TSF in Somaliland

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

Monday

(An update from Michael, who is visiting our partner Abaarso in Somaliland)

Somaliland is a semi-autonomous region of Somalia that declared independence in 1991. It has a separate government, currency and military, but is not recognized as an independent nation by the international community.

After the civil war in the 1990s, much of the education infrastructure in Somaliland collapsed. Today there is little reliable information on the performance of schools in Somaliland. However, anecdotal reports suggest that many children are out of school and those who are in school are learning very little.

In contrast to this rather bleak picture, there has been a growing stream of graduates from a small private high school on the outskirts of Hargeisa who are being admitted to some the world’s elite universities.  Within the walled compound at Abaarso School, a group of international teachers and Somali staff teach and live alongside about 200 students.

Although few of the teachers have formal training, their dedication and the students drive to learn are producing some extraordinary results, including sending students to Harvard and MIT.

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In the 2015/2016 school year, The School Fund provided scholarships for 23 students to attend Abaarso School.  Mustafa was one of these students.

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Mustafa, TSF scholarship recipient!

Mustafa is currently finishing his final exams at Abaarso.  In July he leaves Somaliland for the first time to attend University of Rochester, where he hopes to become a mathematician.  He says that going to school allowed him the opportunity to see the world in a different way, and to question and have different opinions.

TSF in Kenya – Day 2, meeting Mary Brenda

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

Tuesday

(A note from Michael)

kibera school for girls

Determining who gets to go to high school, and which school they can attend, is a high stakes game in Kenya.  In 8th grade, students take a national exam called the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education.  The exam has a total of 500 possible points.  Students earning less than 200 points are not eligible for high school while students with 350 points or more are admitted to elite national schools.  

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Mary Brenda, a SHOFCO student currently crowdfunding a scholarship TSF’s website.

In 2016, more than 200,000 students were not admitted to high schools because they scored less than 200 points. Even when students pass the KCPE, many cannot afford to attend secondary school because of school fees, which typically range from $500 to $700 per year.

The School Fund works with Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) to provide scholarships to students living in the Kibera slum who have scored at least 300 points (in the top 25% nationally) on the KCPE.

Today we had the chance to speak with Mary Brenda who is attending a good quality secondary school where she currently has a B+ average.  When she graduates she hope to enroll in university and become an accountant. Meeting her, hearing about her plans and knowing how hard she’s working in school, I can’t help but be excited about her future.

TSF in Nairobi – A Visit to Kibera

The School Fund’s staff, Executive Director Elizabeth Texeira and Director of Programs Michael Childress, are on a three week trip to East Africa to meet seven of our field partners in the region. They will be writing short posts about their experience, so check back for an update soon!

Monday

(A note from Liz)

The School Fund staff has hit the ground running! And at altitude! We arrived in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday morning after about 27 hours of travel from SFO and were VERY excited to see 1) that the intense rains of the past few weeks were no longer falling, and 2) the sights of Nairobi—Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Nairobi National Park—as we valiantly fought jetlag in anticipation of starting work today.

We were up bright and early to prepare our materials for our first (and newest) partner of the trip, Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). SHOFCO operates a program in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum, with over 1 million people living in an area consisting of 1.3 square miles. As SHOFCO says,

“Kenya’s government, which owns the land upon which Kibera stands, does not formally recognize the settlement, regarding its residents as squatters. Thus, the people of Kibera’s 13 villages are denied basic social services—education, healthcare and sanitation, clean water, electricity, roads—and the basic human dignity that accompanies them.” Learn more on their site here

 

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View of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya

SHOFCO, developed with a mission to turn urban poverty into urban promise has four main pillars: education, with their wildly covered Kibera School for Girls (check out this video for a day in the life and some serious inspiration); health, they run a community clinic that serves all of Kibera; community empowerment, with savings and micro- loan clubs and vocational training; and water and sanitation/hygiene programs, providing low cost, clean water and eco-friendly latrines to a community that does not have any other access to these services.

Today was spent buzzing around the community meeting program staff, volunteers, members of the student selection committee, a group of proud parents, and even a Mr. and Mrs. SHOFCO—young people selected by the community to be role models who receive an internship working with the organization for the year.

