PRESIDENT’S REPORT TO THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING OF POWER OF EDUCATION AFRICA FOUNDATION
March 31, 2016
2015 was the third year of the Foundation’s operations. During this period, we developed practices and tools that helped increase the efficiency of the Foundation’s work. We clarified the scope of the Board’s responsibilities, and the responsibilities of committees and volunteers. We decided the size of Board we want to have; and identified qualities, areas of expertise and skill sets, that we would like future Board members to possess. Two members of the Board resigned, while others took on greater responsibility suited to their particular roles. We increased our number of volunteers. We again placed the highest priority on our communication with sponsors and donors.
This year our Foundation received a very generous gift from Board Member, Anne Kober. We are grateful to Anne, who has thus provided the Foundation with an underpinning of security, enabling us to accept a few Foundation sponsored students each year.
The Board made a major policy decision concerning travel expenses to Kenya: All travel to and from Kenya is to be funded by specially designated donations, and not from general revenue. Donors can feel assured that their gift is going to educate needy Kenyan girls, and not into high administrative costs or travel costs.
Our Board has undergone change. Vice-President, Marg Huber, and Chair of Hospitality, Gloria Sutcliffe, have resigned from the Board. We thank them for their generous contributions to the Foundation. Gloria was exceptional in her development of our Hospitality Committee, which is now well-established, and ready for our new Hospitality Chair, Lesley Blok, to take over.
Over the past year, I have spoken to professionals, and to women in community groups, about the work of the Foundation. Local women, in fitness classes, reading groups, church groups, and professional offices, are forming sponsorship groups, and taking responsibility for the education of one or more Kenyan girls over four years. We are heartened by their humanitarian ethic and desire to give back.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS: ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Secretary, Shaaron Fedora recorded comprehensive Minutes of our Board meetings and prepared annual tax receipts.
Treasurer, Syd Gallinger, chaired our meetings with a firm hand and light sprit. He developed our Financial Statements, Annual Reports and CRA tax returns. He created an account that facilitates donor gifts, in kind, such as securities. Syd also negotiated the very generous gift to the Foundation.
Lawyer, Anne Kober, looked after all of our legal affairs.
Anne Millar continued to correspond with sponsors and donors, sending out hundreds of hand written cards, photographs of our work in Kenya, letters, report cards and tax receipts. Each year, when I return from Kenya, Anne and I match sponsors with their students. Many considerations go into these matches, which are not easy. Anne also maintains our student records.
David Yeung created some of our greeting cards and art prints, making the experience of our students a reality for others to see.
Our Kenyan Advisor, Fr. Timon Ochieng Odeny, visited Vancouver last August and September. He attended several Foundation events, informing donors and sponsors about the harmful effects of Luo cultural practices on girls; also how education frees them from poverty, oppression and inequality. Fr. Timon and I visited the grade five and six students at Queen Mary Primary School, in Vancouver. Under the leadership of Daphne Francis and their teacher, Maria King, these students are sponsoring a Kenyan girl for four years of secondary school. The students raised money through ice cream sales and Christmas sales. Congratulations and thank you to them from our Board and from our Kenyan students
Legal Advisor, Bo Fodchuk, is advising us on new regulations affecting societies; he will help us to make any future changes that may be required.
VOLUNTEERS: ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES
Our book-keeper, Judy Mostardi, not only maintains our monthly books, but has also recently set up a new accounting program for the management of our financial records, some of which are kept in both Canadian and Kenyan currencies. Judy displays endless patience and good humour, as she spends countless hours reconciling our annual spending in Kenya, all in Kenyan Shillings. Judy assists Syd in the preparation of our Annual Financial statements.
Lesley Blok is the new Chair of Hospitality. Lesley is a retired speech-language pathologist, working with special needs children. This February, Lesley set up the design and took over the delivery of our e-invitations for Foundation events. She led the Hospitality Team in planning, advertising, and implementing our Annual Reception. The Hospitality Team will plan an event to be held in the Fall.
Darlene Durrad is our new Website Manager. Darlene replaces Neale Adams who wants to spend more time with his grandchildren. Thank you to Neale for setting up and maintaining our website for the past three years.
Sandy Holmes works in the office, filing, She also volunteers on the Hospitality Team.
Kathy Rayher and Wendy Roberts have made a great new addition to our Hospitality Team.
Dr. Moira Yeung is in the process of setting up a data-base for the Foundation.
Cynthia Turley, Molly Jonsson, Kathy Rayher, Wendy Roberts, Sandy Holmes Katrina Sutcliffe and Michelle Sutcliffe have all helped with our POEA events.
A special thank you to Peter Elliott, Dean of Christ Church Cathedral, for generously making the Hall and the Park Room available for our Board meetings and events.
A special thank you to Jeremy Clark-King, Rector of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale, for generously making a room available for our November Festive Teatime Social.
ACTIVITIES IN KENYA
In January and February this year, we interviewed nearly 100 Kenyan girls and a few boys in three locations, selecting 27 new students for sponsorship in secondary school, with two of those replacing former students. We currently have 71 students, placed in 20 schools. Once again we were resolute in our decision to sponsor the poorest of the poor, those who have no other resources whatsoever. Many applicants had top grades, but other resources to help them. We did not accept them. We accepted students whose poverty and home situation were desperate and, consequently, put them at a disadvantage academically, as they often missed school, due to lack of school fees. We feel that if we take these most disadvantaged students, and provide them with hope and support, they will do well academically, and do well in life. For they are motivated to learn. They have suffered and have empathy for others who suffer, often promising to help relieve the suffering of other children through education.
