Annual General Report - 2018
President’s Report to the Annual General meeting of Power of Education Africa Foundation
May 12, 2018
2017 was the fifth year of the Foundation’s operations. The operations in Canada were smoother, as we added three new members to our Board of Directors. In Kenya, our ground operations were obstructed and frustrating because of political turbulence. However, it was a year of real student success with 18 new graduates, 15 of whom will go on to post-secondary education. We sponsored 23 new students, bringing our total to 103 students. In order to broaden the power base and the skill base of the Foundation, and to spread the knowledge and responsibilities over all of our volunteer directors without overburdening one or two of us, we continue to foster a team approach. We not only have sustainable growth and efficiency in mind, but also succession planning; so that several people at the board level have all the information needed to run the Foundation smoothly, when needed. I am so grateful for the Board’s excellent work, and for the harmonious relationships on the Board. It is a pleasure to work together.
In May, accountant Francis Uy, took up the role of Treasurer. Francis replaces Syd Gallinger who stepped down as Treasurer, but remains on as an invaluable Director. In June we welcomed two Directors: Retired lawyer and executive coach, Linda Robertson who was recently honoured by the Canadian Bar Association Women Lawyers Forum, for her work in the development of women lawyers; and Lauren Selden who has taken up the important role of Technology Director. Co-founders and Director, Dr David Yeung, stepped down from the Board because of health reasons; he has agreed to remain on as Honorary Director.
Activities in Kenya
This January and February, Lauren Selden, our Technology Director, was funded by two generous donors to come to Kenya for three weeks. She took responsibility for the photography and technology, and for a whole range of ground operations relating to new students. Lauren brought fresh energy, new ideas and smart work habits. She is an excellent communicator who worked congenially with Alice, our Administrative Assistant, with our occasional helper, Steve, and with our graduate student, Masela, who joined us to help with new student school enrolments and provided assistance to our graduates who were making out on-line applications to higher institutions. Next January and February, Darlene Durrad will join me for the second time in Kenya. We are in mutual discernment about Darlene taking more ongoing responsibility for the ground operations there. Darlene brings her experience as a business analyst, her cultural sensitivity, as well as her flexible, adaptable, unflappable energy to her work in Kenya—rare gifts under what can be very stressful circumstances.
We often ask ourselves how we can improve our support for our students. Over the Christmas break, we asked one of our graduate students to provide support for two students whose academics had suffered after the deaths of their mothers. And a teacher dedicated time and counsel to our youngest student who had lost her confidence when she joined a large national school. Our more senior students are taking seriously their responsibility to welcome, orient and mentor our younger students. We also ask those students who are strong in a subject to help those who are weak in it. Consequently, our students seem to bond and form a peer community of support, for which I am grateful, as they will still need their community when they leave school.
As we received Legal NGO status (non-governmental organization) in Kenya in February 2017, we have to meet the NGO Registration Board’s requirements for a formal governance structure, for a new banking structure, for annual accountability to the Kenyan government, and for policies and procedures. We have formed a Board of Directors and Officers in Kenya that has a balance of Kenyan and Canadian participation, with Dr. Phil Sestak as our C.E.O. This gives Phil the authority to run the affairs of the Foundation in Kenya if I am unable to go. I serve as Chair of the Board. We will also invite one or two of our graduates to serve as board members and directors.
The new banking structure in Kenya entails having both Kenyan and Canadian signatories. However, the balance of power rests with the Canadians, so as to protect the funds provided by donors. We have formed a relationship with an accountant in order to be in compliance with the Kenyan government’s requirements for formal record keeping and financial reporting to the Kenya Revenue Agency.
In January and February this year, we met with obstacles in our efforts to comply with the banking regulations required of NGOs. My persistent efforts to meet the requirements consumed a great deal of my time and energy, so that I was unable to meet with all of our students. I arrived in Kenya with all the legal documents in hand required to open NGO approved bank accounts. Time was of the essence, as we needed to pay the students’ tuition fees to each of the schools’ banks. We were informed that the new accounts had to be approved now by head office in Nairobi, and that the Kenyan government had imposed more stringent requirements. Weeks went by with no progress. School officials were patient because we have earned their respect and have good credibility. But I did not want our credibility to be eroded by payment delays. In the end, we were approved — the only Foundation out of eighty applicants to be approved. However, the approval came too late to use the new NGO accounts and I was obliged to use our existing accounts to pay the fees. This will be rectified when I go next January, but the whole process this year was time consuming and frustrating.
In the Kenyan climate of political unrest, we were shut in one day and could not go out because of demonstrations, and the following day we got caught in demonstrations—on the way to the bank, of course! One group of demonstrators lighted fires in the middle of the road so that cars could not pass. Another group blocked the road with a log and rocks. Men banged on my car window wanting money. However, Fr. Timon, who was driving, was able to negotiate our way out of the road blocks and potential danger.
The education system in Kenya has changed in some ways that are affecting us and our students. The school year has changed, with new students in Form1 joining school in January instead of February. This change means that most students are in school when we arrive in Kenya. The advantage of this development for us is that we are interviewing fewer students in order to select students whose families truly do not have the funds to place them in school, or they would have enrolled them before we arrived. The disadvantages are that when we short list the students who seem the most in need, we are under pressure to conduct home visits immediately to verify their circumstances, do their shopping, and enrol them in school right away, as they have already missed two or three weeks of school, and there is a cut off date for enrolment. Inevitably, when we conduct the home visits, we find that some families have managed to place their student in school, or that a few were cheating, and brought a student to the interview from school, out of uniform, in the hope that we would pay their fees.
This is always a disappointment to us. We have to start again and select the next short listed students in place of the ones who cheated. Our policy is not to accept students who are already enrolled in school. Our rationale is that, if they have enrolled the student, paid for a uniform and some tuition, the family must have confidence that they can manage to pay the school fees. This policy is subject to error, of course, but if a student whom we had short listed were sent home permanently for lack of school fees, we would likely hear about it and be able to help. Providing tutoring for students is against the law at this time. Some teachers were failing to teach the entire curriculum in order to charge students for tutoring during vacation, and a few schools were over-working students by requiring that they attend additional tutoring. As many students have missed so much school due to being sent home for lack of fee payment, we wonder how they can make up for missed curriculum now that tutoring is banned.
It is now more desirable than it was for families to place students into a day school rather than to leave their student out of school, or struggle to enrol them into boarding schools and then fail to pay the tuition fees and have them sent home. Many substandard day schools have been closed. Standards of education are being monitored and improved. Some fee subsidies and text books are being provided by the government, which is trying to move toward more universal education. We have sponsored six new day scholars. These are students whose grades do not justify placing them in expensive boarding schools, or students who live near to a good day school, and whose home situation is stable, allowing them to study in the evening with the help of the solar lamps we now install in their homes. Thanks to the initiative and generosity of Dr. Moira Chan and Dr. David Yeung, these lamps benefit the entire family, As the home situation of these day scholars can sometimes change overnight, we are reluctant to place more than a few at a time in day school.
Last year, as soon as I arrived in Kenya, our Administrative Assistant, Alice, requested her salary in advance in order to pay for her son’s secondary boarding school tuition fees. I felt sad, knowing that this single mother of three school aged children would work hard for six weeks, day and evenings, placing other sponsored students in school, and not take a salary home at the end of her work. Dr Phil Sestak and I decided at the time to assist Alice in educating her children. Our Board has since discussed the need for a policy concerning whether, and under what circumstances, we should assist our Kenyan helpers with their children’s education. We have wrestled with this matter before. Our past experience of educating the siblings of other helpers did not end well, as the siblings were very poor students; one ran away from school and another got pregnant in her last year and had to leave school. Yet, it seems unfair that someone as central to our work as Alice should be asked to put the children of other Kenyans into school with a full sponsorship, and struggle so hard personally to educate her own children who are all very bright and achieve excellent grades. We could see how we would foster resentment and hurt. The Board agreed with the decision to help Alice to educate her children.
However, we have also had to draw the line. We cannot help other family members on our Kenyan compound, or close neighbours, just because they ask us to sponsor their children’s education. We acknowledge the financial stress placed on families who have children in secondary school. But we must adhere to our principles for interviewing, evaluating and accepting only those students who have the greatest need, without prejudice or favouritism. We ask these family members and neighbours to go through the interview process with everyone else, so that we evaluate their need alongside all applicants. In the end they understand that we take those with the greatest need and they respect us for it.
Over three days, Fr. Timon and I met with small groups of our 18 graduates to help them think through their future post-secondary education programs in the light of both their hopes and their grades. It is a requirement by the Kenyan government that they apply for more than one discipline. Even if they have the grades to be accepted into two or three disciplines, the government advises them which program they are to join. Students seem to accept this practice even though they may feel disappointed. One of our students dearly wanted to go into a special surveying program that would allow her to do city planning and mapping; but she was accepted into her second choice of nursing. Another wanted to go into law, but was accepted into commerce. Still, our graduates are grateful for the chance to be educated and employable. Fr. Timon reported that 62,851 will join universities which accept C+ grades and above; 58% are male and 42% are female. Over 500,000 did not qualify for university and will do certificate programs at other institutions, which accept C grades and below. Certificate students may continue on to do diplomas. They will also have good careers in their chosen field.
I was very touched that some of our graduates offered their volunteer services to the Foundation this year. They want to give back in some way for what they have received. They want to help the new students whose struggles and life circumstances they share and understand. One top graduate, Grace Lilian, offered to help us, even though she had been hired right out of secondary school to teach primary students at an academy. She is teaching three subjects to145 students, with one class as large as 75 students, yet she still offered to help us before she joins university in the Fall. I appreciated her generosity, but did not want her to be overcommitted. We hired our graduate, Masela, who also offered to volunteer; but she is preparing for university and we wanted her to be paid. One of our former graduates, Felix, who is in second year law school, will initiate the formation of an alumni association. Felix and our graduates will meet in the summer to discuss what they can do to mentor younger students and to help the Foundation in other ways. This initiative is heart warming.
Activities in Canada
We have a new look: Our Technology Director, Lauren Selden, created a fresh new logo for us. Who we are and what we do is distilled in one image — a Kenyan student framed by a book. Lauren updated our brochure with the logo, and she and Darlene Durrad are redesigning our website. Our new look is young, clean and professional.
We held our annual Pre-Christmas, Festive Tea at St. Mary’s Anglican Church at the end of November. This is now a popular event. Attendees feel comfortable in the venue, participating in important conversations, and giving us their views, as they did over our decision to discontinue sending out student report cards to sponsors. Anne Millar presented this important topic to attendees.
Thus, after long wrestling and considerable consultation with sponsors, especially those with a background in education, we made the decision to discontinue sending out student report cards to sponsors. As Anne Millar summarized it for our sponsors, we have come to the conclusion that this is not a proper use of these documents. We decided to stop the practice on the following grounds: The student reports are for the parents and guardians and sent to us as a courtesy. The reports are very hard for sponsors to read correctly. The school system and the evaluation scales are so different in Kenya that it is easy for sponsors to get an inaccurate idea of the student’s true standing. I have also found that sponsors can become worried, disappointed, or even angry at their student, for receiving lower grades than they are used to seeing in North America where grades are inflated. Our graduate students—those with a B average, and those with a C- average— will all be able to enter post secondary institutions, either a polytechnic school, college or university.
Apart from our semi-annual events, the Annual Reception in May and the Festive Tea in November, I gave four presentations to groups: a luncheon presentation in June to St. Agnes Anglican Church in North Vancouver, another in June to a group of women lawyers at the home of Director, Linda Robertson, and one in the Spring and Fall to the grade five and six Queen Mary Elementary School students who are fully sponsoring a Kenyan student for four years at a national school.
It is with sadness and deepest gratitude that we received sufficient funds to place a girl in school, in memory of Michael Loretto, the son of Tanya and Michael Loretto, who with their children, made the decision to ask people to give a gift to the Foundation in lieu of flowers; and in memory of my dear friend, Sue Ann Cairns, whose husband, Gordon and their friends also made this memorial sponsorship possible for Form 1 student, Beryl, to join a top provincial school.
Board of Directors: Roles and Responsibilities
Lesley Blok: As Chair of Hospitality, Lesley designs and delivers our e-invitations for Foundation events. She provides the food for our AGM. She co-ordinates the Hospitality Team in planning, advertising and implementing our Annual Reception in May at Christ Church Cathedral, and the Festive Tea at St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kerrisdale, in November. As the speaker who welcomes folks to these events, Lesley is relaxed and warm, and sets this tone for attendees. Lesley and Morag Forster, who decorate our event rooms beautifully, have developed informative poster boards for our events. These boards show images of our students at school and at home with their families. Lesley provided the food and hospitality for a very successful event in the home of Linda Robertson. Lesley brings a level-headed, student-centred, warm hearted perspective to her work on the Board. We are very grateful for her dedication and her gifts.
Secretary, Shaaron Fedora, prepares Agendas and notices of meetings, records comprehensive Minutes of our Board meetings, and prepares annual tax receipts. She makes an invaluable contribution by supervising and reconciling the work hours, and monthly expenditures, made by Alice during those months when we are not in Kenya. For, our student support goes on throughout the year. Alice pays for student room and board, school supplies and student travel to and from home on school breaks. Shaaron goes through every receipt, reconciling expenditures to bank statements, and she prepares monthly reconciliation reports, which is a real help to our bookkeeper, Judy, and especially to me.
Syd Gallinger has retired as Treasurer, but remains a Director. Syd chairs our Board meetings and provides leadership on the Board. In order that donors and sponsors are fully informed about the Foundation’s use of their financial gifts, Syd speaks to the financial situation of the Foundation, as well as our costs and hopes for the future, at both our Annual Reception in May, and our annual Festive Tea in the Fall. Over the Formative years of our Foundation, Syd structured our financial records, developed our Financial Statements, and filed Annual Reports to Canada Revenue Agency. He helped our bookkeeper, Judy and me strategize for the best record-keeping and accountability of expenditures in Kenya. He struck a balance in overseeing financial matters without micro-managing, but rather guiding and trusting Judy in her work, and guiding and supporting me in mine. Syd has worked collaboratively with Anne Kober on legal and financial matters. He also set up our RBC account to receive and facilitate gifts of securities. This year, Syd has helped our new Treasurer, Francis Uy with his first filing of an Annual Report to CRA. I am so grateful for Syd’s steady hand and partnership in developing the Foundation; and so glad that he has agreed to remain with us.
Anne Kober. With Anne’s invaluable legal background, she provides such wise, practical advise to the Board and to me personally that I do not know what we would do without her. She has the ability to see the potential long term consequences of the decisions we consider making, and she has protected us from making mistakes. Anne successfully guided us through the several phases of NGO registration. She helped me to think through such issues as the composition of the Board of Directors in Kenya, as well as the banking signatory protocols there. Anne has worked to protect our interests while achieving a balance of Kenyan and Canadian representation.
Treasurer, Francis Uy. Francis is a newly retired accountant who is new to the running of the Foundation. He has been working with Syd Gallinger and Judy Mostardi, developing relationships and learning their way of financial record keeping and reporting. Francis prepared the Annual Financial Statements; and filed the Annual Report to CRA.
Anne Millar. Anne is knowledgeable about almost every aspect of the Foundation’s operations, both in Canada and in Kenya. This year, when I was off sick, Anne ran the day to day operations of the Foundation. She took over some of my responsibilities and co-ordinated work done by others. I am very grateful to her for stepping in and running things so seamlessly, and grateful for her hard work day in and day out. Throughout the year, Anne corresponds with sponsors and donors, sending out hundreds of hand written cards and photographs of our work in Kenya, as well as student letters to their sponsors, and tax receipts. She updates our donor and sponsor contact information. We continue to place high priority on our communication with our donors and sponsors. Since she maintains our student profiles and records, and corresponds with our Kenyan helper, Alice, for the purpose of collecting student report cards and letters, Anne gets to know our students, their schools and home situations. Together, Anne and I match sponsors with their students. Anne also makes up many Foundation forms for use in Kenya and Canada, forms that help us keep track of student and family contact information, the students’ schools, form, grades, admission numbers; and forms that help Alice, our helper, to work efficiently.
Dr. Phil Sestak. Phil is now the CEO of our operations in Kenya, sitting ex-officio on the Kenyan Board of Directors, as well as being a Director on the Board in Canada. In essence, this means that he has the authority at our Kenyan bank and with the schools to run the operation in Kenya, if needed. With years of experience working as a volunteer HIV/AIDS physician in Africa, Phil’s presence on both boards is invaluable. In January and February this year, Phil worked for three weeks in a local hospital near us before leaving to work in a second hospital in Central Province. While at the local hospital Phil provided inpatient, outpatient and emergency care, supervising the treatment of the most difficult medical illnesses. He also provided valuable medical help to both Lauren and me when we needed it this year.
Linda Robertson wrote an article on the work of the Foundation, which was published the Anglican Topic. She also hosted an evening presentation in June for a group of women lawyers. As she is new to the Board, Linda is reading over our documents and student profiles so that she has a comprehensive knowledge of our structure and background, and so that she can file Annual Reports required by registered societies. Linda will be working to develop polices will include material that is vital for volunteers coming to Kenya, such as a significant section on ethical practices in working in a culturally sensitive way with students, helpers, and schools in Kenya. Linda is also studying the Kenyan Constitution and the laws governing women in Kenya and she will be presenting a talk on that subject at our Tea in the Fall or at our next Annual Reception in 2019.
Lauren Selden has not only created our new Logo, and developed a new brochure, but is also developing and managing the Foundation’s profile on social media. Lauren will give a presentation at our Annual Reception, showing our work with new students when she accompanied me to Kenya this year. A graduate of Emily Carr, Lauren took wonderful photographs of our students and the contexts in which they live at home and study in school. You will soon see some of her photographs on the new website, which she is developing with Darlene Durrad. Lauren also took responsibility for a range of daily responsibilities in Kenya. Her contribution as a photographer, and her contribution to our daily work was invaluable to our students, our Administrative Assistant, Alice, and to me. I am grateful that this very gifted young woman has joined the Board of the Foundation.
