June 3, 2016 was a great day of celebration in South Jamaica, Queens. Two New York based nonprofit organizations formed a partnership and launched a shared working space to help fight illiteracy and poverty in New York and Africa. BASICS International is excited to announce the beginning of a new chapter in our story.
The launch commenced with an electric performance of African drum and dance by Asase Yaa Cultural Foundation, inviting people to celebrate the partnership between B.A.S.I.C.S International and The Thomas White Jr. Foundation.
Both organizations have joined forces to strategically fight against illiteracy and global poverty one child at a time. We will work hard to provide opportunities, programs and services that are well-needed in our communities. Together, we are committed to providing solutions on issues that plague our community such as education, health, community development, job placement and career development, etc.
BASICS International has over 15 years of experience in the fight towards ending illiteracy, poverty and hunger in Ghana, West Africa. The Thomas White Jr Foundation has over 30 years of experience servicing communities in NYC on issues concerned with drug prevention, education, and health and wellness. Both organizations have signed a MOU, which outlines our commitment to broaden community providing services that the two share a passion for; EDUCATION and COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT.
During the opening, Mr. Bryan White, Executive Director of the Thomas White Jr Foundation stated “There is no need to “reinvent the wheel,’ ie; replicate what each other is doing. Funding is scarce, but both our needs are great; so it only made sense that we support one another; sharing resources and networks to maximize our impact in the community. We believe non -profits should not be competitive but should rather work together to make a difference.”
B.A.S.I.C.S International will now work from the The Thomas White Jr. Foundation Building, Inc. located at 162-04 Tuskegee Airmen Rd. (formerly known as South Rd.) in Jamaica, NY.
This kind of cooperation might appear to be common, but it was only recently that local nonprofits started coming together. Competition for resources between nonprofits has led to organizations taking claim and being somewhat possessive of what they do.
Mrs. Jennifer Diamond, the President of the Diamond Family Foundation joined us at the launch and delivered an astounding message of inclusion. She highlighted the dangers of excluding people from cooperating in causes, both trivial and major. Everyone has something that they can contribute to a purpose to further refine it. “Without inclusion, we create radicals”, Mrs. Jennifer Diamond stated. Radicals have untapped potential and a need to feel accepted. It is crucial to rally them to work together to achieve a common goal.
The Diamond Family Foundation Fellowship provides funds to B.A.S.I.C.S International programs and capacity building. In 2015 funds were provided to launch a Fellowship program which provides university graduates an opportunity to serve with B.A.S.I.C.S International for one year in the field of Business Development, Programme Management and Academic Officers.
Sandra Bright, Board Chair at BASICS International, spoke passionately about her involvement with the organization for the past 15 years as a volunteer, donor, sponsor, board member and now currently as Acting Chair. “I know the children by face and name, and have seen them grow because of the support they receive through BASICS’ donors, including myself. It truly is making a difference.” She encouraged others to get involved and to help in any way they can.
Pat Wilkins, founder of B.A.S.I.C.S International, delivered a powerful speech about her 15 year journey with the organization thus far. Her speech was preceded by a short video that sent tides of emotions throughout the audience. It showed the lifestyle of an average child living in the urban Ghanaian community of Chorkor. Wilkins highlighted both the highs and the lows of her decision to pack up and leave the community she was born and raised in to go and help those in need. She described it as “answering a call from God”. The trials and tribulations she faced were no obstacle for her resilient character, and did not stop her from serving her purpose. When Pat first decided to sponsor children she knew that she could not do it alone, so she sent out email blasts in search of support to fund the education of 4 potential students. When she received over 100 responses she then realized that she could help 100 more children, whom otherwise would not have the opportunity for a quality education. Pat stayed connected to her roots and continued to visit her alma mater, JHS 192 in Hollis Queens, and volunteered at the after school center at Springfield Gardens United Methodist Church. For the past 5 years, Pat has researched and sought out ways to bring BASICS International to the forefront in her hometown but initially did not have the resources to make it happen, until she met Bryan White.
Bryan White, The Executive Director of The Thomas White Jr Foundation chaired the event and stressed the need for nonprofits to collaborate. Mr. White stated, “This partnership will allow young people in our community to compete in a global job market by exposing them to a world outside of their local neighborhood and serving others. Giving them the ability to have options made readily available to them as they pursue their education and after graduation.” The Thomas White Jr. Foundation legacy centers on changing lives by providing hope and opportunity for a better tomorrow. This partnership will add to the legacy.
Former volunteer Opare Agyeman packed his bags in January 2106 and left Ghana after spending one year serving as a tutor and mentor for BASICS. When he read there was a Fellowship program he jumped on the opportunity to apply. With one year experience under his belt, he was a great candidate to fill the role in any of the three positions posted.
During the opening celebration, Opare wooed all guests with his speech of witnessing the life of a young boy changing during his one year tenure as a volunteer’ teaching rap music. Although he didn’t think he was making an impact; he confessed that it was actually his life that was changed; as he was hit with a reality after graduating from York College ( BA in Psychology) , that he didn’t have a job nor a plan. He said “ it’s ironic as we are here celebrating, just across the street thousands of kids and their families are doing what he did just last year ( York College graduation ceremony). He joked “that we should all be over there asking them “ whats NEXT? And inviting them to sign up.
As a Business Development Fellow, Opare will seek new partnerships and strengthen existing ones (ie donors and schools). BASICS International and NYU Accra, have been working together for the past 5 years, providing study abroad students with internship and volunteer opportunities in Ghana. BASICS International would like to partner with more schools, particularly those in underserved communities’ and match students with an opportunity to serve in the local or global community. BASICS is committed to helping students completing university, gain experience, enhance their resumes and make a difference. BASICS would also like to help high school students enter university through building up their applications that will stand out from their SAT scores.
In an economy that has not fully recovered from the recession, thousands of students will graduate this year, joining the thousands that graduated last year, all asking themselves the same question “What’s NEXT?” BASICS international is saying “Serve and change a life– it might just be yours!”
Other voices from the event:
“NYU Steinhardt is proud to partner with BASICS International to provide international internship opportunities for our students. As BASICS expands its capacity through a New York-based office, we look forward to further collaboration.”
“Joining BASICS is one of the best decisions I made. I always looked forward to seeing the smart yet goofy children every week. I hope one day to visit the children there again and see the great changes BASICS brought!”
Charin Lim, NYU BS. Special Education , 2018 ( volunteer with BASICS International Jan- May 2016)
“ We are proud of our daughter; Pat and stand firm in helping her fulfill this calling. It took us awhile to understand what she was going in Africa, but after visiting and seeing her make the sacrifices of her own wealth and comfort; we understood clearly” We know she will give the same energy to her hometown.
Lenora and Eddie Gates; Parents of Pat Wilkins
BASICS International and The Thomas White Jr Foundation, future plans including visiting schools, community based organizations and host open house forums; sharing information on programs and services for young people. The next event dubbed “ WHATS NEXT” is scheduled for Thursday, July 21st at the TWF building in Jamaica, Queens. Interested parties can call 718-454-1273 for more information.
More pictures from the event: