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2014 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN)

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Economic Development, International, International Agricultural Development, International Development, International Economic Development, Microfinance, Rural Economic Development

Mission: Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN) forges partnerships with underserved rural and nomadic desert peoples of West Africa to realize their ambitions for education and enduring livelihoods.

Results: Developing enduring grassroots programs for over a decade to bring access to education and opportunity to some of the poorest communities in the world. Local women mentor at-risk girls to keep them succeeding in school. Self supporting agriculture projects increase food security and income. Training and investing in community enterprise and S&L groups for women increases economic security on both family and community levels. RAIN is bringing measurable changes in quality of life while preserving traditional lifestyles.

Target demographics: Rural and nomadic communities achieve access to education and enduring livelihoods.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 17 remote communities across the desert regions of Niger

Geographic areas served: Niger, West Africa

Programs: School Market and Women's Co-operative Agriculture, Mentoring for at-risk girls, Small Enterprise such as artisan and herding co-operatives, wells, Savings and Loans Groups, agricultural and business education, Learning Center for nomadic students to go beyond primary school.

Community Stories

39 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN) is one of those rare organizations that is not about charity but rather about sustainability.Every dollar invested is intended to create the infrastructure or resources to enable local communities to carry on their educational mandate without further intervention from outside. Of course it takes time to build the communal institutions to accomplish this, so RAIN is the
initial resource to make this possible. Education is the key to combating the negative forces of fundamentalism that have played out in the region over the last 12 months. Please support these efforts that will sustain a rich cultural Tuareg heritage. I have been to Niger with Bess and RAIN and experienced the warmth and generosity of a culture in transition. Send me an email cw@charterweeks.com and I will send you my journal of that amazing journey to the very edge of nowhere.
Charter Weeks

Stephanie172

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Education and empowerment for women and girls has proven to be a powerful force for peace and prosperity in developing nations. Programs like RAIN provide an enormous return on investment.

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

The commitment and passion to the work RAIN does in Niger is a model for all small nonprofits. The Board and the staff create an environment that allows someone with very little knowledge of western Africa to understand the urgency of the need for education, water and support for the people in the communities served by RAIN. Though these communities are a far distance from the United States, RAIN works diligently to make us realize that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect when a foreign nonprofit is dedicated to providing assistance.

Donor

Rating: 5

I know that every dollar donated to RAIN is money used in the most effective manner. It is vital that the cultures of the world's fragile indigenous peoples, such as the life-revering Tuareg, be sustained and preserved. YOU can help in achieving this by donating to RAIN, an amazing non-profit which is dedicated to education and economic development in Niger. The Tuareg culture (renowned for its matriarchal families, inspiring music and beautiful jewelry) has survived the harsh realities of the desert since its creation; however, it is at risk in our violent world. The road to peace is paved with the prosperity of people such as those that RAIN is "boosting" with education and, also, with the essentials for good health that enable learning and putting to work what has been mastered. God bless the people of Niger, and God bless RAIN for all it accomplishes in Niger!

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is dramatic evidence of the power of one. When Bess Palmisciano first visited the Sahara desert of Niger, she didn't just exclaim over the scenery, she wanted to learn how a nomadic peoples lived in such a place. When she saw some of the essential things they needed, she set about her work of recruiting help to dig wells, build schools, enable nomadic children to attend the schools by planting gardens to feed them at school. RAIN now helps to educate women to be economically independent and girls to be educated while not neglecting important support for men and boys in Niger. The work of RAIN demonstrates the transformational importance of two statements attributed to two ground-breaking women: Marilla Ricker, "It had to be done so I did it', and Margaret Mead, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." I am proud to support such valuable work!

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I've seen how powerful the mentoring bond can be in practice in schools in this country. A way for both mentor and mentee to see beyond their daily horizon and take new, positive and sometimes scary risks. It can be life-saving. I am so happy to have discovered RAIN's education programs in Niger that give young nomadic girls opportunities beyond traditional roles and their community mentors new livelihoods and training in health, business and social issues. We know how important every year of school is for these very rural and nomadic youths living in a changing and challenging world. RAIN's impact on their Nigerien partners and friends is real, personal and sustainable - and deserves our help.

