Tonight proved that anything is possible given the right vision and a good group of people. Three weeks ago, I met co-founder and executive director of Lumana Sammie Rayner at the Next50 and Startup Washington launch party. I was initially intrigued by their ambitious mission—empower a village with the tools to eradicate poverty. Normally when I hear about a group of people engaged in development work, specifically international development work, there is a sense of superiority or sense that the work they are doing is charitable. Sammie and Cole Hoover, co-founder and director of programs, approached this a little differently. Rather than provide a prepackaged “solution,” they work with their clients in Africa to develop sustainable solutions from within communities. In doing so, they have built an organization based in respect and trust. This is made very apparent by the entire community involved.
Lumana runs microfinance programs in Ghana and West Africa. But as they reiterated a few times tonight, microfinance is not enough. Providing the funding for various business projects is just part of a solution to a complex set of issues. They also leverage local partnerships and technologies to ensure that people truly benefit from the loans they receive. As Cole said, “Last year, we stated that our theme was learning from our clients. This is a never ending theme and continues to drive our day-to-day activities.”
Tonight was Lumana’s 4th annual fall benefit dinner and silent auction. In attendance were people from Ghana and the greater Seattle area including several familiar faces from the Hub Seattle and Bainbridge Graduate Institute. I spoke with several people tonight. Most had direct ties with Sammie and/or Cole. Some were fellows. Some supporters. Some recipients of loans. Some African and U.S. entrepreneurs. But, regardless of who they were, they all attended to show their support because of the great work the people of Lumana are doing. To learn more check out their website and find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Check out some of the photos below. Videos will be coming soon. For more pictures, visit the Menrva Labs Facebook page.