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I Want You . . . To Care About Economics

Economics is not my thing, not my strong point, quite frankly not my delight. Among all the subjects I studied in school, that one fit least well into the mold of my particular brain. I struggled to grasp the concepts presented during the last semester of my senior year of high school. I never took an Econ class in college, but I cracked open a book the other day and all things economics tumbled out: statistics and terms that I don’t use on a regular basis in my own financial context. Although I struggled to make sense of what the author conveyed at times,, I ultimately came away from the book as a grateful reader. Hang with me through the next few paragraphs and I’ll explain why.

Dambisa Moya wrote this book, titled Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, because she tired of seeing her native continent inundated in money that brought harm rather than betterment. (To clarify, the aid she mentions has little to do with international nongovernmental organizational (INGO) work. She refers to governments (generally Western) dumping funds on African governments.) Even if you’re not a “numbers person” this statistic might shock you: “Since the 1940s, approximately US$1 trillion of aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. This is nearly US$1,000 for every man, woman and child on the planet today” (pg 35). That’s 1,000,000,000,000 dollars. Twelve zeros. Wow.

Moya explains the situation by giving a brief history of aid and then explaining why aid has not achieved the goals it set out to accomplish. In a section titled “The vicious cycle of aid,” she enlightens the reader about how this happens:

Foreign aid props up corrupt governments – providing them with freely usable cash. These corrupt governments interfere with the rule of law, the establishment of transparent civil institutions and the protection of civil liberties, making both domestic and foreign investment in poor countries unattractive. Greater opacity and fewer investments reduce economic growth, which leads to fewer job opportunities and increasing poverty levels. In response to growing poverty, donors give more aid, which continues the downward spiral of poverty (pg 49).

Whew! If you’re anything like me, this sounds a little overwhelming. Thankfully, Moya doesn’t stop here. She gives more details about this corruption and its relationship to aid. Then she turns to providing alternatives for African countries: issuing bonds, finding investors, obtaining a credit rating, borrowing from institutions other than the World Bank in part to build credibility, and trading with other countries inside and outside the African continent. Moya spends a good amount of pages on current Chinese investment in Africa (which I found to be very interesting).

Ultimately, her recommendation is to cut out aid incrementally over a five year period until a country no longer receives any. She says that the general population of Africa won’t suffer as much as the reader might think because so much of the aid money is going to a small number of powerful people in African government positions anyway. If donor countries cut aid, African governments will be forced to stand on their own two feet and find ways to replace that money through the suggestions listed above.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, you’re reading this on Mocha Club’s blog, so chances are that you care about Africa and its people. If you truly care about something, you generally invest time, money, or some other element of life into it. I’m not about to suggest that we all need to be economic scholars in order to care about Africa. But what I am suggesting is that education is important. If you care about something and want to see change, educate yourself about that issue. Start by reading one news article per day or following organizations you care about on social media.

Even though I’m not a huge economics fan, this discipline is integral to international development, so it’s worth my time to invest in learning a little bit about it. Take the plunge, friends: Pick up that book, scroll through that article, ask a friend about their life experience. You never know; economics might just be your thing.

FROM THE FIELD, HIV/AIDS + Healthcare, Uncategorized

The results are in…


In a place where there is a high percentage of individuals & families suffering from HIV/Aids, the real suffering occurs when the community turns its back on those in need instead of stepping in to support their own.  In the Kibera slum in Kenya, Peter and his staff at HEKO are striving to reverse this problem.  In a place where the church should be stepping up to lead & “care for the poor” in this situation, this place that should be one of rescue & restoration is actually virtually useless and detrimental.

