GBA Engages with Indiana University Students at Roundtable Event

The event took place at Foster Quad at IU GBA recently had the opportunity to do one of its favorite things: interact with the Bloomington community!

On November 3rd, Bloomington-based nonprofit Books and Beyond hosted a Roundtable on Service and Non-Profits in Sub-Saharan Africa. GBA, along with Books and Beyond (Rwanda), Building Tomorrow at IU (Uganda) and Play 360 (Tanzania, Kenya), met with students and other members of the IU community and presented about their missions and work.

Panelists discuss their work in Sub-Saharan Africa


GBA Executive Director Dena Hawes spoke of GBA’s experiences in DR Congo and recent initiatives there. Dena and the Giving Back to Africa Student Association (GBASA) were also on hand to answer questions, network, and sell a variety of African fabrics, curios, and handmade cards.

GBA is thrilled to be a part of its communities in both Bloomington and DR Congo and thanks Books and Beyond for hosting the event.


For information on how you can get more involved with GBA, check out this page.

"Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story" Event Brings Together Friends Both New and Old to Support GBA

  By all measures of the word, “Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story” was a success. Not only did the event display thoughtful artwork, but it also highlighted a universal drive—the drive and passion to share perspectives.

A sampling of the photos displayed at the event, submitted by students in Monroe County and DRC

When we express ourselves, whether it be through art, sport, everyday life routines, or any other medium, we project part of our story out into the world—where it then collides with millions of others. The “Beta Histoire” event and gallery seek to remind us that, in spite of our long days, embarrassing moments, and miles ahead to go, every story is beautiful, and every story is part of the larger picture of humanity. For though it is critical to acknowledge and work with our differences, it is equally imperative to celebrate our commonalities.

This event connected students from GBASA, the GBA Board, staff, and volunteers, supporters, students and families in Monroe County and DR Congo, educators, advocates, and friends for the purpose of honoring the talents and views of young people. Patrick O’Meara gave a moving speech about the “ripple effects” of even the smallest positive actions. GBA Co-founder Ann Marie Thomson and Executive Director Dena Hawes also spoke. Attendees were invited to share their “story” on a fabric square. These will be turned into a quilt. Over $2oo was raised to support GBA!

GBA co-founder Ann Marie Thomson speaks at the event

The message of the night is clear: when we come to understand our common ground, we understand the enormous reach and potential we have—not just as a nonprofit organization in Bloomington, Indiana, but as a community-shaping partner both here and abroad. With our combined passions, resources, and action, we continue to ripple the positive impacts of education and service leadership into all harbors.

Sometimes all we need to remind us of the simple joy of being part of the human family is a great story told by a willing imagination.

Thank you for your stories.


Giving Back to Africa would like to thank the Giving Back to Africa Student Association for its efforts, as well as the IU Art Museum, Patrick O’Meara, Fogarty and Friends Trio, and everyone who participated in the event.

If you’d like to learn more about GBA and our events, please follow us on Twitter @GBAfrica or connect with us on Facebook.

Also, keep an eye out for information regarding our upcoming annual gala. Details will be announced soon.


Photos courtesy of David Crosman 

You're Invited to the "Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story" Kickoff

You are invited to come and celebrate the threads that tie us all together! GBA and the GBA Student Association has partnered with the IU Art Museum to showcase student photography from both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Monroe County students. The exhibit, “Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story,” brings together art from home and abroad in order to share the stories of all kinds of young lives and to help young artists to foster their talents and explore international perspectives. The exhibit kickoff is on Thursday April 3rd from 6-8 p.m. at the IU Art Museum. The evening will include guest speaker VP Emeritus Patrick O’Meara and musical guests jazz group Fogarty and Friends Trio. We will also have DRC-inspired items and prints of the students’ photos available for a suggested donation.

Please join us!


For more information, see the Giving Back to Africa Student Association Facebook page--


 WHO: Giving Back to Africa and you!

WHAT: Exhibit opening for “Beta Histoire: I Want to Tell a Story”

WHEN: Thursday, April 3rd, 6-8 p.m.

WHERE: IU Art Museum

WHY: To celebrate the artistic expression of youth in DRC and Monroe County and to lift up their shared experiences 

Giving Back to Africa Student Association: Connecting Students to Students

Dani Walker's no stranger to DR Congo-- she's been interested in the country since 2005, a junior in high school, when she learnt of the devastating effects of the civil war there. After watching about the conflict on an episode of Oprah, the messages she heard that day on the show stuck on in her mind. She began reading about Congo, the conflict, and Africa overall. Dani later entered IU for International Studies and the African Studies program."It was the only thing that really gripped me at the time when I was supposed to be deciding what to do with my life and what to go to college for, " she explains.

After beginning her career at IU, Dani was referred to Ann Marie, co-founder of GBA, who grew up in Congo.  There were few people Dani knew of who knew about the conflict there, let alone had visited the country. The two quickly formed a friendship, and Ann Marie helped to nurture Dani's passion while also continuing to grow her vision of Giving Back to Africa.  "I have always been a big-picture thinker, so I loved how GBA strategically invested in people to grow up leaders for the country," says Dani.