Over the din of construction, the singing of an elementary school classroom, and the sounds and smells of the communal kitchen, the parents described the situation in Kenya, how the school fee structure changes every year, and they never know if they will be able to find the money to keep their sons and daughters in school. In a place like Kibera, sending their children away to boarding school is often the best option. Roger, one of the parents in our group whose daughter is now at the top-ranked national high school in Kenya said, “I can see the sun through my window. Without this scholarship I could never have managed her school. For the first time there will be a graduate in my house.”  

 

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Roger, whose daughter is in school, thanks to a scholarship!

 

And that folks, is what it’s all about.

The School Fund is proud to partner with SHOFCO to send 50 of their students to secondary school this year. We are honored to be a part of this amazing organization changing lives every day. YOU can be a part of this magic too—meet some of our amazing SHOFCO students here.

How Your Company Can Fund Scholarships

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The School Fund connects donors around the globe with students in the developing world, to fund their educations.

 

Smart business people know how to get the most for their investment. At The School Fund, our model of crowdfunding relatively small scholarships means that even a few dollars can help go a long way. Since our founding in 2009, we have supported over 1,200 students and funded over 1,550 years of education for students in 15 developing countries from Ecuador to India to Tanzania. We have partnered with 11 trusted Field Partners and built a website where 100% of donations go straight to students’ school fees. When corporate partners help seed our scholarships through grants, we make it a point to demonstrate those corporate partners’ commitments to our crowd.

One of our biggest fundraising events of the year is our annual Match Day. This year, for the first time, we are reaching out to local businesses, corporations, and foundations to partner with us on our Match Day campaign. We see this as one more opportunity to tout our corporate partners, and we are soliciting challenge grants to develop an external matching fund for this year’s Match Day, to be held on June 22nd.

Match Day is a 24 hour period in which TSF matches all online donations that go to students through a matching fund. Field partners activate their networks to take advantage of the matching money, leading to a large increase in visibility for our 500+ students across the developing world.

In 2015 The School Fund put up a $25,000 match and brought in over $45,000 from external supporters! The matching pot was a large incentive to our donor base, nearly doubling our impact—Match Day’s total fundraising came to more than $70,000 raised in 24 hours, enough to keep over 200 students in school.

Participating in The School Fund’s Match Day is a huge opportunity to leverage your charitable contribution (double it!) raise visibility using our platform, incentivize donors around the country, and help keep students in school around the world.

We have set a fundraising goal of $25,000 and are actively seeking a coalition of organizations and supporters to help us reach this goal. Please consider joining us!

Match Day Statistics from 2015

  • $42,375 raised from 194 donors for 199 students
  • $4,010 raised from 172 donors for unrestricted use
  • $25,000 Matching Fund from The School Fund
  • Day-of Social Media: 283 likes, 37 shares,  6 posts from celebrities and Field Partners
  • 1290 visits, spending an average of 5 minutes on the site (75% higher than June, 2014)
  • 343 unique donations
  • We leveraged the following channels for visibility:
    • Facebook—TSF: 2k followers; Chegg: 540k followers
    • Twitter/Instagram—Finn Harries: 1.1M followers; TSF: 2.8k
    • Newsletters—TSF: 4k, Field Partner combined reach +25k

Please contact The School Fund’s Executive Director Liz Texeira at (413) 313-9033 or elizabeth@theschoolfund.org to discuss this opportunity.

TSF Night at Amici’s!

We love our teen board. These smart, dedicated young people are a crucial part of The School Fund—because they donate their time to manage fundraisers and because they are a model for everything The School Fund represents. We started with one young person helping another stay in school. Every day on our website, that act of generosity is replicated. And every few months in our community, the teen board mirrors that same act of giving. They contribute the time and funds they have and then multiply it by drawing a crowd to our efforts.

We love our teen board. And next Monday, May 16, our teen board is giving all of our local supporters a chance to support our work while enjoying an amazing meal! From 11 am – 10 pm, when anyone shows the flyer below, Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria in Menlo Park, CA will donate 25% of your drink and food purchase total!

