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28 July 2014
Discussion on Sustainable Development in Africa with Vivian Lowery Derryck and Mary Bliss

Founder Mary Bliss discusses how her organization, Practical Small Projects is implementing the UN development agenda in Mali.

On July 28th, UNA-NCA held a brown-bag lunch event at the UN Information Center to discuss “Implementing the UN Development Agenda: A Model for Sustainable Development in Africa.” Free for members, the event featured a short video on the work of Practical Small Projects (PSP), a nonprofit working  in Mali  and founded by Mary Bliss who also serves as the organization’s Executive Director. The video was followed by an informal discussion on how models and strategies like those of PSP advance and address UN development goals in Africa, and was moderated by Vivian Lowery Derryck, President and CEO of The Bridges Institute and UNA-NCA Advisory Council Member.

Opening remarks were given by UNA-NCA President Don Bliss, highlighting the work of UNA-NCA, mentioning the progressAfrica_Event_at_UNIC on the MDGs and introducing the topic of the discussion on sustainable development in rural Africa. The video gave an overview of how PSP creates health, education, and income generating opportunities in Mali through the provision of solar energy and tap water to schools and maternity wards. The organization partners on the ground with Ji Duma, a non-profit organization, and Afriq Power, a for-profit organization. The organization’s comprehensive development approach focuses on a hierarchy of needs that suggests that, without health maintained through projects like those focused on clean, accessible water, you cannot achieve education goals, and without education, entrepreneurship is not achievable. Then, with greater employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in a community, people are more likely to stay and invest in the political stability and future of their own communities rather than move away to larger cities for jobs.

Ms. Derryck shared some of her own key takeaways from the video which included 1) PSP’s model for a successful public-private partnership, 2) local ownership is key to project success, and 3) the model of Malians training other Malians builds trust within a community.

MaryVivianDon_UNANCA_UNInfoTalk_July2014Ms. Derryck also posed the question of whether PSP supports all of the MDGs including building global partnerships for development, improving maternal health, reducing child mortality, promoting gender equality by rebuilding schools to have more girls attaining an education, combatting HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases by storing vaccinations in refrigerators, ensuring environmental stability with the use of solar energy and eradicating poverty with the improvement of health and education. Ms. Bliss was not alone in her views that PSP’s projects do both directly and indirectly.

To see the PSP video and learn more about the project, please visit http://www.practicalsmallprojects.com.