Ann Marie really hit home the idea of investing in people rather than projects. She saw potential in Dani and in the Congolese people to be the producers of their own positive change. "Most organizations bypass people and instead invest in projects, which at the best will make a temporary difference.  What is special about GBA is that they have a long-term vision for Congo and they work alongside the Congolese people.  This is truly a unique and special vision that I wanted to be a part of and make a way for others to also be a part of!"

Later on, Jim and Ann Marie connected Dani with another student, Micah Widen. Both wanted to be a part of the GBA vision. Dani writes, "We began envisioning a student organization with three objectives: 1) to raise money to support GBA’s programs 2) to raise awareness about the issues facing DR Congo, and 3) to build mutual relationships between the Congolese and Bloomington communities."  They wanted people to see Africa outside of the media spotlight and to connect individuals in the US with individuals in Congo and show how each affects the other. They also desired to show the capacity of the Congolese people to take control of their own future, to show Americans that GBA's work would be a partnership, not a one-sided aid machine. Soon, the Giving Back to Africa Student Association (GBASA) was born to help fulfill these wishes.

As GBA grew, so did GBASA's events and activities. GBASA partnered with the PAID students and students at Binford Elementary for an art project. Students were given the same materials and the same assignment-- draw a picture and write something about yourself. The results were displayed at the Village Deli. This helped in aiding with GBASA's vision to connect individuals and to show that, despite cultural and environmental differences, everyone holds on to similar human characteristics and values. Another highlight was Kambale Musavali's, a Congolese activist, speech at IU. GBASA has also screened films, participated in the Lotus Blossoms Bazaar, and helped to plan and host benefits, like the Krista Detor Holiday Concert and this year's first annual spring benefit gala, Teach Me, Congo.

Both GBA and GBASA continue to plan new activities today, and both continue to grow! Why team up with GBASA? Dani pretty much sums it up--

"I grew as a leader, I interacted with incredible people from around the world, and I gained a set of skills I would have otherwise missed out on.  This is a huge advantage to being involved with a smaller organization – that you can be involved on many levels.  Take advantage of this opportunity and use it expand your own growth and learning!"


For more information on the GBASA, you can email and join the GBASA Facebook group. We look forward to seeing what kinds of creative and inspiring actions the students will lead this year!

Bloomington teen’s Appalachian Trail trek to aid children in Congo

Morgan Scherer using trip to spur donations to Giving Back to Africa

By Dann Denny 331-4350
May 20, 2013
From the Herald Times Newspaper

Morgan Scherer, a junior at Bloomington High School North, plans to hike a section of the Appalachian Trail this summer to raise funds for Giving Back to Africa. Courtesy photo

Other than doing some leisurely strolling on grassy fairways as a member of the Bloomington High School North golf team, Morgan Scherer has not done any training for his six-week, 500-mile hiking trip along the Appalachian Trail this summer.

“I expect the mountains to kick my butt,” said the high school junior, referring to his journey that will begin June 15 in southwestern Vermont and conclude July 31 in northern Maine. “But by the end of my trip, I should be in pretty good shape.”

Scherer said during his entire trek, a fundraiser for a nonprofit called Giving Back to Africa, he will be accompanied by his 1-year-old dog, Niko — who will be outfitted with his own backpack filled with food and doggie treats. Family and friends will join Scherer for some segments of his trip.

He plans to wear gym shorts, light clothes and Patagonia boots during the day; and sweat pants, wool socks and a down jacket at night. If it storms, he will slip on a rain jacket and rain pants.

Scherer will buy two to five days of food at a time — cramming into his backpack things like pita bread, bagels, peanut butter, granola bars and dried fruit bars for lunch; and pasta and dehydrated meals for dinner.

He figures the entire expedition will cost about $1,000, which he will finance with money he’s earned as the caretaker of a 99-year-old woman.

“I’ll sleep most nights in shelters that are situated about every five miles, but if a shelter is crowded, I’ll spend the night outside in a tent,” he said. “Some nights, I’ll go into town and sleep in a hotel or hostel, and I hope to spend a few nights in what are called ‘huts,’ where they cook you breakfast and dinner. That would be high living. The huts charge you $100, but I’m hoping they let me stay there for free once I tell them I’m doing a fundraiser.”

Giving Back to Africa

Last year Scherer’s sister, who knew Morgan wanted to do some kind of nonprofit work, suggested he attend a meeting of the Giving Back to Africa Student Association at Indiana University.

“I went to the meeting and had a great time,” he said. “It was me and 20 cute college girls.”

But when he heard Anne Marie Thompson speak about Giving Back to Africa — a Bloomington-based nonprofit she cofounded that engages youth in the Democratic Republic of Congo in solving the major problems of their country — he knew he wanted to help.

“It’s awesome to see what they’re doing with youth in the Congo,” he said.

