On November 27th, Princeton in Africa held its 2012 Annual Benefit Dinner, which included terrific speeches by two former Fellows, Allie Bream, Princeton in Africa 2010-11 Fellow with the World Food Program in Ethiopia, and Chris Courtin, Princeton in Africa 2010-11 Fellow with Nyumbani Village in Kenya.

Allie Bream spoke on behalf of current and former Fellows about why our work is so important.  We are honored to share her comments with all of those who were unable to join us on November 27th. Thank you Allie and thanks to everyone who joined us in celebrating our Fellows and our program!

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Good evening, everyone,

My name is Allie Bream, and I was a 2010-2011 Princeton in Africa fellow at the World Food Program in Ethiopia. I’m truly honored to have the opportunity to speak with you tonight on behalf of all of the fellows.

I’d like to begin by sharing my story with you. In fall of 2009, I was a senior majoring in social policy and gender studies at Northwestern. I had spent the better part of my college career working on the Global Engagement Summit, an annual capacity-building conference for young social entrepreneurs.  Although I had studied abroad and had some internships, up until that point I was primarily a catalyst, helping others complete their world-changing projects abroad. I wanted to have the opportunity to work in the developing world myself, making my own impact.

Nine months later I was a fellow in the WFP Ethiopia Public Information Office in Addis Ababa, where I was tasked with creating internal and external communications. This included newsletters, beneficiary stories, web material, press releases, and the organization’s annual report.

Within my first week I was shooting video footage of farmers cultivating their fields in Nazareth, Ethiopia for a video to be shown at an international climate change conference. A few months later, I was visiting pastoralists near the Kenyan/Ethiopian border affected by the Horn of Africa drought and planning a press conference for the Executive Director of WFP in the midst of the crisis.

When my fellowship was over I decided to come back to the US in the hopes of gaining additional skills and re-entering the field of social enterprise. I’m now lucky enough to work at One Acre Fund, a social enterprise that provides subsistence farmers with a market bundle of services – on credit – designed to help farmers grow their own way out of poverty. The organization is growing quickly – we currently serve 130,000 farm families in Kenya, Rwanda, and Burundi, with the hopes of growing to serve 1.5 million families by 2020.

Now, about half of my job consists of finding staff to facilitate our growth, working to build a team of exceptionally talented development professionals. In the past year, I have spoken to literally hundreds of people – students, conference attendees, and job applicants – who all want to work in Africa. After the first few dozen conversations, one thing became pretty clear: it’s hard to find a job working in Africa, especially with a nonprofit. Everyone requires experience, even for entry level or intern positions, but no one seems to be willing to give your start.

Princeton in Africa eliminates this barrier by connecting capable young people with positions they probably couldn’t get otherwise.

We cannot underestimate the importance of bridging this gap between talent and organizations.  Young people should not need to struggle to find a fulfilling entry-level position in Africa that allows them to do good. Their interest in Africa should be fostered, not stifled. Organizations, on the other hand, should be able to access talent with valuable skills needed to get things done. Since its founding, nearly 300 Princeton in Africa fellows have added specific skills to the organizations they serve – for me it was my English writing abilities, for Chris it was engineering skills.

We, as people who care about the African continent, need to continue to invest in talented young professionals through Princeton in Africa. We can all agree that there is no shortage of issues facing the continent: health disparities, poor education, environmental degradation, conflicts, refugees, the list goes on. All of the medicine and food and training in itself won’t tackle these challenges. We need people to diagnose illnesses, distribute food, and deliver trainings. If we’re not willing to invest in the future leaders with the skills to do this work, how will it get done?

So thank you, on behalf of fellows past, present, and future, for investing in us. And I encourage you to continue to support Princeton in Africa. Giving to this organization is not a one-time donation. It is truly an investment in the people who are going to devote their careers to serving Africa. Your impact is far greater than the one organization with one fellow you support for one year. If you want evidence of that, look no further than some of One Acre Fund’s newest hires: two Princeton in Africa alumni who are now supporting our work in East Africa. You just heard from Chris what one fellow can do in a year; imagine what our impact will be throughout a lifetime of service.

Thank you, and enjoy the rest of your evening.

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Want to hear more about Allie’s experience in Ethiopia? Check out her digital story here.

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