Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bill Gates Likes What EPN is All About

Have you heard the news? Last week, the Gates Foundation announced $200 million in Agricultural Development Grants!

In the speech he gave at the IFAD conference, Bill Gates confirmed the approach we take at Eliminate Poverty Now, saying:

“If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture...Investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty, and they have made life better for billions of people. The international agriculture community needs to be more innovative, coordinated, and focused to help poor farmers grow more. If we can do that, we can dramatically reduce suffering and build self-sufficiency.”

There's a great blog post at ICRISAT, an article on the Philanthropy News Digest, and you can read the speech posted in its entirety on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation website.

Here's another quote from Gates, which reflects our own mission at EPN:

“The goal is to move from examples of success to sustainable productivity increases to hundreds of millions of people moving out of poverty...If we hope to meet that goal, it must be a goal we share. We must be coordinated in our pursuit of it. We must embrace more innovative ways of working toward it. And we must be willing to be measured on our results.”

This thinking is what drives Eliminate Poverty Now's projects, like Farmers of the Future, The Women's Cooperative Garden in Mali, the warehouse cooperative in Uganda, and the elevage program in Niger.
At work in the Women's Cooperative Garden in Mali

Some Farmers of the Future!
The sentiments expressed by Bill Gates are what EPN is all about, and the goals mentioned are very much our goals.

Help us on our way! Follow or subscribe to the blog, and encourage your friends and family to do the same, and to visit our website, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. We can't do it alone. As Gates said, if we hope to meet our goal, "it must be a goal we share."

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Preview of John and Judy's Trip to Africa

In less than a week, John and Judy will be in Africa, seeing the progress of Eliminate Poverty Now's projects in person! They have a packed schedule, and we thought it would be nice to give you an idea of what they'll be doing while they are there.

In their first week, they will be in Nairobi, where they visit the new site for the Little Rock Early Childhood Development Center!

As I mentioned in my first post a few weeks ago, the new buildings will serve 1,000 nursery school children, four times the number of children being served at the current location. We are so excited that this wonderful program is growing.

 John and Judy will meet with Lilly Oyare, founder and director of the Little Rock ECD to discuss the RockPads project, and possible partnerships between U.S. and Kenya Rotary clubs. They will also meet with groups of girls from the Kibera slum who will be receiving sanitary pads through the RockPads project at GlobalGiving.

Early the following week, they will be in Benin to visit the Songhai Center, and to officially launch the Songhai Women's Capital Fund! We are really excited about this project. EPN will be providing start-up capital to the most promising women who graduate from the school to create dozens of successful agricultural entrepreneurs.

Then it's off to Niger, where there will be days of in-depth meetings regarding Farmers of the Future, the Galbal Sewing and Literacy Center, and the Women's Elevage program (referred to in the previous blog entry as "embouche"), among other topics. Judy and John will also be co-hosting the official opening of the Farmers of the Future program! There is hope that the National Minister of Education and representatives from the U.S. Embassy and USAID, as well as other officials, will be in attendance. It promises to be a super exciting event celebrating a truly wonderful program.

And this doesn't cover everything they'll be doing! They will be busy-busy, with lots of wonderful, exciting things, and as promised, they'll be blogging regularly to keep everyone up to speed with news and updated photos. If you're not already subscribing, now's a great time to start, so you don't miss anything! And don't forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. We'll always let you know when another post is up.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Great News from the Senegal Sewing Center

Hello again!

Almost as soon as we published our blog post updating you on two programs we did in partnership with the Millennium Villages Project, we received fantastic news from Serigne Kandji about our sewing center in the Millennium Village in Senegal!

Have you been reading the headlines coming out of Senegal lately? You can get a good idea of what's going on from these NPR and New York Times reports. The reports are focused on regime change and rioting, which makes the good news we received from Senegal mean that much more to us. It proves what we always say: Africa can seem totally hopeless if you read the American press, even when there are wonderful things happening all over the place! Unfortunately, good news doesn't sell.

But we're not selling news here, and we LOVE  to share good news! The Leona sewing center, Jigeen ca Waarwa (Women at Work), is located in the Potou, Senegal Millennium Village cluster and was fully operational in 2011, with four girls enrolled. A photo slideshow from the center can be seen on the Women's Sewing Center project page of our website. Due to the resounding success--ever growing activity and demand for training in other villages in the cluster-- two decisions have been made by the management committee.

The first is to move the Leona center to a more spacious and centralized location! This space has already been found--a stall along the Leona-Potou main road--and a contract signed with the owner. The machines will be moved before the end of this month.

The second decision made is to open another sewing center! This center will be located in Potou, with the money generated by Jigeen ca Waarwa. Again, a stall has been found, and the contract already signed. Very soon, there will be two or three machines purchased. A tailor will be hired for this center, and girls will be recruited for training!

Tailor and Student
 With all of this success, the training of the first class of girls in the Leona center will be accelerated so that they are able to graduate before the next rainy season.

This kind of news makes me think of an January article I came across recently, in which Millennium Promise founder Jeffrey Sachs makes the point, "We're not arguing for a culture of dependency. We're arguing to end it." This is exactly reflected in the success of Jigeen ca Waarwa, and we cannot wait to see this project continue to grow and generate good news from Senegal!


A finished product

Monday, February 20, 2012

Updates from Two Millennium Villages Projects

Hello, hello, happy blog-readers!

We are happy to say that we have recently heard from our partners in the Millennium Villages Project that two of Eliminate Poverty Now's earliest projects are continuing to grow and achieve their original goals! 