Peter and his team conducted a study with the local church to find some answers; these were the results:

  • The majority of church members have felt the extent of the HIV and AIDS epidemic.
  • Gossip is the main source of how they know who has the HIV and AIDS.
  • There is significant loss of membership and tithe/offering returns.
  • Level of stigma is unbelievably high.
  • Level of awareness on transmission is very low.
  • Limited church initiated programmes on care and support.
  • Use of condoms are highly condemned and this position is non-negotiable.
  • Screening and testing for HIV is highly opposed.
  • Churches have not developed any activities or associated plans for the People Living with HIV/AIDS or family households affected by the HIV pandemic.
  • Church leaders and many parents are not prepared to tackle the issues, except the youths who feel free to share sexual experiences and discuss challenges with each other.
  • Lack of human material and capital resources including training, capacity building, material acquisition, curriculum development particularly on the sex education for youth, visionary leadership and resources acquisition to care and support OVCs and PLWHAs.

So, there is a vacancy in the space of help & support and Peter and his staff at HEKO are stepping right in.  Here are the services they offer:

·       Health and Nutrition Education: General well-being of the person and the value of good balanced diet to PLWHA on ARVs-ART.
·       Food Relief and Social Support: For the support of PLWHA, OVCs and Home Based Care givers for improved livelihood.
·       Sports and Recreation: To help improve good body health and social relationships among different target groups irrespective of status, age, tribe, culture and religious affiliations.
·       Economic Empowerment: To PLWHA, OVCs, Care Givers linked to opportunities for income generating activities.
·       Counselling: To PLWHA, OVCs, family household, drug addicts and other risky behaviors and negative lifestyle.
·       Life Skills: Psychosocial skills required in all aspects of young peoples lives that is critical to controlling HIV/AIDS among the youths as well as other aspects of education that highlighted participatory methodologies of the empowerment in all the activities and processes of decision making that concern the youth.
·       Discordant Couples: Special counselling service to couples where only one partner is infected or living HIV positive.
·       Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Small changes can make a big difference in reducing harmful effects and chances of having alcohol-drug related problems among the youth. Drug and substance abuse is linked to the rising crime rate, HIV/AIDS prevalence, schools unrest, family dysfunction, poverty and other malaise in the community. The youths are deliberately and tactfully recruited into the drug culture through personal factor, uncontrolled media influences and other related social exposure.

HEKO’s presence in the community is vital to closing the door on stigmatization, opening the door to community building, and ultimately ending the HIV/Aids pandemic. When you support Mocha Club and it’s healthcare initiatives, you are part of this eradication. Thank you.


MOCHATERNS, Uncategorized

Mochatern Monday 10.03.16 : “Poverty Inc.”

What if our efforts to fight poverty have hurt more than they’ve helped? Do good intentions always equal good impact? What if we’re part of the problem?

Last Monday, my fellow intern, Kelly, wrote about the importance of working with—not for—the poor. Dignity is more effective than pity; the poor need a seat at the table, not a handout. Unfortunately, the poverty industry as we know it has far too often maintained the us vs. them mentality. Donations of money, food, clothing, and much more pour in; while this can be a boon for people in poverty in the short term, this variety of long-term aid can leave economies, local business owners, and individuals worse than it found them.

That’s all a little confusing, though, isn’t it? Phrases like “the poverty industry” can make us want to run far away from any such discussions. What does all of this really mean, anyway?

There are two things that have been most helpful to me in learning about poverty and how we should (and should not) address it. First is the documentary Poverty, Inc. I saw this film for the first time last year, and I haven’t stopped talking about it since. In a mere 90 minutes, Poverty, Inc. introduces viewers to stories of success and failure in poverty alleviation, explanations of why the system works the way it does, and solutions for forward movement. I can’t recommend it highly enough—get yourself on over to Netflix, Amazon, or iTunes, and watch it.

The second thing that’s been helpful to me is getting involved with organizations such as Mocha Club. The reason I applied to this internship at all is that, after getting to know Mocha Club last spring when I helped organize a showing of Poverty, Inc. on my college campus, I was impressed by the candid, honest way that Mocha Club seeks to help those in poverty in Africa and connect them to people here in America. Mocha Club wants to work with people in poverty; they help us break down the notion that poverty alleviation is a simple idea, and Mocha Club seeks to do this work in a humble manner that listens first to community members and workers already on the ground.

