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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

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.

8

Board Member

Rating: 4

The RAIN organization is particularly attractive to me because of it's intimate, direct approach to the challenges of the Tuarag people in Niger. Each project is developed withing a small community of Tuarag peoples with the goal that within a few years the program will be self sustaining and RAIN can move on to the next project. Rain begins by investing money and resources to help the locals build a school, start a garden, and develop a mentoring program. This initial investments grows to not only provide small business opportunities for the adults, but also provides food and education stability within the community. I'm proud to be part of this effort.

4 tucker42

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

RAIN is a very unique organization, in that it's able to reach very remote areas where other NGO's are unable to. Just in the last six months, their expansion of ten school market gardens, as well as their emergency food aid campaign during the recent droughts has impressed me with their quick responsiveness and concrete results. I've also assisted in selling handmade items from the women's artisan cooperatives, and without exception, people are touched to learn exactly who made the item they are purchasing and how 100% of their purchase is going to that artisan and to the community school.