(Centre) Afrilanthropy founder Emanuele Santi pictured with recipients of the Riding the Rainbow project; Credit: Afrilanthropy asbl

Afrilanthropy asbl, a Luxembourg-based platform connecting African social businesses with impact investing opportunities, has announced the launch of a new mobile application as part of its "Riding the Rainbow" project in support of refugees in the Grand Duchy and beyond.

Afrilanthropy was created in 2017 with the goal of narrowing the gap and facilitating matchmaking between the most innovative social ventures in Africa, identified by the non-profit's network of experts and volunteers, and various sources of charitable giving and investment. The organisation has adapted to changing scenarios in recent years, first by supporting vulnerable people affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa and then by taking an active role in the Luxembourg ecosystem to support refugees.

Riding the Rainbow was born out of the Russia-Ukraine war and the subsequent influx of Ukrainian refugees into Luxembourg; the project began earlier this year (when the first Ukrainian war refugees arrived) in a small garage in Luxembourg, where a group of Afrilanthropy volunteers, as well as neighbours and friends, started collecting and distributing bicycles to refugees (from Ukraine but also elsewhere). Riding the Rainbow quickly expanded to a network of six garages all over the country. The goal is to distribute second-hand bicycles to every single refugee in Luxembourg.

To date, thanks to the generosity of Luxembourg residents, the project has provided bicycles, scooters and skateboards to over 300 children of six nationalities.

Speaking to Chronicle.lu about the decision to set up this project and what makes it so important, Afrilanthropy founder Emanuele Santi said: "The project started almost by chance when I decided, like many people in Luxembourg, to donate a few extra belongings: two used bikes from my kids who had grown up and are now using larger bikes. After a simple post on Facebook, a family came and the joy in the eyes of the kids prompted me to simply offer my garage as a collection and distribution point".

"I was overwhelmed by the generosity of Luxembourg residents and by the joy of children coming to my garage, so I reached out to other members of Afrilanthropy and volunteers to spread the reach by setting up more garages also to ease the transport needs of donors and those refugees living in disparate part of the countries", Mr Santi continued. "We quickly realised that the best part of this project was when donors and refugees had the chance to meet at the garage. This was creating important connections with donors being [able] to learn more about the refugees, offer advice, connect more deeply. So, we saw we could create a much stronger connection by creating this possibility by leveraging technology and ensuring that every single donor could have the experience of connecting with the reality of the people they were trying to help".

With the support of the Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte and Fondation André Losch, Afrilanthropy was able to recruit a group of Ukrainian developers to develop a new solidarity marketplace (in the form of a mobile application) to exchange used items with children with refugee, temporary or international protection status. The idea of the new app is to encourage people to connect directly with refugees, agree on a suitable place to meet and engage on a potentially mutually enriching experience, which may go beyond the simple donation. 

"By connecting donor and recipient directly, we realised we can create something unique and mutual enriching going beyond the object being donated; we could create something more powerful and lasting", Mr Santi elaborated. "We were fortunate to come across visionary partners like Œuvre Nationale de Secours Grande-Duchesse Charlotte and the André Losch Foundation, who saw the possibility of creating the next Uber of solidarity and changing the way people donate for good".

The app expands the initial scope of the project to also offer inline skates, sports clothes and equipment, games, musical instruments and prams. It is now available on the Riding the Rainbow website: www.ridingtherainbow.com.

Moreover, the project is no longer limited to Luxembourg; it has delivered some bicycles and other items to refugees in neighbouring countries like France and Belgium. With the app, it is believed that the project can expand to almost anywhere, although the non-profit recognised that there is a need to engage local grassroots organisations to be able to have the necessary outreach. Discussions are ongoing with organisations in Italy and Hungary.

Afrilanthropy counts on a dozen of volunteers across Africa and a handful in Europe. The Riding the Rainbow project enabled the organisation to attract five more volunteers in Luxembourg, people who spontaneously offered their garage to host and distribute bicycles and those who came forward to offer help such as fixing bicycles, offering free transport as well as liaising on events to promote the project. These volunteers have become the backbone of the team who are now developing and implementing the app.

One such volunteer is Viktoriia Tymtsias, Project Manager at Afrilanthropy and a Ukrainian refugee in Luxembourg. Her daughter was one of the first recipients of the project. Explaining her decision to get involved, Ms Tymtsias said: "My biggest inspiration is that the realisation of this idea will bring happiness to people and they can forget at least for a moment about the horrible reality of the war or other problems in their home countries. People and kids receive not only items, but also support and positive vibes".