Welcome to HEARTHS, where our mission is to inspire, motivate, empower and educate 
refugees and poor people from Africa, learn what they can do to help themselves.

HEARTHS, which is short for HElping African Refugees To Help themSelves, started as a group on Facebook in 2013, but the idea for HEARTHS had its roots in 2009, when I began meeting a few people from the Buduburam Refugee camp in Ghana through Facebook.

Among them was Mayea Gaye, a widow and refugee from Liberia who left her country after the civil war, which began in 1989. She shared with me her vision about starting a human rights organization, to help many of the poor people, refugees, widows and orphans, across Africa. I was very inspired by her passion to help others, who like herself were extremely poor, uneducated and suffering from a lack of food and sickness.

We realized that while many people in Africa are in need, giving them money to help them with their short-term needs, like money for food, medicine or housing is like putting a drop of water on a hot stone; it helps for a moment, but then, after a while they are in need again, and also there are so many people in need.

Following the idea: “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day, but if you teach him how to fish you feed him for a lifetime”, we talked about the idea of empowering people through love and education, an education not just academically, but mainly an education of the heart and spirit, through which we can help people to learn to believe in themselves and their own powers to create change, instead of just being dependent on the help of others.

Back then I was still living in San Francisco, and the fortunate beneficiary of an inheritance. Because of that, I was able to send her the necessary funds, around $1500, which allowed her to start a small business on the refugee camp by selling safe drinking water. With the revenue of this business she could support herself, her daughter, and 2 other people. Sadly, after a while, tragedy struck; she got sick, I ran out of money, and so the businesses had to be sold. We then lost touch for a few years, but later I learned that she lives now in Libera where she is working on a farm, but her intention is to move back to Monrovia, the capitol of Liberia to help become active with the group again.

Since then I met many more people from all across Africa, mainly Ghana, but also others who live in Liberia, some Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Nigeria, the Ivory Coast and a few other Africa countries. Most of them are extremely poor, but some are even running their own organizations and orphanages to help the many street children, others are artist and DJ’s. 

After I kept meeting more and more struggling people from Africa I came up with the idea of HEARTHS, and began creating the online group on Facebook towards the end of 2013, to which I still invite all people I meet from Africa. Back then we had around 100 people in the group, but today we are close to 1000 members, and growing steadily. Through Facebook I communicate with our members almost daily, empower them with love, care and kindness, encouraging them to network with other members, to share their own stories and unique challenges, and to start small projects to demonstrate their love and commitment to create positive change.

While it is a great idea to empower people online through regular meetings, I realized this was not enough, and that it was vital to create physical group meetings in Africa. This is a rather difficult undertaking, since life for a poor person in Africa is an everyday struggle for survival and looking for food, so most of them are rather selfish and don’t even care to want to learn how to work with others. 

To motivate people to want to attend meetings, we had to make it interesting for them to attend, so I began to work with some of the most prominent individuals from the group. With their help, and with me giving some financial support, we conducted group meetings where food and drinks where provided, while a prominent person from the community spoke about the rather revolutionary idea, that even though people are poor and uneducated, they have the power to create positive change as they begin to work together and help each other.
Nowadays, HEARTHS meetings are taking place even without the incentive of food or drinks, but just because people appreciate what the group represents; love, unity, solidarity, kindness, mutual respect, the fact that we value every member, and the idea that people have the power to create positive change, regardless if he or she is poor, sick or has no education.
The summarize the main ethos of HEARTHS:

°  HEARTHS is not about giving hand-outs to people, but instead helping people to believe in themselves, to realize their inner wealth so they can create positive change, in other words, to help them so they can help themselves and one another.The main idea behind HEARTHS is that poverty is not so much about material poverty, but a poverty of the mind, heart and spirit. 

° While I live in Germany and never visited Africa, over the years I have created a rather large HEARTHS network of more than 1000 members in Ghana, Liberia, Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon and other African countries, and I am in regular contact with our members through Facebook. Since I started the group I have invested a lot of time, and quite a bit of money to help individuals and to support the mission of HEARTHS, so our members in Africa all know and respect me.

° People love HEARTHS, not because they are benefiting financially, but because they greatly appreciate being part of a group where we all practice, kindness, love, respect and appreciation towards one another. which is something very new and rather revolutionary, especially for poor people in Africa.

° HEARTHS is not only an (not yet registered) organization with its mission to help raise living standards for refugees and poor people in Africa, but HEARTHS is also a school, where refugees, orphans, widows and poor people in Africa learn what they can do to help themselves.