So get a pie at the best place in town, and know that while you eat, you’re supporting local teens in service and helping students stay in school a world away.

Mangia bene!

 

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Thank your mother!

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Paulina with her mom.

We recently saw this post from Paulina, a seventh grade student at our partner Indigenous Education Fund of Tanzania‘s Okeeswa School:

“My mother has taught me to work hard. She has always worked very hard to take care of my family. I love my mother because she has always taken care of me. She brought me to school so that I could get an education and have a good life. When I grow up I hope to become a teacher. I will work hard so I can help my mother. I want to take care of her.”

It’s the time of year when we each consider the impact of a strong female role model. For many of us, it’s mom. (For others, it’s an aunt, grandmother, even a teacher, who boldly insists we can surpass our own expectations.) It’s Mother’s Day Sunday, and time to send flowers, make a sweet trinket to thank these special women.

Mothers are caretakers. Mothers pour their days into the labor of caring for and supporting growing families. They deserve our thanks.

So go, now, and thank your mother, aunt, grandma, stern but loving next door neighbor or teacher. Seriously, thank her now!

And if you want to send a gift that represents those same elements of care and belief in human potential that so many mothers invest in their children, please consider establishing a monthly scholarship in your mother’s name.

Our April Honor Roll

CONDORTRUST.STUDENTS

Condor Trust for Education Students

Still, they dream

Earlier this month, we were able to pass along good news from our partner Condor Trust for Education in Quito, Ecuador—that despite experiencing ripples from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, all students and staff were safe and healthy.

Now we want you to get to know these young people, who come from low- or no-income families in a country where 34 percent of students do not complete secondary education. Through Condor Trust, students like Jennifer continue school and are provided with text books, pens and pencils, uniforms, transportation, music and dance classes for additional enrichment, and even eye tests and glasses, when needed.

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Jennifer, this April’s Honor Roll student spotlight

This month, Honor Roll contributions funded a scholarship for Jennifer and other Ecuadorian students like her. Jennifer’s mother abandoned the family, leaving Jennifer to care for an ailing father and a younger sister. Her family circumstance forced her to mature early, but her time continuing school has given her the gift of teenage years discovering what she loves. She’s had a chance to do more than survive. She’s thrived.

Jennifer wants one day to become a great dancer. She also plans to graduate from school. You helped make both those things possible.

THANK YOU!

P.S. You can support other Ecuadorian students on TSF’s website or support a different student every month through the Honor Roll program.

It’s always been because of John

 

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Matt Severson and John Medo, 2009

John Medo was more than a friend.

But John Medo was also the best friend you could hope to have.

We waited to post this until we could privately contact all those who knew John through TSF. It never gets easy saying or writing this. On March 27, John Medo passed away in a bus accident in Tanzania. As you likely know, John was the inspiration for TSF and has spent the past few years—while in school and starting university—supporting our work in Tanzania. In 2009, while on a trip to Tanzania, our founder Matt Severson met John, learned what a threat school fees were to John’s continued education. Matt paid John’s school fees and then came home to found The School Fund to help other young people like John.

 

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John Medo and Matt Severson

John was on his way to meet Matt in Iringa when John, along with five others, died in the accident.

Over the years John became like a brother to Matt. For so long, we’ve been in awe of John, watching him work his way through university. John was just two years from completing a university degree in business, in a country where less than one in three students complete high school. We were fairly certain he really would be president—which is what he told Matt the first time they met, even when he wasn’t sure how he’d be able to stay in school. He was that kind of guy, so full of promise and potential that he could see reason for hope beyond even the most daunting obstacles.

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John Medo

It’s been a hard couple of weeks. As we try to make sense of the loss, we know John’s life, his inspiration, will not be forgotten. His legacy is woven into the fabric of The School Fund. We wouldn’t be us without him. We are still reeling with the loss of our friend, and all this week we’ve been sharing posts others have made about John, including this beautiful tribute by our friends at the Skees Family Foundation. In coming months we hope to formalize John’s memory as part of TSF, perhaps with a scholarship fund. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let us know.


