Spark Ventures’ Partnerships Trips to Zambia are part of our unique strategy of long-term international development. For the past five years Spark has been working alongside partner organization Hope Community School, which provides nutrition, education and healthcare for children living in extreme poverty in Zambia. Spark has strengthened Hope by investing human and financial resources to grow their capacity by 300% and increase their impact exponentially. In order to sustain this impact, Spark invested in a commercial business that Hope owns and manages, generating profit that supports programs for their children. In short, Spark believes that linking community programs with economic development is the best way to ensure lasting impact for children and communities in developing countries.
Each year, Spark hosts two volunteer travel trips to Zambia for Spark supporters and interested individuals to experience our work first hand. This year, Spark collaborated with another Chicago-based start-up, Groupon, who waived their fees and provided national exposure for these trips. January and February trips hosted a total of 30 individuals from around the country for a 10 day/9 night volunteer vacation of a lifetime. Participants spent a good portion of their week at Hope Community School, home to over 300 orphans and vulnerable children. Each day the travelers would spend time getting to know and reading with one of the students at the school. Other activities included home visits with traditional Zambian meals, time at the market, lessons on Zambian history and the HIV/AIDs situation and introductions to the economic development.
The end of the week includes a visit to Lusaka, the thriving capital of Zambia and location of a commercial poultry farm that Spark helped to launch with an investment of over $100,000. Profits from this farm are allocated to the continuing operations of Hope Community School, providing a pathway to financial sustainability. The trip ends with a day in Livingstone to see Victoria Falls, one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World, and a boat and land safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana where the group sees elephant, buffalo, giraffe, crocodiles and much more of Africa’s amazing wildlife.
While Spark is not primarily a volunteer travel organization, the commitment to these types of trips is in its DNA, as the three founders started Spark after a similar adventure in 2006 to Zambia. As a nonprofit organization, Spark is predominantly funded through individual contributions and currently has a budget just under $1M. Hosting 10 of these trips to Zambia in the last 6 years has yielded new contributors, advocates and volunteer leadership for Spark’s board of directors and advisory council. Recent relationship building with government officials at the Zambian Embassy in Washington, D.C. along with outreach to the corporate entities and multinationals in Zambia are also key to Spark’s resource development strategy.
Spark’s vision is to create sustainability for four international partners in ten years. A new partnership in Nicaragua was announced in November of 2012, but the current funding priority remains the scaling of the poultry farm in Zambia to sustain Spark’s first partner. For more information on Spark’s Partnership Model, Trips or events, visit www.sparkventures.org, or contact CEO, Rich Johnson, email@example.com or 773-293-6710.