1 Larry45

Donor

Rating: 5

A recent 50th reunion of former Peace Corps volunteers who served in the Niger Republic voted to recognize and fund RAIN and one other non profit group as a legacy non profit serving the critical needs of Niger citizens. A sub-committee of former volunteers experienced in international aid and development considered and developed a short list of 6 potential organizations, some very large and established and operating in Niger. RAIN was selected for recognition and funding due to its leadership, use of primarily well experienced Nigeriens to manage the organization, its support of under-served population, provision of services in education, economic development, food security in a sustainable manner, and support of girls education.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

RAIN for the Sahel and Sahara is a fantastic non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of many groups in Niger. RAIN has implemented programs to fight for the right of equal education and has formed cooperatives with both women and men to help support their lifestyles. RAIN also educates Americans about the difficulties these people face each and every day. A wonderful and thoughtful organization!

Stephanie171

Donor

Rating: 5

There are many reasons that I support RAIN both as a volunteer and as a donor. One of the biggest reasons is that they are an organization who sets the stage for people to help themselves. They are not an organization that sweeps in and imposes western solutions. RAIN listens first and then works to help. Their staff in Niger is Nigerien. I think that speaks volumes. When you speak with their ED, Bess Palmisciano, you see that her deep respect for the Tuareg people informs RAIN in everything that they do.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Bess and the staff at RAIN are intelligent and compassionate leaders working to create positive change for the nomadic people of Niger, some of the poorest people on Earth. RAIN's efforts are multi-faceted....fundraising, helping to make the rough desert environment more functional for survival, education and training, and selling in the U.S. the goods made by the women of the nomadic cooperatives so that the money can be put back into schools for children back in Niger. A lot of work done efficiently and with incredibly positive results!!

Margo007

Donor

Rating: 5

Our small midwest Episcopal congregation makes a yearly donation to an international non-profit that works effectively with local people to make a difference and empower them to improve their lives. Bess and her work with RAIN in Niger, through the in-country staff and creative programs, was a perfect match for us. We were able to support a Mentoring program for women and girls where women taught girls traditional artisan crafts, while sharing about health and nutrition. Our kids wrote and the girls wrote back, giving our children a chance to learn first-hand about Niger, while having fun exchanging letters across the world. RAIN does transformative work that we are proud to share!

Julie146

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Bess and the team at RAIN For the Sahel and Sahara are dedicated, smart and effective. They accomplish a great deal with the funds they receive and truly make a difference to the nomadic people of Niger. I've volunteered with the organization for the past 3 years, helping to communicate their mission and promote fundraising events. I am confident that this is time well-spent and that RAIN will continue to grow and affect positive change for the women, children and communities they serve.

Donor

Rating: 5

Congratulations on another year, and thank you for your work in the world.

Previous Stories

Donor

Rating: 5

I am proud to be a RAIN donor. Their work in support of children and women (and therefore all of the region's people) in Niger is inspiring world work. The organization and its leadership is efficient, well-run, and hopeful.

Barbara

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been volunteering for Rain for about five years and I continue to do so because I know that this organization helps the people of Niger in the way that they want help - that is in educating their children, in empowering their women and in teaching methods of agriculture to a nomadic people.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I volunteer for Rain for the Sahel and the Sahara and believe in its goals and integrity.

Donor

Rating: 5

My wife, Jennifer, and I have had the pleasure of knowing Bess and following the evolution of RAIN since her first visit to Niger about ten years ago. Bess is truly devoted to finding effective, grassroots solutions to challenges affecting vulnerable populations in Niger. From the very beginning, she and her team have always been conscious of being good stewards of scarce donor funds, doing her best to minimize unnecessary overhead and make every dollar possible reach those who need it most. She and her team are also quite conscientious in trying to ensure that approaches are developed in a participatory fashion so that they empower rural populations while ensuring that they respond to real needs.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

All of our family members have been Rain supports almost since its founding! We've watched RAIN grow and increase the help particularly to women and children in Niger, and have met some of RAIN's Nigerian volunteers. So amazing what a few people can do to bring about real change!

