by Maryanne Njeri Maina
A former advocate for the world of fashion, Lucille Gomes decided to give back to society by providing for children suffering from Noma, or Vincent’s disease as it is often known. A national of Guinea Bissau, and today based in France, she shares the story of her work.
What inspired you to leave the fashion industry and go into a non-profit business?
It was not really an inspiration but a human encounter that deeply enlightened me on boldness and empathy. This led me to create my foundation AUA HELP NOMA which is a symbol of hope for all the actions that in support of children suffering with NOMA cancrum oris or Vincent's disease as it is often known. "My dream is to have the same face as you "...! To cure the children born with NOMA. Noma (cancrum oris or Vincent's disease) is now used to describe a severe, aggressive gangrenous infection of the orofacial tissues, including bone. The disease occurs mainly in children with malnutrition, poor oral hygiene and debilitating concurrent illness.
How did you create the foundation?
I used my past experience from working as a babysitter, in hospitals, and having been a business owner in the fashion sector where I created a platform for stakeholders in the fashion industry. I looked at the situation of Noma illness in my country and how children could not live their dreams due to this challenge. So, we made a plan of how launch a social enterprise to help this situation. The next step was to create a business plan in lieu of the research done, driven by my mission and vision. One of the most crucial parts has been networking strategically with individuals and organizations that are aligned to our cause. This has enabled us to grow our network and to raise awareness. The organization, Aua Help Noma, was created three years ago.
Since you began your organization, how many children have you assisted in Guinea Bissau?
We have helped children in Guinea Bissau, Mali and Senegal, but for the last three years our core work has been in Guinea Bissau up until today. There are at least between 200 and 300 children who have benefitted from our work, as a result of our partnership with OSF Ophthalmology Without Borders and the expert physician Dr. Pablo Goldschmidt. OSF provides training of health care workers and educational support in Mali by providing school materials, and in Senegal they donate orthopedic materials.
How do you source the donor funds?
First of all, networking is key. No networks means no access to funds. As part of our business plan, we indicate our quarterly and annual goals, identifying the amount of money that we need to raise. Our policy on money raising is ensuring that we are transparent in our transactions. Private individuals and institutions contribute to our organization. We often receive spontaneous donations or sometimes donations from the partners who are part of our collaborator networks such as the OSF. Though we have a strict policy with regard to accepting these donations. If we are not certain of their source, we decline the funds, as we have to protect the association and guard its reputation, always.
Which companies or organizations work in partnership with you for your foundation?
We have partners and supporters who include His Excellency Mr. Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic who wrote to us and encourages us. There is also Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene of Monaco, His Excellency Mr. José Mario Vaz President of the Republic of Guinea Bissau and his wife. Together with the encouragement of others and the involvement of others, we try to work hand in hand for the future of a fairer world.
Maryanne Njeri Maina has an MBA in Luxury Brand Management, HEC Paris, School of Management. She believes that Luxury is the ordinary for the extra-ordinary and the extra-ordinary for the ordinary. Contact her to find out more at Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Email: email@example.com and read her Luxury blog: https://maryannenjeri.wordpress.com/