Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Slow and Steady

With 41Day coming up this Saturday, I wanted to give you a fairly quick update (and a bit of background) on the goings on around the feeding program this last year. It has been mostly business as usual. In our 5th year feeding students, we have definitely settled into a rhythm around the work that we do, and that, in itself, is amazing. In a culture where nearly everything happens day-to-day, or even hour-by-hour, and nothing is ever really sure, and certainly not guaranteed, creating a program that can be counted on is definitely worth celebrating.

In many ways, it was a slower year, not an easy year, but slower. Quieter. We haven't pushed as hard as we have in previous years, but that doesn't mean we didn't see growth; it's not the kind you can count with your fingers, but the growth that can only happen when you slow down enough to just listen. It's been a year of refining and creating greater sustainability.

As you may know, in our first year of feeding students, the food was provided completely free of charge. It was huge blessing to the students and their families and I will never forget the day we gave them the news. We had just finished up the very first lunch ever served at their school and the students were high on life. Singing and dancing. They were so thankful and all saying as much. When we were saying our goodbyes, we told them we would see them tomorrow and they couldn't believe it. One student sheepishly walked over to me and whispered, "I don't have the money to pay." I told her it was free and asked JD to clarify that for everyone. The place exploded.

By the time we wrapped up that year, we had learned countless lessons. At the top of that list was that, in order to affirm their dignity and truly offer empowerment, the students and their parents need to have ownership and responsibility in this, as well. The needs in our community were (and still are) great, but we never intended to create a program based on a handout. We sat down with the school leaders and Parents Committee and came up with a plan to build a 50/50 partnership between No.41 and the parents. School feeding programs were something the government was starting to push for, country wide, but most families were struggling to put food on their own tables and the thought of being forced to pay for another meal seemed out of the question. We created a sliding scale, based on the poverty level for each family, that started with parents contributing an average of $2 a year, per student, that would gradually increase to $30 a year, over the next 5 years.

I'm happy to report that, at the start of this year, the parents are proudly contributing 30% of the funds necessary to feed their students! They are so thankful we are able to work with them slowly and we are so honored to do it. We are are also incredibly encouraged by this model and confident we could take the 50/50 approach directly to any new schools we plan to partner with in the future.

On 41Day, we ask for you to donate your lunch money to feed our students. And so many of you do that. Some donate exactly the cost of your lunch that day ($7.14), some donate to feed a student for the entire year ($60), some chose to donate the cost of your lunch on a monthly basis ($5-$10). It's a small price to pay, but I hope you never doubt the heart behind what we're building and our desire to see lasting change. There are many of us who may not even notice $5 or $10 drafted out our bank accounts each month, but I can tell you, for these students, for their parents, and their entire families, the impact is beyond measure.

So here's what you need to know about THIS Saturday:
  • We would love for you to join us to fast, pray, and donate what you would have spent on lunch.
  • We're going to be launching our brand new, beautiful website full of photos and stories from our little slice of the world. We'll have new, streamlined giving options and shop-wide discounts on all the ladies' products.
  • In the meantime, find us on Instagram.
See you Saturday!! xo

P.S. Hit that little share button down there and tell your friends about how you're changing our world in Rwanda!

Monday, March 27, 2017

41Day:: A Note From the Founder


If there's one thing I could tell you about being the Founder of a nonprofit, it's that exactly none of us started and organization because we love fundraising. I'll take that one step further for myself and say that pretty much all administrative work falls into the "cons" category for me. What I'm trying to say is, HI!, I'm sorry it's been so long.

That said, a big "pro", the biggest of all, is the people we get to work with and for; the community we've built and the partnerships that make it possible. I'm talking about you. All of us, working together, doing our part for the greater good. And that's exactly what 41Day is all about! This is a day where we join with people all over the world, chose to give up our lunch for one day (or don't), and donate what we would have spent (or more) to feed students in Rwanda. If you spend $10 on lunch, that same $10 would feed 40 students, for the day, in our program.

Our 5th Annual 41Day is this Saturday, April 1st! In the simplest way, with cost of your lunch money, YOU get to be a part of true, lasting change. It doesn't change the whole world, but it sure does change someone's. Over the last 4 years, just on this one day, you have provided over 250,000 meals to our students! 

It's pretty unbelievable to fathom; No.41 started on whim, to meet a need, with a dream and a prayer and a blog post and $120 donated for our first sewing machine. Today, we've employed over 50 women and men, graduated 5 young women from university, and fed over ONE MILLION meals to students who wouldn't have eaten otherwise. But more than any of that, your partnership with us has breathed life and brought hope to a community, no longer suffering to survive, but struggling to thrive

You have changed us. One dollar, one meal, one life a time.

Mark those calendars! This Saturday, April 1st. More soon!

xo- Tara

**photos by Imago Photography