Volunteer

Rating: 4

One day a week, I volunteer in the RAIN office in Portsmouth doing a variety of things such as computer work, helping with mailings, filing, and sorting and organizing goods for our sales of African made items. It is such a pleasure to be involved with an organization that is making a difference in the lives of so many people, especially in the lives of women and girls in the Mentoring program. Our office walls are full of pictures of smiling men, women and children of Niger that help me feel connected to them in this splendid effort of education.

Diane G.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This terrific organization touches the lives of individuals in Niger, Africa by providing positive and sustaining support.

Donor

Rating: 5

I have been impressed by Rain from the very first news article I read about this great organization. Rain focuses on the very root of poverty. Rain works with some of the most overlooked people in the world. I am especially happy with Rain's effort to not only help with food but also to help a people sustain their culture, history and language.The idea to enable sustainable gardening at school locations is nothing short of brilliant! Their empowerment of women is a key force enabling their partners to survive in a hostile environment and a world of shrinking resources. Our family chose to make Rain one of charitable partners in our family's effort to eliminate poverty from the world's people! Let there be Rain wherever it is needed!

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

RAIN's work in Niger is a great example of how local community initiative with an organization's clear vision and commitment, can plant seeds that can bring new forms of life to a community in need. By working in a variety of fields, such as gardening, education, artisan co-ops, animal husbandry, for example, RAIN works with many different aspects of life in a community. Working with people with a plan for the future is an inspiration in a time when too much of the development work in Niger addresses rapid crisis intervention without a deeper understanding of of the long-term needs of rural communities in Niger. RAIN's understanding of Nigerien communities also included the idea that women are important and powerful sources of social change in their communities. Women's participation in RAIN activities provides a firm base of motivated community members that demonstrate their initiative by participating in activities which have a direct impact on them individually as well as on the community as a whole.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Exeter NH Rotary joined with Portsmouth NH and Newburyport NH and Rotary District 7780 and Rotary International to support Rain in building a sustainable garden and well in Niger for 250 children of nomadic tribes.

Review from Guidestar

Taylor A.

Donor

Rating: 5

RAIN fills an incredible void in development in the Niger. They communicate regularly with their donors and spend their money efficiently. I personally love the local-solutions focus and mindset of the organization.

Review from Guidestar

Donor

Rating: 5

I've known Bess Palmesciano for many years and have followed her dedicated path to develop RAIN from it's inception. I've also written 2 major public tv series about Water - The Drop of Life, and A Dollar A Day, inspiring stories about escaping poverty, and know the value that RAIN brings to the people of the Sahel and Sahara deserts. In my support of this mission, I had the pleasure of hosting a benefit for RAIN in my living room, joined by several Tuareg and members of my community who were thrilled to learn about the culture and witness songs and artifacts that in turn support the endeavors of RAIN. I'm grateful to Bess and John Ahlgren, who have brought so much hope and sustenance to a people in grave need. This is a precious gift to humanity that needs to be nurtured and cultivated.

Review from Guidestar

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Bess Palmisciano, the nomads’ advocate

In 2002 a New Hampshire woman named Bess Palmisciano visited the Sahara Desert with her husband. This trip would change her life and the life of others forever.

Bess says, “There’s a mystery at the heart of it, an attraction I don’t completely understand.”

The mystery lies in the remote Niger region of West Africa. The attraction is the legendary Tuareg and Wodaabe nomads who live in these beautiful and barren lands. Bess and her husband were
introduced to the vast Sahara by their Tuareg guide, Moussa Haidara. Bess saw the school Moussa
had attended as a child. But what had once been a bustling compound housing the residential school and its teachers with a dispensary and a garden to feed the students was now a cluster of
abandoned buildings. Niger’s support for its schools had shrunk with the nation’s economy. This
country is the poorest in the world.