The money Scherer raises through his excursion will help support the Centre Salisa school and orphanage in the Congo. The school, founded in 2002, has nearly 250 students in grades 1-11, but the Giving Back to Africa program works with 70 students in grades 5-8.

The school teaches a standard curriculum of language, science and math along with some vocational skills, such as sewing. Teachers work Giving Back to Africa into the curriculum. The program trains students to target major community development problems — such as water use, hygienic hand washing, and waste management to prevent disease.

“I like knowing where the money is going and how it’s being used,” he said. “I have photos of the schoolkids on my wall at home. Some day, I hope to go the school myself and meet those kids.”

Those wishing to follow Scherer’s trip and support it financially can do so on his website — So far, he has received $340 in donations and pledges, totalling $6.68 per mile.

North’s Interact Club

Morgan Scherer is no stranger to service. As vice president of the Bloomington High School North Interact Club formed this school year, he has helped clean Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, do trail maintenance at Lake Lemon, and raise money for school-aged victims of Superstorm Sandy. The club’s mission is to participate in fun yet meaningful service projects.

Indiana University Students Model Leadership for Congo

The Giving Back to Africa Student Association (GBASA) at Indiana University hit the ground running in 2013 planning for its first annual spring benefit. “Teach Me, Congo,” hosted by The Pourhouse Café in Bloomington, Ind., on April 4, raised nearly $800 to aid Giving Back to Africa’s work at Centre Salisa. Sarah Baulac, director of special events for the School of Public and Environmental Affairs Undergraduate Student Association (SPEA USA), contacted Ann Marie Thomson at Giving Back to Africa about collaborating with GBASA on a project during the spring semester.

The movers and shakers of the IU GBASA and SPEAUSA © Benjamin Wiggins 2013 All rights reserved

With the help of volunteers from SPEA USA, the two organizations teamed up and divided into seven committees to plan the event.

The auctions and acquisitions committee worked to secure donations from Bloomington businesses to auction at the event, as well as to create handmade items from Congolese cloth to sell. The catering committee worked with two caterers to developed menus for both the benefit and the non-profit panel presented at SPEA on April 1.

Marketing, the biggest committee, secured advertisements and news coverage in local newspapers about the benefit. Members also created fliers for both events and distributed them across campus.

The hard work of committee members from both student associations paid off the night of the event. Attendees were treated to the music of student performers Square Peg Round Hole, the Afro-Cuban Ensemble and the Sam Hoffman Trio. Photos taken of and by students at Centre Salisa were printed and matted for a small photo exhibit hung at the Pourhouse Café.

“Teach Me, Congo” was a huge project for GBASA members, and it would not have been possible without the help of SPEA USA. In addition to raising money, the benefit increased awareness about the ways Giving Back to Africa fosters education in Mpasa II through project-based learning.

After the event, GBASA organized a call-out meeting for students interested in joining the student association. Students who learned about GBASA at the event, along with SPEA USA members who have decided to join the association, will continue to increase awareness about Giving Back to Africa through art and outreach events the following academic year.

Lotus Blossoms Bazaar

"In the Spring of 2012, the Giving Back to Africa Student Association participated in the Lotus Blossoms Bazaar, a local event used to teach about multiculturalism from many different parts of the world, with the specific aim to educate local schoolchildren.  For our booth, we represented the Democratic Republic of the Congo by having the children make personalized bookmarks with bits of Congolese fabric.  Since the fabric is so colorful and eye-catching, they had a wonderful time designing their work and learning about the fabric’s origins.  One of our missions is community outreach, especially to children in order to broad their worldview.  We as GBASA loved participating in the Bazaar - it was a great first experience!" - Sarah McMahon  

"Most rewarding for me this semester was the Lotus Blossoms Bazaar. The GBASA worked together each week, meshing together each member's ideas and resources. We had so much fun in essentially surrounding ourselves with Congolese fabric and music. Lotus Blossoms volunteers enthusiastically complimented our table and activity. Most notable was the incredible enthusiasm the Bloomington students and adults had for the Congolese fabric. Often, students swarmed the table to learn about the fabrics and create their own bookmark. We chose to have them make bookmarks in order to encourage creativity, get them involved with this facet of the DRC, and give them something useful to keep. Reaching out to the community was so rewarding that before the Bazaar finished, it was agreed that we would like this to become a staple for our organization." - Natalie Graves

Krista Detor Concert with GBASA

Sarah McMahon from the GBA Student Association (GBASA) recalls her experience at the Krista Detor Concert:

In December 2011, Giving Back to Africa partnered with Krista Detor, famed vocalist, to raise money for GBA’s cause in a Winter Concert. The Giving Back to Africa Student Association had a wonderful time participating in the fundraising event as well! We opened our own booth and sold two different items: a 2012 calendar with images from PAID and also homemade greeting cards decorated with Congolese fabric. All of our proceeds went to GBA. It was such a rich experience, because we were able to put our energy and time into raising money for GBA to help assist their goals.

GBASA in action!