Knowledge is Power
We’re all very familiar with the old adage about teaching a man to fish. No matter how many times you’ve heard it, the message is still a powerful one. Knowledge is one of the greatest gifts we can give to those needing assistance, and that’s the idea behind Lighting the Path. The St. Louis-based nonprofit works to create sustainable solutions to enrich the lives of those living in poverty. It pairs education with skills and business training to empower marginalized populations at home and abroad.
Lighting the Path was founded by Dawn Malcolm. After helping at a missionary conference in the west African country of Burkina Faso, she was given the chance to visit a local village. “I was amazed at how happy and welcoming the people were, but I could see that they needed help,” she says. At first, she wasn’t sure what she could do, but during a return visit, inspiration hit while helping women weave mats. She realized she could use her business experience to help the community support itself.
“There are many organizations that do a fabulous job bringing food and health care to disadvantaged regions,” Malcolm says. “I knew I needed to do something different, and that’s where the empowerment piece came in. The idea is that once they could make something to sell, it could turn into a sustainable source of income.” The nonprofit started with teaching girls in an orphanage how to sew, and it quickly introduced other skills like cooking and weaving.
Malcolm wanted to use Lighting the Path to help people in St. Louis as well, so the nonprofit offers sewing lessons and classes about starting a small business to help local refugees, immigrants and other underserved groups. She says sewing is a skill that is in high demand since the local fashion industry is being revitalized.
Currently, she is working on expanding the organization by finding a dedicated building to hold classes. “When we help people help themselves, we improve our region as a whole,” she notes. “Our goal is to benefit people from all walks of life and elevate society into a better, more peaceful coexistence.”
In 2016, Malcolm received the Hero Award from the One Billion Acts of Peace campaign, a global movement led by 14 Nobel Peace Prize laureates. “It was such an honor and very humbling,” she says. “It’s one of those things that validates what you are doing as something good and positive. My purpose is to empower people. It’s not a handout, but a hand up.”
Pictured at top: Dawn Malcolm with Marie Zanga of Burkina Faso, who started a sewing business with help from Lighting the Path
Photo courtesy of Lighting the Path