Friday, April 25, 2014

News from Lilly's US Visit

When speaking or writing about Eliminate Poverty NOW, we often refer to the exceptional partners we are lucky enough to work with. On that list is Lilly Oyare, founder and director of the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre in Nairobi, Kenya. The students and family members that benefit from Little Rock all come from the nearby slums of Kibera.

John, Lilly, and Colin Jones, CFO of Euromoney Institutional Investor Offices

Usually we go to visit our partners in their homeland to gain visibility to programs we support. But this time, Lilly came here, with 2 members of her board! The motivation for the trip goes back two years, when Lilly traveled to London and raised $500,000 to purchase land and build a beautiful new school capable of doubling the number of students served. The new school opened in February 2013, but needs additional funding to support more teachers, furniture, school equipment, and operating costs to take full advantage of the new facility. So she came to the States on a two week "friend-raising-fund-raising" trip to build awareness and support. She was with John, Judy, and Helen in the NJ/NYC area for 5 days, and then continued on to San Francisco and Washington DC. While in the New Jersey/New York areas, it was a whirlwind tour that included the following:

At the Eden Institue for Autism Services
1.     Eden Institute for Autism Services in Princeton, NJ – This visit was to share a state of the art facility that provides life span services for autistic individuals. There was a tour of the facility and Lilly met key personnel while visiting the various classrooms and programs throughout the school.  Little Rock's special needs kids include several autistic children and the Eden Institute was happy to share their teaching aids and training materials.

2.     Congregation Agudath Israel, Caldwell, NJ – Lilly spoke to the congregation during services to share her journey to the Little Rock of today. There was a follow up Lunch and Learn that was well attended by those eager to hear more.

The Sanctuary at Congregation Agudath Israel
3.     Brunch with the Rabbani family and friends – NYC – Lilly spoke to a small gathering of friends who were interested in hearing about her journey to the Little Rock of today and their plans for the future.

4.     Dinner at the Craigs – Lilly spoke to another gathering of friends who have been strong supporters of Eliminate Poverty Now.  Many have funded Little Rock Scholarships for outstanding graduates of the school.  It was a special treat for them to meet Lilly in person and hear her remarkable story.

5.     Philosophy IB, Florham Park, NJ – Lilly spoke to a gathering of employees, customers, and friends of the owners of Philosophy IB, an HR consulting practice founded by Kaveh Naficy and Christine Lotze. They graciously opened their doors and their hearts to the inspiring work that Lilly does.

6.     Euromoney Institutional Investor Offices, NYC – Lilly spoke to a gathering of Euromoney employees at their New York offices. With its global headquarters in London, Euromoney has been a key contributor to the new Little Rock facilities.  Colin Jones, the CFO, is a staunch Little Rock supporter. He timed his visit to the US to coincide with Lilly's visit so he could introduce her and share his passion for Little Rock and its wonderful work with disadvantaged children.
Helen, Lilly and Little Rock board members Christine Omolo and Joyce Kingori at Euromoney NYC
It was promised that there would be no direct solicitation at these meetings. Even so, people spontaneously pledged 4 additional scholarships to secondary school ($16,000 total) and another $4,000 in general contributions! We are so thrilled with these results, and it was truly wonderful to see our friend and colleague, Lilly, gain even more support for Little Rock ECD.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

John Speaking to the National Council of Jewish Women APRIL 23, 2014

If you're in or near Morristown, NJ on April 23, 2014, you may want to attend the West Morris Section meeting of the National Council for Jewish Women. The event, put on jointly with the Sisterhood/Women's Network of Temple B'nai Or, is free and open to the public. John will be speaking to attendees about the work Eliminate Poverty NOW is doing in Niger.

John and Judy with Rachel Ruto, the wife of Kenya's vice president

Time: 7:30 pm, April 23
Address: Temple B'nai Or, 60 Overlook Road, Morristown, NJ

For more details, or to register to attend, please contact 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

GUEST POST: Reflections from Helen, "Africa Through Fresh Eyes, Part 2"

I joined the Eliminate Poverty NOW team a little over a year ago. Had I been asked before that if I would ever go to Africa – I would have said no, maybe, or probably not. Fast forward 15 months – and I’ve been twice!
FOF Overseas Team - John Craig, Helen Greenberg, Dov Pasternak, and Robin Mednick

The first trip in July 2013 to Kenya was life altering. Nothing could compare – right? Wrong!
I just returned from Niger, in Western Africa, to be part of the eyes on the ground team to the Farmers of the Future program - the largest project we support - the objective of which is to change attitudes toward farming and encourage the adoption of intensive farming practices in the country of Niger.

One purpose of our trip was to visit the Sadore Village and the Farmers of the Future pilot sites to witness their progress. We were to meet with Professor Dov Pasternak, the FOF visionary whose dream is Farmers of the Future; our local team – Hamani Djibo and Sidi Mohamed, and our Canadian charity partner, Robin Mednick of Pencils4Kids. The only way I knew these people before that time was through photographs and conference calls. The other reason we were going was to speak to a number of government and agency people about the prospect of up-scaling Farmers of the Future to a total of 15 sites from the present 4.

 John Craig, Sidi Mohamed, and Dov Pasternak         
I was a bit nervous in anticipation of the trip – after all, I was going to one of the poorest countries in the world with a reputation for unrest, so far away from home with reportedly unreliable communication infrastructure, and then throw in a little fear of the unknown. But I let go as I did last year for my trip to Kenya and Uganda. I was going with seasoned travelers who had been there before, so I put my trust in them.
Robin Mednick, Hamani Djibo, and Helen Greenberg
In the weeks prior to departure, with the help of the local team, we put together a jam packed agenda of meetings which included visits to the village sites, meetings with local government officials and ministries of the national government, and other NGOs for funding possibilities.

My reflections of this trip can be broken down in two parts: the team and the project.

Meeting everyone face to face was exciting. The warmth and camaraderie was immediate. I was seamlessly enveloped as though I was part of the group for years. Another marvel was to see these people in action. Each has a strong personality bringing different strengths to the table, but, interestingly enough, those differences mesh -  making them work together like a well-oiled machine. In my opinion, Farmers of the Future couldn’t be in more capable, determined, dedicated, and passionate hands.
Helen and Robin with women from the Sadoré village

Meeting with the mayor of Liboré

Wedged in among the high level meetings it was imperative that we visited the villages where there are thriving women’s tree nurseries, vegetable gardens, and mother plantations. It was gratifying to see the progress (which I had only seen in photos – not doing them justice) that the women have made since John and Robin’s last visit in December 2012. The mothers in these villages are headed toward elevating the standard of living for their families by raising high yield, high nutrition, and high income producing crops. Now they are able to feed their families and send their children to school. Dov describes poverty
as a magnet – these women are moving out of its gravitational pull.

We met with the First Lady of Niger, the Agricultural Minister, the Leader of the 3 “N” initiative (Nigeriens feeding Nigeriens), USAID, and the Swiss Cooperative among others. We were warmly welcomed by all, and left knowing we had their support toward the scale-up of our program. We were riding high all week.

I came away from this experience with a new understanding for the strength of the human spirit – what motivation can accomplish, an appreciation for the gentle, kind culture of the Nigerien people, and a renewed sense of hope for the work I do.

John, Helen and Robin with the women gardeners at the FOF site