Food, water, education, security, a home, a family: these are not only needs, they are the fundamental rights of every human being. Everywhere in the world.

We are an Italian association for international solidarity, established in 2001 and based in Milan. We are a non-profit association, with no political or religious affiliations. The association was created because of Cecilia Lachat’s affection for and attachment to Africa and its peoples during the years she spent in Guinea and Zambia as a volunteer nurse, often in difficult conditions, and unable to properly address the many essential needs and rights of the people she worked with. Our objective is to help children grow in a peaceful setting, to give them the best ethical and psycho-pedagogical education possible and to provide them with the utmost care with regards to their health. It is incumbent upon us to create the necessary conditions for a healthy individuality and tranquil development. We want to ensure that our children have a safe haven and a large family – a place where they will learn the values of brotherhood, solidarity and, finally, independence. It is of utmost importance that the children do not lose contact with their families and friends: they will attend the village school and will have the opportunity to participate in the life of their country. Culture, local customs and religious affiliations must be fully respected.

Along with Cecilia’s immense love for the children of Africa, the association could not have been established without the generous financial support of Cecilia’s ex-partner. Up until 2005, he was president of the “Mosaico Euroafricano ONLUS” association in Italy and he remains a main sponsor. Moreover, through his contacts the association was able to find its accountant, Roberto Briolo. Francesco De Stefano subsequently took over this role; he oversees the project’s finances pro bono and with great attention and dedication. Other friends who have proved indispensable to the association are Maria Grazia Cucinotta, godmother of the centre in Botswana, and Marco and Giovanna Zanichelli, main sponsors, life-long friends and parents of Paolo – the centre’s spirit and guardian angel, no longer with us because of a car accident at the age of eighteen. His joie de vivre, energy and radiant personality compelled Cecilia to name the centre the “Paolo Zanichelli Children’s Home”.

Cecilia decided to take on this project following her separation from Daniele and after her children, Andreas and Manuela, had moved to other cities to pursue university studies. In 1999, with her children by then independent, she began gathering donations, both cash and in-kind. In 2001, Dr. Roberto Briola helped Cecilia and the other founding members to establish the “Mosaico Euroafricano ONLUS” association in Italy. In 2002, modifications were made to the association’s social objective, which has since then remained unchanged.

“The association has, as its main goal, the provision of social and socio-sanitary assistance, as defined by article 10, paragraph 1, letter a) of D.lgs.460/97, which includes, inter alia, the construction and operation of a ‘[children’s] home / orphanage’ in Botswana (southern Africa) near the town of Ghanzi, in which socio-economically underprivileged children can come and stay. To achieve this goal, the establishment of a small pediatric clinic for emergency care and recovery, is also planned. The objective of the association additionally includes health assistance, charity, education and training, as stated in points 2), 3), 4) and 5) of the above-cited article 10, paragraph 1 of D.lgo.s460/97. In accordance with article 10, paragraph 1, letter c) of Dlgs.460/97, it is expressly forbidden for the association to undertake activities other than the ones mentioned in the preceding paragraphs, with the exception of activities that are directly related to them. Within these established limits, the association is free to engage in any type of activity, as well as to conclude contractual agreements for goods, real estate or other financial reasons, which are either necessary or useful for the achievement of the association’s social aims and with reference to the association’s social goal.”

On March 27, 2004, following years of fundraising, handling of bureaucratic procedures and construction, the “Paolo Zanichelli Children’s Home” for needy children was officially inaugurated in the presence of then-President, His Excellency, Mr. Festus G. Mogae. The centre is located in D’Kar, a village in the desert area of the Kalahari, and is currently home to 85 children between the ages of three and eight years, some of whom are HIV-positive. It is formally managed by a local non-profit organisation, established in 2002, which goes by the Italian name, “Mosaico Euroafricano”. Though it operates under the direct management of “Mosaico Euroafricano ONLUS” in Italy, this organisation is incorporated under Bostwana law and is subject to local government controls. In order to actually open and run the centre, the establishment of this local organisation was required by Botswana law, which prohibits the acquisition of real estate to non-residents, namely, the land and physical structures that make up the “Children’s Home”.

