We all have the power to change the world – collectively, at least. So They Can’s latest fundraising campaign, 1inaMillion, gives us a chance to work together to empower the poorest children in the world through education.
There’s a word used in Africa to express the spirit of togetherness and the ability to work together: ubuntu. It’s often translated as, “I am because you are”. It conveys the feeling that everyone is connected, and what you do, affects the whole world. So They Can understands and believes in being part of a greater whole in all of their work. They live and breathe ubuntu.
A passion to help
New Zealander CassTreadwell started the organisation in 2009 in response to the 2007 Kenyan election violence that saw more than 600,000 Kenyans internally displaced. In response to this crisis, Cass committed to providing support to an internally displaced persons camp of 6,700 Kenyans. So They Can was born to deliver on a direct request from this group: “We need a school for our children – an education is the only inheritance we can give them.”
It was then just a matter of figuring out the ‘how’. Once back in New Zealand, Cass set about organising a fundraising dinner party, where she asked her guests to bring money, rather than food.
“We raised $22,000 from that event, and in 2009, we took that money to Africa and started our work,” says Cass.
Working at pace
Fast forward 13 years, and the non-governmental organisation now supports 47 schools in Kenya and Tanzania and a teachers’ training college in Tanzania that is ranked first out of the 79 public and private colleges in the country.
“We want to empower the poorest children and so we work in the public school system, partnering with the government in Kenya and Tanzania from district to national levels,” says Cass. “While we do some capital infrastructure, a strong focus is on what goes on inside the classroom. We support out schools with our 10 education projects that include upskilling teachers, supporting the schools’ Board of Management, reading, writing and maths, girls’ rights and educating parents on the importance of sending their children to school, to name a few. Our Education Programme is our core focus, but we quickly learnt that a community needs to be supported holistically, so we established our three Enhancement Programmes: Child Wellbeing, Women’s Empowerment and Community Health and Development.”
To date, So They Can has raised close to $30 million and is currently helping 45,000 children and their communities across the 47 schools. One hundred women each year go through its business school course, and 200 teachers graduate annually from its Mamire Teachers’ Training College.