Bess would return several times, digging deep to learn about the intriguing cultures, harsh life, and dire needs of these nomadic people who, in spite of increasing drought and political unrest, share
a sharp desire to improve their conditions.

And here it was that Bess found her calling. Starting with no knowledge of either the official French language or the people’s mother tongue, with no connections in the country save Moussa,
and with only the vaguest idea of how to obtain funding, she would not only help rebuild this school
but, in partnership with nomadic parents, create programs for the sustainable development of school
market gardens with drip irrigation systems as well as programs for community enterprises such as women’s artisan cooperatives and grain-grinding businesses that set aside half their profits for their schools.

That is how Rain for the Sahel and Sahara (RAIN) was born. Now,
nine years later, the non-profit
organization that grew out of a serendipitous journey has made a profound impact on the eduction,
health and food security of Niger nomads in many areas. In a region with a literacy rate under 10%
more and more children are enrolling in school. With Bess’s astute, hands-on guidance as Executive Director, RAIN has created libraries and market gardens, wells and updated irrigation
systems, women’s artisan cooperatives, scholarship and student mentoring programs, and has been tremendously effective in providing HIV/AIDS awareness and education. Parents, mostly women,
serve as mentors, encouraging children to stay in school, teaching after-school classes in traditional
skills, talking to them of opportunities for their futures – opportunities these illiterate mentors never
had but desperately want for their children. Recently the mentors were offered RAIN-designed
and sponsored bilingual literacy classes, learning to read and write in French as well as in their
own language.

The mysterious pull that the desert of Niger exerted on Bess Palmisciano has resulted in deep
friendships, long-term sustainable change, and a permanent relationship with the dunes of the
Sahara and its wanderers.
* * * * * * *

Board Member

Rating: 5

We know that if we can educate girls so that they can read and write and do basic maths they will halve the number of babies they have and the children they do have will be educated and healthy. Educating and empowering women is the best way to support wome. It is not easy to find strong organisations that do this and RAIN is one of the best working in very very difficult and remote commun ities

I wanted to donate and volunteer for women in Nigere and this work really really makes a differece

Donor

Rating: 5

RAIN operates in a region of Niger where you find the poorest of the poor. Already Niger is ranked as the poorest country in the world according to the UN's Human Development Index and if you are working in the poorest of the poor area, you are reaching some of the neediest people.

Roderick R.

Board Member

Rating: 5

RAIN celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year. We can look back on a decade of success that epitomises RAIN's mission, that is to support the nomadic and rural peoples of West Africa, with a current focus on Niger, one of the world's poorest countries.
RAIN has worked with communities throughout Niger to create working partnerships to dig wells and plant market gardens, so as to make schools viable and so facilitating the education of young women. Our model is self-sustaining, relying on inputs from each community, and creating means by which young women learn skills that translate into jobs and small businesses, that in turn provide income, sometimes up to half of which is ploughed back into the community and into the appropriate RAIN programme.
RAIN's strength is that funds can be delivered directly to its programmes; RAIN's greatest challenge to to satisfy the demand for the introduction of its model

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My husband and I are very active in the international philanthropic community. I think RAIN is unique in many ways- primarily in the way that so much of the organization's budget is devoted to the programs themselves. Another unique aspect is how vested the entire community is in every program: from planning to execution. This seems to guarantee sustainability and success. Niger is the poorest country in the world, but we get positive stories of changes every week. I feel I'm really able to make a difference working with RAIN.

5

Volunteer

Rating: 4

Throughout the years, I've seen RAIN grow and expand, and it's been very exciting for me to be a part of it. Every year, more girls in Niger are getting the help they need to stay in school- and more women are becoming literate, as well. What impresses me most is that it is all community based-entire families working to help other families, women helping girls, parents building schools, wells and gardens.

