I had my “blue sweater” moment recently. Have you read the account Jacqueline Novogratz, founder of the Acumen Fund, writes about in her book The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World? As a small girl Jacqueline had a favorite blue sweater she cherished and wore even as she outgrew it. Eventually, she donated it to charity. Much later, while visiting Rwanda, Jacqueline saw a small boy wearing her favorite childhood sweater! In my case, I was in a remote rural area about 25 miles north of Nairobi when I spied a man walking down a muddy road wearing a Washington Redskins hat!
At first it’s amusing to see so many people in Africa wearing clothing with American brands and names. This is crazy, I first thought. Here I am thousands of miles from home and I’m seeing all kinds of American stuff. It’s just not big brands either—I saw baseball caps from Kansas and rural co-ops and T-shirts from obscure events. But once the novelty wears off, the sobering reality hits: our cast-offs are providing necessary clothing to millions of people in Africa, and many other places as well. It’s good to know our used clothing can make a difference. But it points out again the unfair disparity between our excessive wealth in America and the desperate poverty in much of Africa.
The preceding is a guest post Bob Ottenhoff, Chief Executive of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. With an entrepreneurial spirit, strong technology focus, and a quest to make an impact in the world, Bob has the ability to take an organization and lead it into strong performance, sustainability, and industry leadership.