim Ismael Taashiir
It is inspiring to hear of people implementing brilliant ideas for positive change. One such individual is Toussaint Farini, who founded and directs Salama Africa.
This community-based organization uses art to change behaviors of young children in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp located in Malawi.
Born and raised in Congo, Farini fled to Malawi as a refugee. It became an opportunity for him to study and support other fellow refugees. Farini joined multiple education programs which were running in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp and ultimately earned his Liberal Arts diploma with a Social Work Concentration from Regis University.
“My education equipped me with rich experiences and this led to me wanting to create Salama Africa,” he said.
Farini and his colleagues created this organization to help young refugees who were involved in multiple hardships at the Dzaleka Refugee Camp such as drug abuse and dropping out of schools. The team leads dance groups, vocational training and various art classes.
“There were many young children in our community with great talents who had no opportunity to demonstrate their skills,” he said. "Addressing this was one of the reasons behind the creation of Salama Africa."
Launched in 2014, Farini and his colleague’s initial attempts to secure funding was initially unsuccessful. However, with courage and lots of energy, they persisted. Despite the challenges and barriers, they were innovative and achieved their target building a platform to support young refugees.
“We tried to connect with other external and internal partners,” he explained. “The mindset was if you give funds to refugees they will run away with it.”
Farini and his teammates changed that mindset by bringing positive change in the community. From 2014 up to 2018, they continued with these activities despite not receiving any external funds, except sometimes going outside of Dzaleka and participating in dance events and earning money. The funds were divided into percentages for the young dancers to support themselves. An additional part of the funds was kept for future projects which successfully helped them to build a big center for the organization in the Dzaleka Refugee Camp.
“Due to hard work and sacrifice, Salama Africa has helped many young boys and girls to go back to school by as a result of collaboration with Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS),” he said.
This partnership came about as Salama Africa was advocating for dropouts to go back to school and JRS took notice. JRS provides primary and secondary school education to refugees in Dzaleka. There was an obvious alignment between JRS' mission and the impact of Salama Africa in the community.
"We are on the right path to help young refugees who are hopeless and have no platform to demonstrate their hidden talents," said Farini.
Key Lessons on Innovation
During my interview with Farini I gained the following valuable knowledge.
· Work hard. This is the secret to achieve your goals regardless of the challenges which you may encounter.
· Collaborate as team. Farini stated that “working with your team by asking for their support is also way to overcome challenges.”
· Be creative. You need to think outside the box to solve problems and find solutions.
· Sacrifice. Inventing a new idea without sacrifice is quite impossible.
· Create trust between you and your partners. As an inventor you need to always build trust and reputation with your partners or people you are expecting to support your idea. “If you build trust and reputation through your work, prospective partners will hear your name and eventually they will find and believe you can do more than they do,” he said.
· Have a big heart and be a good listener. You have to believe in your heart that the work you are doing is very important; this can sustain you during the difficult times. In addition, becoming a good listener will help you understand other people’s point of view to overcome challenges and be successful.
Farini’s story was motivational. I learned lessons that I was not anticipating. I was able to hear how creating or implementing an idea without finance is possible. Sacrifice and courage are the hidden tools to implement your ideas and become successful. Also, education is very important when it comes to innovating and becoming social change agents.
Implementing brilliant ideas without capital requires courage, sacrifice, listening skills, asking support from your teammates and making an impact on your community. This will attract those who have capital to invest in your ideas.
As I think about my goals, Farini inspired me to initiate and chase my dreams that I was worried about due to lack of capital. I am looking forward to pursuing my dreams with hard work, sacrifice and teamwork.
Learn more about Toussaint Farini and Salama Africa at his LinkedIn profile. Abdikariim Ismael Taashiir is a student Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Public Administration. Learn more about him via his LinkedIn profile. He wrote this story after going through the Global Innovators Academy Interview an Innovator experience.