10

Volunteer

Rating: 5

RAIN is an outstanding non-profit in that it manages maximum impact for dollar given. It was begun by an energetic and compassionate lawyer who visited friends at the embassy in Niger about five years ago and who was overwhlemed and inspired by the need there and also by opportunity and resourcefulness of the nomadic people. Currently RAIN is paying particular attention to the needs of women and children and is developing a network of mentors that benefits both.

2

Former staff

Rating: 5

I had the priviledge to work for RAIN and see the efforts and the benefits of all that it does for the Tuareg people and their children. The passion this organization brings is awe inspiring. RAIN helps the people of Niger overcome natural adversity by providing the resources and tools to thrive. They teach the children the power of nutrition, farming and education through their efforts with the school market gardens. And RAIN empowers women though the Artisan Cooperative initiative to bring their crafts to the US; which provides an income for themselves and the schools for the children. RAIN has so much more to offer!

3

Donor

Rating: 5

I have worked with many international development organisations and the results and impact achieved by RAIN is the best I've seen, A clear focus on community ownership, and respect and participation by RAIN for the Tuareg people especially the women is the future for programs trying to address the poor.

8

Board Member

Rating: 5

I joined the Board of RAIN in 2009 and have been very impressed with the organization. RAIN is very lean and is able to provide many direct services with low overhead. The dedication of Bess Palmisciano is truly inspiring. Bess has forged unique bonds with the nomadic people of Niger, their leaders trust her and look to her for help with their needs. Niger is a very under-served country and RAIN fills many gaps in education, water security, artisan cooperatives, and mentoring for girls. I feel very lucky to be able to be involved with such a focused, effective organization.

8

Donor

Rating: 5

Having know RAIN's Founder, Bess Palmisciano, for more than 30 years, I am most confident in reviewing RAIN. RAIN is a worthy non-profit for the following reasons: INTEGRITY & transparency of use of funds: The money gets to the people through food, education and work mentoring programs to improve the economics of the people. Committment to HELPING OTHERS HELP THEMSELVES: The goal is for the recipients of RAIN's assistance to become self-sustaining. Assistance to a community WITHOUT ATTEMPTING TO CHANGE THE CULTURE: No one is looking for converts here. Respecting the native culture of those they are trying to help is a critical part of RAIN's program. RAIN volunteers and programs work WITH the existing culture not against it. PURITY Oof SPIRIT: RAIN was created to help Nomads in the Sahel and Sahara regions, the poorest on the planet,feed themselves and educate their children in hopes of expanding the opportunities for future generations. It all began when Bess fell in love. Founder, Bess Palmisciano, along with friends and family, hired a guide to take them through the Sahel and Sahara. She wasn't setting out to change the world but to simply explore a land and its people. Experiencing first hand how the Tourags of Niger lived simply within a coopertaive, kind, peaceful culture, Bess fell in love with that culture. When she realized that educational assistance from the Nigerian govt. was all but negligible, Bess realized that she could help. By raising funds for seeds....really, seeds...to grow vegetable gardens and use these gardens to feed the school children or sell to pay for books, RAIN was born. Today, RAIN is one of, if not the only, NGO in the region with simple programs to help these people solve their own problems: hunger, education and economy. Thank you for taking the time to review why RAIN is a worthy non-profit. In a time when there ae so many organizations looking for assisatance, I hope you are now most comfortable with participating in RAIN and helping a people in the poorest part of the world help themselves to a less dependent and more vibrant future.

8

Volunteer

Rating: 5

RAIN works to help publicize preserve the Culture of the Tuareg in Niger. If it were not for this organization I would never have heard of the Tuareg nor would Ihave come to appreciate and understand anything of their art and culture. RAIN has been instrumental in helping the Tuareg to become self sufficient. The organiation has built schools, assisted communities with improved irrigation and farming tech niques. and has also implemented a health and AIDS education program. They do what they do very well with very limited resources.