On Monday, February 5th we took our new Form 1 student, Martina, to boarding school. On Thursday her mother died of breast cancer, leaving her daughter a total orphan in the care of her elderly grandmother, shown here. Her mother died knowing that Martina was starting her new life at school.
We now have 71 students in school. 66 are female. 5 are male. 24 are total orphans. 22 are partial orphans. 7 have been abandoned, never to hear from their parent again (6 fathers and 1 mother). 8 have alcoholic fathers or guardians. 4 have disabilities. 17 have parents who are disabled or seriously ill. 12 live with family violence; in some cases the women and children are chased away from the home in the night. 25 of our students in the 2015-16 years disclose having Malaria, but the true figure is likely much higher. I am told by our Advisor, Fr. Timon, that most of our students have Malaria, and also Typhoid in their bodies from the water. 2 have had T.B. One has kidney disease. 15 are currently living with guardians and siblings who are HIV positive. 8 disclose losing one or more parents to HIV/AIDS; with 6 more whose parents’ deaths are consistent with HIV/AIDS. The figures for HIV are likely much higher; but because of the stigma, students are at first reluctant to disclose the disease. Even death certificates often conceal the real cause of death.
Once again, there was a prolonged teachers’ strike in Kenya, one that began in the summer, and then resumed again in the Fall when students had started school. Students were sent home again from school when some angry teachers attacked a few students physically for being at school. In the end, students throughout the country were out of school for about two months, and it affected their learning, and their year-end grades
In February, Dr. Phil Sestak, a Vancouver based HIV/AIDS physician, came to our home base in Kenya to stay with us for nine days, to see if there might be a need for his volunteer medical services, in our area of Migori and Homa Bay counties, where one out of every four individuals is HIV-positive. Phil is a member of a group of volunteer physicians from Vancouver who has been working in Africa for the past ten years, and he has been in Kenya now four times, working with Kenyan medical staff, doing rounds, providing patient care, overseeing the most difficult cases, and educating clinical specialists and nurses on the most up-to-date treatment of HIV/AIDS. While he was with us, Phil worked at the local hospital in our area of Rapogi. He did vital work, not only at the hospital, but even talking with the local church congregation after Sunday worship. Phil provided them with life-saving information: about the need to be tested for the disease, the importance of taking their medication in order to live a long, normal life; and the need to end the stigma associated with HIV. As many of our students have lost one or more parents to HIV/AIDS, and some have parents, grandmothers and young siblings who currently suffer from the disease, I was heartened to have Phil come and see the need in our area for his expertise.
We hired new helpers to replace Quinn who now has a job as a Social Worker, and Joshua who is working full time, and planning to go back to university. One of our new helpers, Felix, is also our student. He recently graduated from high school and is waiting to go to university. As an orphan who has been a recipient of a sponsorship, Felix has empathy for our students, believes in the value of our work, and is happy to contribute. Felix will visit the boys we sponsor. Our new female helper, Alice, is a mature, single parent, who has been troubled by the suffering of the desperately needy children she sees around her. She is currently still learning the work, but is trying hard and shows commitment to our students and to the Foundation.
As we were taking new students, and I was training new helpers at the same time, my work load in Kenya was heavy this year. The home visits to verify students were particularly time-consuming. Heavy rain and mud slowed us down. As new trainees could not be expected to conduct home visits on their own, we did them together. Some of the students live in very remote, rural areas. We had to leave our vehicle and trek in some distance by foot, hoping we would find the home. However, it is essential that we see the circumstances of the family for ourselves, and we were always glad we made the effort.
Again this year, we helped impoverished grandmothers raising orphan grandchildren, but unable to put them into primary school because of the cost of school uniforms and Oxford shoes that they need. We provided 20 pairs of Oxford shoes and 40 school uniforms.
We have lost two students this year; one who became pregnant, and one who was simply unable to adjust to school.
We are monitoring our workload and growth, so that we strike a balance between responding to the desperate need of Kenyan girls, and growing at a steady pace. Our infrastructure and volunteer base need to grow at a pace commensurate with the increase in student sponsorships.
We are improving our year-round communication with our students. In addition to writing letters to their sponsors, we now request that students write to us at the end of each term, with their feedback about their school. Their feedback helps us to assess the schools in which we place students— the attention they pay to each student’s needs, academic performance, and the wellbeing of our students in school. As we take seriously the school’s evaluation of our students, we also take seriously our students’ evaluation of their schools.
We hope to learn about potential problems early enough to intervene, before they get out of hand.
After our Pre-Christmas event last November, one of our sponsors, Bruce Metzler, said What sets your Foundation apart from others is that it feels personal, and not institutional. Bruce accurately described the priorities of our Foundation. The care that goes into educating each impoverished girl, getting to know her history, her talents and needs, is personal; and the care that goes into building warm collaborative relationships with our sponsors and donors, that is personal, too.We are beginning a trial. This year, we put two girls into day school, at half the cost of boarding school. We want to see if day school is a good option for some students—especially for those who live close enough that they can walk safely to a good village day school, and whose home environment is stable enough for them to succeed in school. A motivated student can do well in a good day school and go on to university. The advantage of day school is that we can put two, maybe even three girls in school in for the cost of one in a boarding school. Although we realize that day school is an option for only a few students, nevertheless, it means that we might be able to take a few more each year, rather than turn deserving students away.hope to learn about potential problems early enough to intervene, before they get out of hand.hope to learn about potential problems early enough to intervene, before they get out of hand.
We are deeply indebted to our donors and sponsors. Your compassion, and your dedication to educating a girl, or orphan boy, change their lives forever, and gives hope to the community. Thank you.