Mission Africa

Turning the Tides in a Time of Crisis

Illustration of Mission Africa

Welcome to the Impact Fund Spotlight series, where we celebrate the work of community partners who are bridging the gap in health disparities for marginalized communities in Washington. Today, we’re turning the spotlight on Mission Africa, a local nonprofit that empowers families in Washington State and villages in Africa through education, healthcare, & poverty alleviation. As a collaborator within our Impact Fund initiative, they’ve been part of a joint response to the pandemic, contributing to solutions for deeply entrenched societal inequities.

Our Impact Fund supports equitable access to COVID-19 testing and vaccine education for marginalized K-12 populations. Under the guidance of Executive Director, Ndudi Chuku, and Project manager, Akunna Amaefule, Mission Africa initiated the African Health Advocacy Project (AHAP) that perfectly aligns with this goal.

Join us as we learn more about AHAP and Mission Africa’s commitment to serving their community. This is their story.

Three women, with Ndudi in the center, standing shoulder to shoulder in a warmly lit room, all smiling at the camera.

Ndudi (center) with colleague (left) and Health Commons staff, Erika Coronel. 

Ndudi Chuku, the Executive Director of Mission Africa, knew the African Health Advocacy Project’s (AHAP) youth changemaker program was fostering transformation when she watched Simon (pseudonym used) stand in front of a crowd to discuss the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on the African community. She was floored. When she first met Simon, he was shy and reserved, like many of the other youth who joined the program. But as time progressed, they recognized their impact and the value of their own voice within the community. Engaging in diverse projects, some found expression for their stories through art and poetry, while others delved into subjects such as public health, sharing their newfound knowledge with others. 

As the group began to explore ways to share safety measures against COVID-19, Simon decided to dive deeper. He devoted hours researching materials from authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The fruit of his diligent work was an insightful PowerPoint presentation revealing what he had learned about the COVID-19 pandemic and its toll on African communities. The data he presented were not merely numbers; they told the stories of people and communities grappling with COVID-19. His presentation allowed everyone to witness the human aspect of the pandemic.

A child in an orange t-shirt, a green cape, and glasses, confidently reads aloud from a card in her hand, while gripping a microphone in the other. Her audience, a group of attentive individuals seated next to her and a larger crowd of children in matching orange t-shirts behind her, watch in rapt attention. The children are grouped at tables, suggesting the setting of an organized event.

A young speaker captivates the audience at an AHAP event.

What is Mission Africa/AHAP?

Mission Africa is a nonprofit focused on a future where equitable education, healthcare, and economic prosperity aren’t distant dreams but tangible realities. During the pandemic, Mission Africa launched the African Health Advocacy Project (AHAP) to enhance community outreach about COVID-19, encouraging vaccination, testing, and heightened awareness about the disease. Beyond merely disseminating information, AHAP sought to address the specific challenges faced by K-12 children and their families in African communities in Federal Way, Kent, Auburn, and Renton. Youth Changemakers like Simon played a key role in AHAP, speaking on COVID-19 and vaccinations at community events that featured cultural dancers, African drummers, and authentic African food. 

Before the pandemic, Mission Africa focused on annual medical missions to Nigeria. However, the pandemic made those missions impossible and forced Mission Africa to pivot closer to home to the African communities within Washington state. Far from driving them apart, the pandemic served to strengthen these networks, forging even tighter bonds within and across communities. Ndudi says, “The cancellation of our annual trip to Nigeria pushed us to ask, ‘what can we do here at home?’”, reinforcing Akunna’s observation that the pandemic highlighted the dire need of people in their local community.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many existing economic, health, and education inequities, particularly for the African communities in Washington State. Mission Africa conducted a comprehensive survey involving participants from 41 African nations, uncovering the unspoken but harsh challenges of job insecurity and inconsistent income faced by African parents. These parents, attempting to navigate an unfamiliar education system for their children while grappling with food insecurity, face significant obstacles. As Ndudi recounts, “Some families were faced with the challenge of four children sharing a single laptop.”

With a history of skepticism about healthcare among the African community, the organization faced the uphill task of dispelling myths about the COVID-19 vaccine. “We had to debunk these misconceptions and provide reliable health information,” Ndudi adds. Through AHAP, over 20 community-based organizations catering to the African diaspora in the Puget Sound region have joined forces. Their collective aim is to enhance community outreach, encouraging COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and heightened awareness about the disease.

A young girl is seated on a chair, her black shirt sleeve rolled up to reveal a bandage on her upper arm. The bandage is being applied by a woman wearing gloves, a mask, and a hijab, dressed in brown. To the girl's other side, a supportive individual is gently holding her hand and her head.

A woman gets vaccinated at an AHAP event.

Why is AHAP successful?

A core element of AHAP’s success has been the engagement of trusted community leaders who are the guiding lights in their respective African communities. With existing relationships and partnerships, Mission Africa leveraged these connections to foster targeted outreach through one-on-one conversations and surveys. These influential leaders, including non-profit leaders, pastors, community group leaders, tribal leaders, and representatives from the Muslim community, stepped up as mentors and coaches to youth in their communities. Their active involvement has not only promoted AHAP’s campaign but has also played a crucial role in disseminating vital COVID-19 messaging. 

Reflecting on the positive influence of the Impact Fund, Ndudi expressed gratitude for the continuity of funding that allowed them to progress beyond the limitations of one-time grants. She acknowledged that completing a project with a single grant often leaves a lingering feeling of wanting to do more, but with the Impact Fund’s ongoing support, Mission Africa has made significant strides in their mission.

The fundamental lesson resonating throughout this project, as Akunna reflects, is the profound power of community. It is the web of friendships, relationships, and trust that has been spun across continents, stretching from Federal Way to Nigeria, Kenya, and Angola. It’s the breakfasts, the fundraisers, the shared meals, and the conversations that take place around these tables that make the difference. The vibrant tapestry of diverse individuals, each with their own non-profit organizations, their own communities, all working in unity towards a common goal – it’s a testament to the strength of shared purpose and collective action.

AHAP leaders dressed in professional attire, smiling and looking directly at the camera in a room that resembles a conference setting.

AHAP Team Meeting

What Next

The community they’ve fostered is more than a network; it’s a testament to the transformative power of unity. The voices they’ve amplified are not merely loud; they are unwavering in their advocacy. The power of community, as they have witnessed, is indeed transformative!

A testament to the power of community unity, Mission Africa has kickstarted a follow up groundbreaking initiative called the Digital Navigation Project. Harnessing the established network of community leaders, the project rapidly gained traction, attracting attendees from various African countries to its computer classes. These community leaders played an instrumental role in publicizing the project within their circles, turning the initiative into a highly valued resource. This transition from actively recruiting participants to becoming a sought-after program reflects the organic growth and reach of Mission Africa.

Want to know more about the work done at ‘Mission Africa’? Follow Mission Africa at Mission Africa and their social media platforms: Mission Africa Instagram and Mission Africa Facebook.