While The Gator Nation is everywhere, Gator alumni also pride themselves in making the world a better place to live. Two University of Florida alumni prove this through a partnership that uses their differing backgrounds to assist organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa in becoming profitable and sustainable practices.
The Florida Africa Foundation was founded in 2016 by Lori Spivey and Rodney G.B. Clements as a way to improve access to health care and eliminate poverty through entrepreneurship by supporting sustainable, high-impact small businesses.
Spivey received a bachelor’s in speech communications from the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard. Clements earned his bachelor’s in nursing from the UF College of Nursing and has practiced as a certified registered infusionist nurse. He is also an active member of the UF Nursing Alumni Council. Clements and Spivey met at UF in 1995 and kept in contact through their various professional endeavors. The Florida Africa Foundation is their first project together and combines their expertise and background to create sustainable change in an African context.
Clements said their initial mission was to improve lives globally and assist in establishing sustainable businesses in Africa. He added that for himself, he also wanted to explore the world and see different cultures while having fun along the way.
“When we were in Zambia, we were at a clinic that treats women with HIV, and there were ladies dressed in their African garb who came out and danced for us and sang, and we danced with them,” Clements recalls.
Spivey added that those women were part of a support organization to assist with combating the stigma that surrounds women with HIV. They were all HIV positive and they came out to uplift one another. Spivey and Clements were able to see beyond just the work they were doing and also see the support amongst the women in the community.
Spivey uses her background in business and global health care to assist the organizations they work with in setting their budgets, creating reasonable goals and understanding how to become a profitable enterprise. Clements’ background in nursing allows him to come with a health care perspective to assess available equipment and educate the health care teams in Africa on what practices work best for them.
The Florida Africa Foundation focuses on being innovative in order to encourage sustainability and longevity. For example, Clements has taught members within different enterprises an easier way of combating dehydration than by administering fluids intravenously.
“An even more simple method is subcutaneous hydration, where you put a little needle in their skin, in their thigh or back, and you can put fluid under the skin,” said Clements.
This type of innovation considers not only various skill levels, but also the resources that are available. As one of the biggest threats across the planet, Clements’ teaching of lesser-trained people on various methods to combat dehydration assists in saving lives for both children and adults.
When looking for groups that the Florida Africa Foundation will partner with and help, Spivey said that they look for people who can “hustle” and have already made positive impacts in their communities. Most of the groups they find are through networking and word-of-mouth, but the key characteristics that make groups stand out is the impact they are able to make with few resources. One example of this characteristic came in the form of an individual who wanted to make a difference despite limited resources.
“At age 29, Dr. Lucky Aziken had already provided eye care to thousands of Nigerians who had no access,” Spivey said, “He was operating on $800 a month.”
Dr. Aziken had three brick-and-mortar clinics and one mobile eye clinic when Spivey and Clements met him. Spivey emphasized that money goes a long way in Nigeria, and she appreciated that Dr. Aziken was trying to maintain a sustainable business on such a tight budget. With $800 a month, he had already made a huge impact helping so many people. Spivey and Clements were impressed by Aziken’s story, so they found a donor interested in supporting his practice. With the investment from the donor, Aziken was able to expand his fourth and fifth clinic. His goal is to increase access to eye care in Nigeria and the rest of Africa, and Spivey and Clements want to play a role in that.
While Clements and Spivey do not have a favorite group, Clements feels as though the organization they had the largest impact on was in Tanzania with the Eseriani Clinic in Arusha. He said that their funding has helped the organization to see potentially thousands of patients, and they enjoy seeing photos with updates from time to time.
“The pictures they send us bring a smile and a tear to my eyes,” said Clements.
Spivey and Clements are two Gators who have made a huge impact. Their foundation has helped seven groups thus far, and they are always searching for more organizations they can assist.