Have you ever bought a goat, chicken, or a medical kit from a charity’s gift catalog? I have… But I didn’t realize at the time the intricacies of goat purchasing. For many charities, the goat or chicken is simply a symbol of a donation amount, and in the fine print it reads that charity will use your dollars as they see fit. Other charities actually send out 300 goats one year, and 3000 the next, depending on what donors would like to spend their money on. In other words, goats are either inspirational pictures, or fluctuating, donor-driven programs.
At Vulnerable Children Society, the charity I co-founded and manage, we don’t have a gift catalog, and we don’t sell goats. Or chickens either.
And this is why… Our programs are created by Ethiopian/Liberian organizations, to address the most pressing needs in those countries. The indigenous organizations, run by locals, create holistic programs to powerfully impact the lives of children and families. Our job as the fundraising partner is not to tell our African partners how many of anything they should have that year, or how to do their work. Our job is to connect you with them, so that children can be educated, families can be preserved, and communities can be transformed.
We are transparent about our fundraising: you know that when you donate to Vulnerable Children Society, we send the funds to the program you have designated your dollars to help. And if that program is fully funded, or for some reason needs to be discontinued, we roll the dollars into our general program fund. Lastly, we publish our financial statements on our website, so that you can see, to the dollar, exactly how much money each program received.
For your holiday gifts this year, please consider donating to Vulnerable Children Society. We have three programs that need your help… Home tutoring and Ebola disease prevention in Liberia, afterschool tutoring at our Love and Hope Centre in Ethiopia, and retraining for teens who have worked in the sex trade in Ethiopia. Even stocking stuffer amounts are highly appreciated! and go along way to do good work in these countries.
We won’t send you a picture of a goat, but if you donate and then send us an email, we will send you back a personalized card with a picture of the children you are actually helping, and information about the program. Your loved ones will love learning about the positive impact of your donation.
Many thanks! And warmest holiday wishes from all of us in Canada, Ethiopia, and Liberia.
Arnica Rowan, President
Vulnerable Children Society
My daughters and I had fun shopping for some very special teen girls on Saturday. Our dear friend Tawnya is leaving for Ethiopia next week, and is visiting the ten girls in Vulnerable Children Society’s Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program in Addis Ababa. For those of you that don’t know, Tawnya, I and a handful of other women run Vulnerable Children as volunteer directors.
The girls in Addis are currently getting training in hair dressing, and we thought they could use some tool! But also, we just wanted to let the girls know how much we care for them. Many of these girls have been rejected by their families, and have very low self esteem. It’s important that they know we are sending love, as well as money for their program.
I’m sure Tawnya will have a blast sharing these gift bags with the girls. If you would like to light up the lives of 10 more girls next year, we are currently fundraising to support another cohort of girls that would like to escape the sex trade. Please consider donating 🙂
I think I was born to be an entrepreneur. When I used to get my students to fill out Cosmo-like questionnaires about their innate personality traits for successful business start-up, I would score myself too. Every time, I would score as high as possible. But there I was, teaching the class, not out exercising my passion for building and creating.
A few years ago, I started Vulnerable Children Society with a few other women, to help kids and families in Ethiopia. I’m proud of how far we’ve come, and how many people we help… especially the teen girls in our Teenage Sex Trade Worker Retraining Program. But the other kick I get from it, is the building. Just to be clear, I don’t earn a cent from running this charity – I get the perks of a yearly trip to Ethiopia to supervise our work, and the gratification of doing something. You really are able to help when you put the effort in, and I love seeing projects come together out of our dreams and hard work.
Really, running Vulnerable Children gave meaning to my work life, when I often searched for my impact as a professor. I have to thank my friends, supporters and partners over and over, for enabling me to conjure up projects, fund them, execute them, and see our work come to fruition.
Last year, I significantly expanded our small family business, Africa Sleeps. I added a whole haircare and bodycare line, and have quadrupled my business since last fall.
It’s so terribly satisfying – creating labels and mixing scents, dreaming up products and experimenting with my daughters’ hair, dreaming up marketing approaches and forming satisfying partnerships with others in the natural hair world, and beyond. I’m so glad that I was able to expand our business with products that my values can really stand behind – that means a lot to me, and honestly, helps me sell them.
It’s certainly not as glamorous as saying “Hi! I’m a professor specializing in sustainable business and non-profit management.” But it is pretty fun doing the work that goes along with “Hi! I have a natural hair and bodycare line for children of African heritage.”