Dr. David Yeung. We are very grateful to the Moira and David Foundation for their ongoing financial support of the Foundation. They not only sponsor students, and the installation of solar lamps in the homes of our day scholars, their generous gift this year will help to subsidize our graduate students in their post-secondary education, as not every sponsor of these students can cover the cost of their tuition fees and board and room. David continues to make greeting cards for the Foundation from the wonderful photographs he took when in Kenya.
Advisors and Core Volunteers
Our legal counsel, Bo Fodchuk, provides legal advice and does the practical work of filling Annual Reports in Victoria. This year, he undertook the vital work of amending our Constitution and Bylaws to bring them into compliance with a new B.C. Societies Act governing societies registered in B.C. This transition was very time consuming and we are grateful for Bo’s expertise and time.
Our bookkeeper, Judy Mostardi. Judy is the treasure behind the scenes who is absolutely essential to the running of the Foundation. She is highly competent, dedicated, steady and good natured. While she keeps me disciplined in my own record keeping, she is easy to work with. Judy drafts record-keeping forms and ledgers for our daily use in Kenya. She spends hours each month reconciling our expenditures in both Canada and Kenya. This task is becoming more complex as we have opened two new bank accounts in Kenya. She calculates conversion rates and keeps our financial records in two currencies. Judy assisted our Treasurer, Francis, in the preparation of our Annual Financial Statements. Last year she also assisted in preparing a Semi-annual statement. Judy has endless patience with me as I cope in Kenya with the record-keeping demands of our expenditures there—from wiring school tuition fees for 103 students in more than 25 different institutions, to buying school supplies, and live chickens and watermelons on the roadside.
Darlene Durrad has recently updated our Aeroplan profile. This profile is for participating charities who want to pool donations of Aeroplan points, which helps us reduce the cost of our volunteers traveling to Kenya. She has managed our website, and has updated the photo gallery and information. Darlene will volunteer in Kenya again next January and February. She will learn every aspect of the Foundation’s work there, as she is in discernment about taking more responsibility in Kenya. Our Administrative Assistant, Alice, our students, school officials, and our Kenyan neighbours will be so glad to welcome her back.
Our Hospitality Team: Kathy Rayher, Wendy Roberts, Molly Jonsson, Sarah Patisson, Morag Forster, and Linda Robertson make up our Hospitality Team, led by Lesley Blok. At our Fall Festive Tea, Lesley had additional contributions of delicious food from Judy Mostardi, Martha Lou Henley, Darlene Durrad and Dr. Mary Lewis.The wonderful members of this team decorate the event room beautifully, and they shop for, make and serve the food at our events. This is a great gift to us and to the guests who eat their delicious food and who feel so welcomed by their hospitality.
Fr. Timon Ochieng Odeny, our Kenyan Advisor, advises the Foundation on many facets of our work in Kenya. Fr. Timon was also appointed Secretary on the Foundation’s Board of Directors in Kenya. He was in Kenya for much of our work at the end of January and in February this year, meeting with our graduate students in order to help them decide and plan their post-secondary education. He met with school officials, parents and guardians, and joined me in negotiations with our bankers to open our new NGO approved accounts.
Fr. George Ochola, Rector and Principal of Rakwaro Minor Seminary, is Treasurer of the new Board of Directors in Kenya. He is a very good administrator and education advisor.
A special thank you to Christ Church Cathedral and the Very Reverend Peter Elliott, for generously making the Hall and staff available free of charge for our Annual Reception in May and for giving us the Park Room for our board Meetings. Thank you to St. Mary’s Kerrisdale, for generously making a room available for our November Festive Tea, and to their Verger, John Taylor, for helping us to implement the event.
Fifteen of our eighteen 2017 graduates have applied for post-secondary programs in universities, colleges and polytechnic schools. Some will be eligible for grants and government loans. However, they will still need our help. It will likely require a similar financial commitment to what we are paying for boarding school, perhaps a bit less if the student is in a polytechnic school near home; and considerably more for students who are accepted in universities in Nairobi or other cities far from home. As some sponsors may not be able to afford to help their students, please consider whether you are willing to help a student who lacks the funds to go on to post-secondary education.
As the Foundation does not pay for travel to Kenya, except by designated donations, it is my hope that we will continue to receive donations of Aeroplan miles. One donation of points that we received in the past year gave us a great boost. These travel points will allow Darlene Durrad travel to Kenya in January of 2019. Two wonderful donors helped Lauren Selden travel to Kenya in January.
We continue to be deeply indebted to our donors and sponsors. You are changing the lives of African children forever, and bringing hope to their communities. Thank you.