The Joyful Joy Foundation (JJF) hopes to bring joy–and health to various countries in Africa. JJF was founded May of 2012 in NYC to fight malaria, end poverty, and improve the health in impoverished communities in Africa. It is the brainchild of Osas Ighodaro, a Nigerian American who was born and raised in the Bronx. She is also Miss Black USA 2010. Sioux Greaux came onboard as co-founder of JJF, impressed with the foundation’s effort “to bring people and organizations together to make a positive impact regarding of the inequalities that exist among communities of people living in Africa with regard to their lack of access to adequate health care, basic necessities of food and water and economic advancement,” she explains.
It was a tragedy that inspired the foundation. “The original catalyst was the passing of Joy Ighodaro, sister to Osas. Joy was with child and contracted malaria during a trip to Nigeria in 2006. She thought the illness she was experiencing was due to normal complications associated with pregnancy. When her symptoms became more alarming, she sought medical care, but it was too late,” explains Greaux. It was then that Osas began campaigning to raise awareness and funds to support the eradication of malaria.
Greaux joined the effort and eventually the pair officially launched the nonprofit in memory of Joy. Greaux was moved by what Osas had seen firsthand when visiting Nigeria and the Niger Delta while filming a documentary. “She shared stories with me of a man who put his hand in the water and when he drew it out of the water, his hand was black. She spoke of the ruined lands, the gaseous smoke-filled air, and the inaccessibility to farm and collect clean water,” she says. “It was at that time we decided we would no longer wait to make a stronger difference.”
And the Joyful Joy Foundation was born. “Joyful Joy is a celebration of living a healthy and prosperous life. It honors the memory of Joy and is a call to Spread More Joy, encouraging those who join this movement to do all that we can to make a positive impact. When we honor, respect and assist Africa with rising, we honor, respect and raise ourselves,” says Greaux.
The organization’s mission is a hefty one. “We are committed to transforming health care, reducing poverty and empowering communities of people living in Africa with inadequate access to the basic necessities of life,” says Greaux. “Joyful Joy exists to generate social and economic benefits in selected communities by offering programs focused on ending hunger, preventable disease and providing economic development opportunities.”
JJF has attracted notable support including Senator Kevin Parker and global health leader Joy Phumaphi, executive secretary of the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, among others.
JJF has put into action their goal of raising the standard of living in distressed communities. This includes, says Greaux:
• Eliminating malaria by providing medical intervention, training, support and awareness campaigns.
• Making safe water more accessible to people in need. Commitment to delivering sound financial and social services to alleviate poverty, hunger and support sustainable growth.
What makes JJF different than other nonprofits aimed at Africa is that they use the arts to help raise money and awareness. “A key component of the Joyful Joy platform is to utilize the arts as a bridge between entertainment, fundraising and intervention. We are presently in production for our Laugh Fest stand-up comedy fundraiser, which benefits our Adopt-a-Clinic program,” Greaux says, but admits the fundraising strategy is fluid. “We are a young organization and are still mapping out our fundraising strategy. For now, we are additionally supported by contributions from friends, family, the public, private donors and fundraising events,” she notes.
JJF looks to launch its Adopt-a-Clinic program in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, this year. “The clinic we adopt will be supported to increase its capacity to sustainably provide a reliable package of health care services and operate more efficiently. To make the most significant impact we will be collaborating with a number of nonprofit organizations, each with a different area of expertise i.e. telemedicine, technology & innovation and poverty alleviation,” Greaux points out.