Serving the world: Local nonprofit Alliance for Youth Achievement closing at end of year
By Melanie Tucker | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
After 13 years of helping provide homes, education and medical needs for children and families across the globe, Maryville-based Alliance for Youth Achievement has decided to close its doors at the end of the year.
The nonprofit, which was started in 2000, partnered with several organizations throughout Africa, India and Thailand to give poverty-stricken families and those with HIV the help they needed to move forward.
Mandy Stinnett Adkins, the organization’s executive director, said the decision was made to close after much discussion by the board of directors and staff. It came down to the hard, cold facts of a down economy that has been slow to recover.
“We tried to be creative in the way we raised our funds,” Adkins said. “We used online fundraising campaigns, we did large government grants and did more local fundraisers. We did employee giving programs and tried other avenues. We just found that we couldn’t raise the money to stay operationally afloat.”
Adkins has been with AYA since 2008, first as a volunteer and then executive director. The organization, she said, was originally started in Colorado by a woman in response to the AIDS/HIV crisis. Partnerships were formed in Africa and beyond with native groups who already had great ideas but lacked the resources to get them done.
Letters have gone out to AYA donors and supporters worldwide explaining the decision to close. Adkins said there are so many right here in Blount County who have stood by AYA’s side for years and helped make a difference.
The projects this organization spearheaded included a partnership with Agape Home in Thailand to provide care for more than 80 HIV-infected children. Over the years, close to $400,000 was provided by AYA, Adkins said.
There there’s the 2002 microgrant program that gave livestock grants to 293 families, sponsored 25 secondary students, provided school fees and uniforms for hundreds of orphaned children and built 20 classrooms.
AYA then began a partnership with a home for children in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2003. The nonprofit also funded an outreach medical clinic for HIV-infected children living in nearby townships.
Loans have been given to women in India as a means to start or expand small businesses, Adkins pointed out. And in 2005, AYA opened the AYA Teacher Training College in Kenya that has provided free training to almost 300 teachers who serve the poorest and neediest schools.
A large project was started in 2007 with a partnership with Gospel Believers. They had a home for orphans that sat in the middle of a slum in Nairobi, Kenya. AYA provided a new home for Gospel Believers in Kitale that sits on three acres with its own crops and spring.
In addition, AYA received a grant that allowed it to construct 30 clean water projects in Uganda. A school has been completed in Nairobi, with much of the funding coming from AYA’s Building Blocks for Africa race held here in Blount County.
AYA has also sold fair trade accessories made by its partners in Africa for years. That business will continue after AYA closes, Adkins said.
Alison Mistak was executive director before Adkins, serving from 2005 to 2009. The fair trade business, called Moja, will exist online at http://mojadesigns.com , Misak said. A lot of AYA’s partners make jewelry and accessories, she said. It’s a good way to give back.
Reasons to celebrate
There are some projects that were currently still being completed. Adkins said AYA will be giving some of its partners sustainable grants to use after AYA closes.
To celebrate all that’s been accomplished, the group will hold a Farewell Party and Holiday Shopping event from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Vienna Coffee at 321 High St. in Maryville. Adkins said this is a way for supporters to come together and look back on the positives that have resulted from these partnerships. There will also be a large selection of fair trade gifts available for purchase.
“Our local community has been so invested in us,” Adkins said. “They have supported us so this will be an appreciation party for all of the time, effort, prayers and resources that people have given. We want them to have a chance to celebrate that.”