I read a lot of books about Africa - books that I hope will help me comprehend the incomprehensible situation of what's going on in countries like Sudan, Uganda, and the Congo. While part of me wants to understand who is against who, what people are fighting for, and how human beings could possibly subject one another to the atrocities going on in those countries, part of me feels better knowing that I'll never understand it.
In addition to the current event/history type books I read, I've also read a lot of books about start up non-profits in Africa, and other places. As chair of the fundraising committee for Save a Child's Heart Canada I've gotten a lot of inspiration learning how other non-profits began, fundraise, and expand. It's never easy. Each NGO goes through it's own saga of sending one email at a time (hundreds of times), calling, talking, and reaching out to raise awareness and raise funds. When I read things like you have to "reach out to a bunch of people and eventually a few will give a damn" in Rye Barcott's book - it happened on the way to war, when starting Carolina For Kibera, or that Greg Mortenson got one response in the first 580 letters (letters!) that he sent out when starting Central Asia Institute, it inspires instead of discourages me. I also read somewhere that in all the emails you send out you should expect a response rate of 5%. So that means that you have to just keep sending out more - the percentage might not change, but the amount of people who respond hopefully will - and better yet, maybe they'll even respond positively. Some NGO's get luckier than others - particularly the ones that eventually have books written about them. When the woman "who spoke in a soft, humble manner to (their) staff" turned out to be Melinda Gates - Carolina For Kibera got lucky. Again, though, I believe the more you just keep moving forward - the greater chance you'll get lucky, and reach someone who will make a big difference to your organization.
Something else that has been inspiring me lately are the great NGO's that have been started by young people who experienced something that moved them to take action. Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise, and the three guys who started Invisible Children when they were 19 years old come to mind - and there are others. These people have compassion in common, and also the tenacity to put one foot in front of the other toward a clear vision - hmm, I feel an analogy to climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro coming on . . .