In 2004, in front of a campfire at a tented photo-safari camp in Botswana called Edo’s Camp, Cecilia and Andreas met Bill Holmes, a Texan from El Paso. Chatting with him that evening, the possibility and idea of opening an American sister association to support the centre was discussed. From that point on, Bill and his wife, Becky, became the US association’s guardian angels and main sponsors; moreover, Bill also became a founding member and president of the “Kalahari Children’s Home Foundation”. Upon Andreas’ return to Italy, Bill had already asked his trusted attorney, Roger Aksamit, how to proceed. His attorney confirmed that the required procedure was simple and that his law firm would be willing to follow the foundation’s finances pro bono as a charitable contribution. And so, in 2005, the American foundation was born, managed by Bill and other friends, who are now vital in supporting the association’s fundraising efforts.

Let’s not forget the equally indispensable Swiss team! Cecilia’s brothers and Swiss friends take care of fundraising and correspondence, in addition to the translation of the association’s materials into German. Moreover, they are also responsible for the day-to-day management of relations with Swiss donors. In particular, Urs Mühlemann and his wife, Margreth, main sponsors and guardian angels, have supported the association from the very beginning, and regularly raise funds to cover running costs. Activities carried out in Switzerland currently fall under the financial responsibility of the “Mosaico Euroafricano ONLUS” association in Italy.

The Italian “Mosaico Euroafricano ONLUS” association and the American “Kalahari Children’s Home Foundation 501/c3”, together with Swiss team of “Mosaico Euroafricano ONLUS”, function as sister logistical structures for fundraising efforts on behalf of the local “Mosaico Euroafricano” organization in Botswana. In 2004, thanks to collected funds, “Mosaico Euroafricano” was able to establish, and since then mange, the “Paolo Zanichelli Children’s Home” for needy children.

Today, these three structures – the Italian association, the American foundation and the local organization in Botswana that runs the centre – continue to exist and slowly grow. A few years ago, the centre even hosted 120 children! Today, the centre hosts around 90 children, mainly because of government regulations and because it is not currently economically feasible to hire an additional teacher for a new class. The centre has also successfully implemented a “Women’s Project”, which provides vocational training to a group of women who are related to the children. To our immense satisfaction, this project has already made several women economically independent! Complementing these efforts are additional activities, most importantly the collection of goods necessary for the proper management of the centre, which are organized and sent by container from Italy. The last container arrived in 2012.

We want to ensure that the 10+ years of work to feed, educate, cloth and help the 90 children that join our centre every year have not been in vain … and we want to make it possible for this good work to continue! To this end, we have recently begun systematically restructuring the association. After years of debates in the CDA on how the association might be sustained in the future, and given Cecilia’s inevitably reduced involvement in the centre’s day-to-day functioning, Anna’s appearance was incredibly fortunate and timely!

With great entrepreneurial spirit, Anna personally approached us because she was looking for the opportunity to collaborate with a non-profit association; specifically, she was looking for a small and transparent association to assist. Cecilia and Anna became friends and, in no time at all, Anna had begun working on a new marketing plan and campaign brand, while also exploring new possibilities for events and fundraising. Moreover, Anna now takes care of the administrative office and much more besides. This stroke of good luck pushed the association to wholeheartedly undertake its restructuring efforts! These efforts are slowly but surely moving forward; in addition to hiring Anna on a part-time basis, we have also been looking for a new office and we have organized novel fundraising ventures. In all these efforts, we have consciously tried to grow in a manner that respects and sustains what Cecilia has already put in place, while broadening the possibilities for assistance that we can provide. Finally, we are moving from a largely pro bono, quasi-familial and/or friendly, management structure to one which is more membership-based, structured and formal. With a little bit of luck, we may one day soon even be able to compete with highly structured non-profit giants and, in this way, come to the aid of many more children than the 90 currently hosted by the “Paolo Zanichelli Children’s Home”.