Our Ecuadorian Students Are Safe

Last weekend, the world paused in concern and mourning as a 7.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Ecuador, killing hundreds and injuring thousands. We were relieved when our partners at The Condor Trust for Education let us know that their students and staff were safe. Although they felt the earthquake in Quito, where Condor Trust is located, the damage was concentrated along the coast.

We are relieved and grateful for the safety of our partners, students and friends, but join the world in grieving for those whose lives were lost and forever changed by the earthquake.

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Condor Trust students Jennifer, Christian and Anita

 

 

Keep a girl in school…

And watch the world change!

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It’s Women’s History Month, and our partners and friends at Kenya Connect have been all over Twitter this month, with the #PovertyIsSexist campaign. It’s true. Girls growing up in poverty are worse off. They are less likely to stay in school than their male counterparts, setting them up for lower wages and limited financial opportunity.

But with each year of secondary education, girls’ eventual annual wages go up by 15-25 percent. They are less likely to become child brides, stay healthier themselves, have healthier children and smaller families.

By supporting education through The School Fund, you’re helping girls and women break out of poverty.


 

Here’s how we’ve been moving the needle for girls

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Milaan students, (from left to right) Shivanshi, Dolly and Babli

Our Honor Roll members contribute monthly to support a student each month who won’t meet his or her funding goal by deadline. These funds recently went toward scholarships for girls from Milaan, our partner in India that has built a secondary school to serve over 20 villages in a rural region of Uttar Pradesh. Milaan also runs a program to help get girls who’ve dropped out back to school. These are girls, like Shivanshi who also farm to support their families, girls like Dolly whose families keep them out of school because of the dangers associated with walking such long distances alone, and girls like Babli, who grew up in intense poverty but now dream of becoming doctors.

 


SUPPORTER SPOTLIGHT

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Our founder Matt Severson recently used our new fundraising tool to collect the best gift we can imagine. For his 27th birthday, he asked friends and family to donate to student scholarships. Matt zipped right past his goal and raised a whopping $3,063. As one of his supporters wrote “This is the best use of our money I can possibly think of!”

Of course, we agree.

So do the students who got the gift of education for Matt’s birthday!

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To set up your own fundraiser, visit Classy or email Liz Texeira for details. If you’re not ready to start your own fundraiser, consider joining the Honor Roll, which allows you to make an ongoing impact for as little as $5/month.

From Civil War and Drought, to the Promise of School Days

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Today we’re spotlighting ASEM (Association Pour Les Enfants de Mozambique), a partner that provides education, shelter, food and a new start to students in Mozambique.

ASEM’s founder, Barbara Hofmann was a financial manager in Geneva in the late 1980s. She was about to start her own business when the stock market crashed, and instead she took a job in Mozambique. It was during the final years of the country’s brutal, bloody, civil war, and Barbara was struck by the sheer number of children who were orphans or who had simply lost their parents during the chaos of war.

She started by founding a Swiss nonprofit, ASEM, while at the same time daily scouring for food scraps to make enough soup to feed the children who came to her. (If you know the children’s story “Stone Soup,” the tale in which every member of the village contributes an ingredient, you’ll have a sense for these meals.)

After the war ended, Barbara was able to put together a few tents, safe places for the children to sleep and go to school. These were children who, she remembers, had to adjust to the idea that they wouldn’t be murdered or raped in their sleep. Many had previously prostituted for food.

After the war there was a three year drought, and more starvation and suffering, the ravages of HIV/AIDS, and more orphans.

It’s a story that began in tragedy, but with incredible perseverance, and a staff powered by a pure-hearted duty to Mozambique’s children, today ASEM is supported by affiliate foundations in Italy, Portugal, and the U.S.

ASEM grew, with more schools and centers to support orphaned children. Over the years, more than 20,000 children have come to ASEM for school, health care, food, shelter and psychological support. Hundreds have been reunited with their families or extended families, to help them reintegrate into a more normal life. As they graduate, students are enrolled at vocational training colleges or given help finding jobs.

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You can support ASEM’s students at The School Fund, and get to know what life is like today for children in Mozambique.