So what does all this mean for you? Go watch Poverty, Inc. Ask good questions. Find winsome, honest nonprofits like Mocha Club to support. (Go back to Kelly’s post from last week, and read the book she mentions, When Helping Hurts!) Poverty alleviation and relief isn’t impossible—it’s just not simple. But it can start with people like us taking steps to effect a cultural paradigm shift in the way we talk about the poor. It starts right here.


Mochatern Monday 09.19.16 : What is Africa like?

Whenever you travel or experience something new and different, your return home comes with the inevitable onslaught of questions. Boil all those questions down, and everyone is asking essentially the same thing: What was it like? What did life look like there?

This gets at a desire that many of us, especially here at Mocha Club, share: to experience the lives of people who are different from us. What is Africa like? We want to know.

What do you do on a Tuesday morning in urban Kenya? What does Friday night look like in rural Malawi? Is it immensely different from life in America? Is it similar? Whenever it’s me on the receiving end of questions like these, I fumble around for answers, remember we all like showing more than telling, and then stick my iPhone in front of my listeners. This is what driving down the road on a Saturday afternoon in rural Uganda looks like. Cows being herded down the highway. Driving on the left side instead of the right, with innumerable speed bumps when you’re passing through every village. That’s not a baby you hear crying at 0:11 seconds—it’s a goat bleating. Those are the Rwenzori mountains in the distance; you’re heading east. It looks like rain. Of course, this is only a tiny moment—one minute and one second, to be exact. But moments like this can be invaluable to us. We get to step out of our own selves and be someone else for that minute. And when we go back to our own selves, the ones holding a phone or sitting in front of a computer in the United States of America, we find that Africa isn’t so far away after all.

MOCHATERNS, Uncategorized

Welcome our new Mochatern, Kelly!

We are excited to welcome another new Mochatern for the Fall 2016 season, Kelly! She has traveled all the way from Harrisonburg, Virginia to hang out with us in Nashville for the season and we are looking forward to having her as part of our day-to-day Mocha Club team!

Name: Kelly OstergrenIMG_5040

Hometown: Pasadena, MD

University: James Madison University, 2013, English

Favorite Place: Anywhere in and around Harrisonburg, VA with a view of the mountains 

Walk up song: Switchfoot’s “Let It Out”

Nashville bucket list: Go on adventures/to concerts with my dear friend who lives here, find bookstores with used books (aka book thrifting), visit Jenni’s on more than one occasion

How I take my coffee: Unadulterated (aka black)

Guilty pleasure: Eating homemade just-out-of-the-oven bread with Irish butter

Why I’m excited about interning at Mocha: I love the way this organization sees aid as a partnership and that African leaders decide what is needed in their communities. Since my experience with nonprofits so far has been focused on the U.S., I look forward to working with an international organization. I love that I’ll have multiple roles and get to be a part of many different projects. I’ve had a great experience meeting staff so far and am thrilled to get to work alongside them!

ARTISTS, EVENTS, Uncategorized, Women at Risk

Volunteer with Mocha Club & Matt Wertz!

IMG_5103Mocha Club is heading out on the #GUNSHY tour with Matt Wertz this Fall! And we are looking for volunteers to help out at each show. Help support our friends in Africa by volunteering at the Mocha Club table!

We need 2 people to work the Mocha Club table and Matt’s merch table at each of the concerts listed below.  Would you be available? It will be a fun night sharing about Mocha Club and welcoming new people into our community. We can’t do this without you!

A fun bonus is that Mocha Club table staff get free admission to the concert!


September 14: Bryan, TX // VOLUNTEER!

September 15 : Austin, TX // VOLUNTEER!

September 16 : Dallas, TX // VOLUNTEER!

September 17 : Waco, TX // VOLUNTEER!

September 18 : Houston, TX // VOLUNTEER!

September 20: Phoenix, AZ // VOLUNTEER!

September 23 : Hollywood, CA // VOLUNTEER!

September 27 : San Francisco, CA // VOLUNTEER!

September 29 : Portland, OR // VOLUNTEER!