The news isn't very specific at this point, but we wanted to draw your attention back to these projects since they haven't been featured recently, and we are really excited about both of them. In general, these projects have been well received by the people in the communities, with potential to help even more people than had been originally thought. There have been growing pains, as is to be expected, but the overall message of the news we've been receiving has been encouraging!


The first of these projects is the Women's Cooperative Garden in Sama, Mali, which is part of the Tiby, Mali Millennium Village cluster. As you can see in the photo below, things are going well! The grass is green, and the people are happy, and those are two very wonderful things.

Mawa, head of the Women's Cooperative, with Judy, 2010
Judy wrote a great, in depth blog post about the garden when she and John were in Africa two years ago, so be sure to check it out. At the bottom of that post, there is another photo of Mawa, where you are better able to see the necklace she is wearing in the picture with Judy here. This necklace is made of African glass beads, and was a gift from Judy to Mawa. Have you seen the Nanyuki Handcrafts site? For all of you jewelry lovers, the pieces are gorgeous, and help Kenyan artists support their families.

Speaking of photos, we owe special thanks to Nina Sharma from Millennium Promise for the beautiful photos in this blog post!
Mawa, 2012

The Women's Cooperative Garden was started in 2009. That same year, EPN also started a cooperative commodity warehouse in the Ruhiira, Uganda Millennium Village cluster. The official name of the warehouse is Kigarama Marketing Cooperative Society, Ltd.

In spite of the risk of loss of harvested crops due to moisture, mold, vermin, theft, etc, we are happy to say that in its first year, there was less than a 5% storage loss! This news means many good things for the future of this project, and we're excited to see it continue to grow.

A front view of the warehouse

That's all for today! John and Judy will be blogging while they are in Africa, so there will be tons of new photos and updates coming during March, on all of EPN's projects.
Oh, and have you looked around the blog recently? We've been updating and adding pages, to make it more user friendly. Please take a minute to scroll back to the top and see what we've been working on! 

Many thanks for reading!

Monday, February 6, 2012

An Introduction

Hello, blog readers! I am Anna, the new "social ninja" for Eliminate Poverty Now, and I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to you all, as I will be taking over a good portion of the blogging for Judy.

This is me, giving my graduate lecture in Montpelier
I graduated with my MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts this past summer, and quit my job in order to pursue my passion. A crazy thing to do, these days, right? The job I was holding was working at a small, independent health food store, and I learned a lot about sustainability and the importance of what we put in and on our bodies, whether it was for health reasons (organics) or just knowing where these things come from in the world (is it local? fair trade?). I worked at the store for four years, and made a lot of good friends, and as much as I will carry the knowledge I gained with me for the rest of my life, I just knew it was time to move on.

In addition to working on my own creative work, having writing be at least a part of my job was the goal. When our mutual friend, Meg, put Judy and me in touch with one another, and told me the job would involve blogging for a non profit, I was immediately interested. Judy and I spoke on Skype, and immediately hit it off, ideas flying all over the place. After a second conversation, the deal was done, and I became a member of the Eliminate Poverty Now family, an opportunity that appeals to me on every level: a company I believe in, a job description that involves writing, and an opportunity to learn about so many different things!

So here I am, at your service. For the past week or so, I've been in a "gathering" mode, learning about
the different projects. How about the great news from Farmers of the Future that Judy posted last week? It's so exciting to see this project get going, and I, for one, can't wait to see it blossom.

One of the first things Judy sent me as material for learning about the different EPN projects was the video of Lilly talking about the Little Rock Early Childhood Development Center. I was immediately struck by her beauty and strength, and the amazing things being accomplished. Lilly's passion is truly inspiring. If you haven't already seen it, please check it out.

And there is news this week from Little Rock! Lilly recently went to the UK and raised the money to buy the land for the new building at the center. This addition will mean that the center will be able to have 1,000 children-- that's four times the current size. They have already had the ground-breaking, and Judy and John will hopefully see the site when they go to Africa next month.

Also, an event that took place just over a week ago (1/29/12) resulted in four boxes of children's books being shipped to the Little Rock Library. John presented Lilly's video at the event, as well as photos. Many thanks to board member, Margie Samuels, for organizing the event, and to everyone who donated the books. Judy sent them out at the end of last week, so they are en route to the Little Rock kids! An extra thanks to Judy Gration, wife of U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Scott Gration, who covered the shipping.

So lots of great things going on at Little Rock, and more on the way! 2012 is the year when the first graduating class of Little Rock Scholars will take the test for secondary school. The score determines whether or not a child goes on to secondary school at all, and within the qualifying scores, the higher the score, the better the school. The top scoring boy and girl will each receive full scholarships for secondary school.

2012 is still new, and here's to a great year ahead of us! As a newcomer to EPN, I have to mention the page on the website that tells you how you can help because it really stood out to me that even people with not a lot to spare (like aspiring writers, perhaps?) can give $10, and it will make a difference. I think this is important for people to realize, who feel like if they can't spare anything big, then they can't make a difference. It's just not the case!

Some might say this is the year when the world will end, but from my experience so far, great things are beginning all over the place! There are endings and beginnings all the time; life is a cycle, after all. A writer ends her formal education and the job she knew, and enters a world of uncertainty. Then she begins something new, something exciting, and something incredibly positive.

And really, that positivity is what I love most about Eliminate Poverty Now.

So thanks for having me! I'm looking forward to being on this journey with all of you.

Oh, and part of being a social-ninja is reminding you all to please like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter. We'll be posting more often on those sites, as well as here, so be sure to check us out! Also, if you're not already, subscribe to this blog. Thanks!