Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Rainbow fund seeks relief for Niger


RWF's Jeffrey Cotter
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Niger is an impoverished, landlocked country in West Africa, currently ranking sixth in the world for infant mortality, according to the CIA World Factbook. Due to a recent drought that destroyed the previous year's crops, combined with the swarms of locusts that ensued, the sub-Saharan country of Niger is facing catastrophic countrywide famine, according to the United Nations. Crop loss coupled with a recent spike in population growth have caused about one fourth of Niger's population – over 3 million people – to suffer starvation. Another million people will soon reach starvation if this situation continues.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan planned a trip to Niger August 23 to garner international support of the relief efforts in Niger, along with meeting with Niger's president, Mamadou Tandja, to address this issue as well as to discuss the country's future of peace, security, and development. The UN issued an appeal for relief to the nations of the world that was met with a moderate response; global private donations totaled around $3 billion, and the United States contributed about $13 million, but millions more are needed to get Niger stabilized. Part of the problem in raising enough funds to stabilize Niger is that its situation is obscured by lack of media attention toward this small, impoverished nation.

One LGBT organization that is doing its part to rise to the challenge of the UN's appeal for relief is Rainbow World Fund, a Bay Area nonprofit that seeks to raise public consciousness of the people's plight in Niger. Jeffrey Cotter, executive director, explained, "Our own struggle with HIV/AIDS and civil rights has taught us of the power of visibility and coming together to help each other."

RWF's mission is to promote LGBT philanthropy for global relief and humanitarian service. In addition to helping people, the organization's charitable efforts serve to build with other oppressed groups, to advocate for a greater global understanding of the LGBT community, and also to educate the LGBT community about world issues. RWF was in the news last December, after the devastating tsunami struck Indonesia, Thailand, and other countries. Several local fundraisers took place in an effort to raise funds for the stricken area.

Now, Cotter is back with RWF's latest effort. Though no formal benefits have been announced, RWF is seeking donations from the wider LGBT community to help those in Niger.

RWF's cross-cultural reciprocity stems in part from the belief that in order to work against stereotypes about LGBT people it is important to illustrate the higher connection of people across the globe, and eliminate the patterns of oppression that affect not only queer people but other minority groups as well. The humanitarian goals of RWF are to eliminate oppression and suffering in all people, even if they do not sympathize with RWF as an organization. Using a sense of empathy and compassion, the people of RWF seek humanitarian causes in which they can make a significant positive impact, and create a cultural dialogue about LGBT issues.

Thomas Chupein, Niger relief campaign coordinator, illustrates this point, "In essence, by seeing our community as global and working to alleviate the suffering of others, we build bridges and harmony across cultures, and hopefully enlighten others to the common humanity of LGBT people."

Building a world network of people who seek to end human suffering and promote peace is a lofty goal indeed. The LGBT community has sought this for its own people and RWF aims to use the lessons learned in this struggle to help people of the world.

For more information about Rainbow World Fund's mission to help the people of Niger, or to make a donation, visit

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