September 30 : Seattle, WA // VOLUNTEER!

October 4: Salt Lake City, UT // VOLUNTEER!

October 6 : Denver, CO // VOLUNTEER!

October 8 : Lawrence, KS // VOLUNTEER!

October 9 : St. Louis, MO // VOLUNTEER!

October 19 : Orlando, FL // VOLUNTEER!

October 21: Charlotte, NC // VOLUNTEER!

October 23 : Charlottesville, VA // VOLUNTEER!

October 26 : Washington D.C. // VOLUNTEER!

October 27 : Allston, MA // VOLUNTEER!

October 28: New York City, NY // VOLUNTEER!

October 30 : Philadelphia, PA // VOLUNTEER!

November 10 : Ferndale, MI // VOLUNTEER!

November 11 : Grand Rapids, MI // VOLUNTEER!

November 12 : Chicago, IL // VOLUNTEER!

November 13: Minneapolis, MN // VOLUNTEER!

November 15 : Madison, WI // VOLUNTEER!

November 16 : Indianapolis, IN // VOLUNTEER!

November 17 : Louisville, KY // VOLUNTEER!

December 2 : Atlanta, GA // VOLUNTEER!

December 3 : Birmingham, AL // VOLUNTEER!

We’re looking for people who are…

  • Friendly, passionate, responsible, & organized
  • Able to take initiative in introducing Mocha Club to people
  • At least 18 years old

What Mocha Club table staff will need to do at the concert:

  • Arrive approximately 1 hour before the show to set up the Mocha Club table (instructions will be provided).
  • Explain Mocha Club to people who approach the table before, during, and after the event.
  • Be responsible for Mocha Club table items throughout the show (do not leave table unattended).
  • After concert, answer questions and help people fill out Mocha Club signup form.
  • Safely pack up all items at the end of the show and make sure completed signup forms are Fedex’d to us **no later than the next business day following the concert.**
MOCHATERNS, Uncategorized

Welcome our new Mochatern, Lindsey!

We are excited to welcome our new Mochatern for the Fall 2016 season, Lindsey! She was part of the group from Belmont University who partnered with Mocha Club to host a screening of the Poverty, Inc. film on NGOs & foreign aid. We are looking forward to having her as part of our day-to-day Mocha Club team!

Hometown: New York, NYIMG_5041

Belmont University, Junior English major

Favorite place: Climb Nashville. And Portland Brew!

Walk up song? Hymns; any of them.

Nashville bucket list: find decent ethnic foods in this town. Current goals: Ethiopian, Indian, Ramen, and Korean. Any recommendations appreciated!

How do you take your mocha [coffee]? I don’t, actually! But give me tea, no milk no sugar, any day.

Guilty pleasure? Taylor Swift.

Why are you excited about interning with Mocha Club? Excited to see the inner workings and thought behind an Africa-focused nonprofit that I’ve respected for so long!

MOCHATERNS, Uncategorized

Mochatern Monday 08.08.16 : “Ubuntu”

Happy Monday, Mocha Club!

I created a painting (you guys will see the video, as well as the painting this week!) and I put the word “ubuntu” on it. It is a theory that comes from the South African region and it means “a quality that includes essential human virtues; compassion and humanity”. And I love it.  I researched it more and I found that in certain regions of South Africa, if someone does something wrong they are taken to the center of the village they live in and the tribe stands around the person in a circle for two days and they talk about all of the good things that person has done. Their belief is that each person is good and they will make mistakes sometimes. They believe that “unity and affirmation have more power to change behavior than shame and punishment.”, which is known as ubuntu.

 I mean how cool is that? That the people in their village make sure that person that messed up knows of all of the good things they have ever done and that through all the bad things, they are not going to “shame” or “punish” them for it, but yet be there for them and help them get through it. I believe that we all somehow have that. I mean, no one surrounds you for two days and talks about the good you’ve done, but we all get reassured of it somehow when we mess up from our friends and family. We know they are there for us through the good and the bad. I think that is pretty awesome.

Peace and blessings,