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Give Back NH: Rain for the Sahel and Sahara

Katherine Kolios, Executive Director
Emily Quirk
Katherine Kolios, Executive Director, Rain for Sahel and Sahara

Give Back New Hampshire is a bi-weekly segment that spotlights New Hampshire nonprofit organizations. It airs every other Saturday at 9:35 during Weekend Edition.

Based in Portsmouth, N.H., Rain for the Sahel and Sahara partners with rural and nomadic Nigeriens to strengthen community resilience. NHPR spoke with Executive Director Katherine Kolios and Development Manager Amy Warnock about the organization's work.


Katherine Kolios: I'm the executive director of Rain for the Sahel and Sahara.

Amy Warnock: I am the development manager at Rain for the Sahel and Sahara.

Our mission focuses on working with rural and nomadic communities in Niger and Africa, and we forge partnerships to create better access to education. We help provide access to clean water, nutritious food, and then also revenue and income opportunities for women.

Katherine: In Niger, which most people have never heard of, is, I think, 50x larger geographically than the state of New Hampshire and Niger is actually one of the US and Europe's major partners in combating terrorism in that part of the world.

So it feels really far away, but it's really relevant to us because of course with a globalized world, the more stability that there is everywhere: whether it's security or whether it's economics, whether you're worried about environmental progress or women's rights, all of these things can only move forward when there is security and stability. And so it's a really critical partner for the U.S.

Niger is ranked last on the UN Human Development Index. It means that they have the highest rate of child marriage in the world, one of the lowest rates of education. So you have a country that has almost 50% of the population under age 15. They're already not meeting the needs of their community. And demographically there's about to be a population boom.

What's that little thing that you can bring that changes everything?
Katherine Kolios, Executive Director

So we're really trying to intervene at a time when we can help work with communities to address what their own desires are for their future and help give them the infrastructure that they need.

[Our organization's] name came from our founder, Bess Palmisciano, and it's meant to be a metaphor, essentially, right? "Bringing rain to the desert," so sort of saying, 'in this place where there's a lot of need and you're not meeting it. What do you need to do to kind of water those communities? What's that little thing that you can bring that changes everything?'

Read more about RAIN's current projects here.

Amy Warnock, Development Manager
Emily Quirk
Amy Warnock, Development Manager at Rain for the Sahel and Sahara, at Rain's headquarters in Portsmouth.

Katherine: You know, it's funny because technically our "headquarters" is in Portsmouth, but we're the little office. We actually have two offices in Niger, one in Niamey, which is the capital, and one in Agadez, which is a city sort of at the base of the Sahara Desert.

There are always opportunities to get involved. We have our annual rain dance celebration coming up. This is actually our 20th anniversary event and it's the first time in two years that we're going to be doing an in-person event. So we're really excited.
It's going to be at the Word Barn from 6-8PM [on June 23rd, 2022].

We're going to have West African music, all female artists from around that region, really wonderful dancing music, if that's something that you like to do. There's going to be food from from West Africa. And we're going to give all kinds of updates on how rain started, how we got to be where we are and our goals going forward. So if you're interested in getting involved, it's a really great way to catch up on what our plans are and how you can help us to do that.

Get Involved:

The annual 'RAIN Dance' fundraiser will be held at the Word Barn at 6-8 pm on June 23. RSVP by June 8 here.

Karen joined NHPR as its Operations Manager in 2021. Karen most recently worked as Program Director of KNOM Radio Mission, a community radio station based in Nome, Alaska. Previously, she has also worked as a program assistant, deejay and radio producer. During her time at KNOM, she won the Alaska Broadcaster’s Association award for the best COVID-19 response, as well as awards from the Alaska Press Club for feature and arts reporting.

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