In other words, I’m living a doing what I used to be researching and teaching. How bout them apples?
And now, our big baby. For the last four years, Jason and I have been working on opening our own vet clinic Pandosy Village Veterinary Hospital and pet shop, Pounce and Hound Fine Pet Goods. Our dream has evolved over the years, waiting for two developments to be built (long story,) but I love where we have ended up.
As of next month, we’ll be opening the first integrative veterinary hospital in Kelowna, and an incredibly special store. We work as a team, but in essence, the store is mine. What fun work, even through the frsutrations: designing our clinic (twice!) and overseeing the construction. Figuring out our ethics, manifesto, and all the other choices that follow. Jason’s been studying herbal medicine, and I’ve been using my powers of lotion making and packaging to help him design natural medicines for the shop. I’ve come up with fashion concepts for various seasons, contracted artisans to make products for our shop, selected the most environmentally and socially responsible products I can find, and am now training our staff to take care of it all.
Jason, who scored “medium” on all those entrepreneurship quizzes, enjoys exactly the same thing as me: doing our own thing. We love that we are not following what everyone else is doing (I can’t tell you how many times the architects, conventional vets and others have kindly told us we are crazy for having a 1000 sq ft store in a vet clinic.) But we are united, excited, and so proud of what we have created together. There will be a wedding-like kiss the day we open the doors. (Pucker up, honey. Just two weeks away!)
The downside of having all these enterprises on the go is that I don’t sleep enough, and sometimes have to trade time on one project for another. This past two months, I have lived and breathed the hospital.
But I was born an entrepreneur – passion, creativity and innovation are my fuel. I wouldn’t work any other way.
On March 10, I had the delight of spending the day at Vulnerable Children Society‘s Love and Hope Centre in Kality, on the outskirts of Addis. In fact, a whole gaggle of us met at the centre. My family came along with me to teach crafts, and my kids ran around with the other Ethiopian children their age. I had a meetings with staff from Canadian Humanitarian, our partner organization that operates the centre, as well as Deb, the expedition coordinator from Canada. We were also joined by other Vulnerable Children reps: our project consultant Birhan, as well Nicole, one of our directors from Canada. It was a merry, busy day!
Now, as the president of Vulnerable Children, I spend most of my time in Ethiopia in meetings, strategy sessions, and project evaluations. But this time, I got to interact with the kids, reading them stories and leading a craft.
My mother, a retired school teacher, prepared a fantastic but very involved craft, that helped the kids practice their English. Counting, colours… My husband father, mother and I all lead groups of 15-20 kids, making beaded frogs and lizards. My hats off to my family… I had the benefit of rudimentary Amharic on my side; but they operated their groups with humour, determination, and a lot of hands on help. At the end of two hours, two hours! all the kids went home with an incredibly special, durable, and fun toy to show their families.
On a personal note, my seven year old daughters visited and participated too. Most of huge children at the centre are right around their age, so even though they were shy at first, once their daddy got involved in chasing around the kids, they were in their like dirty shirts. My husband Jason only knows a few words of Amharic, but all he needed to start that game was by yelling “Anbassa!” (Lion!) at the top of his lungs. Then he had a crowd of kids, including ours, after him!
The children usually come to the centre for lunch, then return to school until the end of the school day. Then they return for after school tutoring, games, art club, showers, teeth brushing, etc. but since it was the first day back for them after “spring break,” the kids came for lunch, and stayed until the end of the day.
I was really impressed by how the ideas concocted between Canadian Humanitarian’s former executive director and I, those months ago, have transformed into reality. It’s amazing to see. For example, we asked the caregivers to be involved in cooking… So far, five groups of female guardians have rotated through the kitchen, making lunch every day. The guardians are paid as cooks usually would be, and then the next month, they are replaced by new guardians. It’s a pretty awesome, legitimate way to financially involved them in the centre, as well as being involved and supportive.
The centre’s coordinator, an amazing young woman, came with the children from the former program, so she knows and understands their individual needs well. Also on staff are a social worker, and an accountant. In reality, they all help with the day to day operations, and it’s an extremely efficient and effective operation.
We did have meetings after the children went home (what’s a visit without a meeting?) to discuss the needs and new developments at the centre. I’ll share those with you all after I have a chance to discuss them with Vulnerable Children Society’s directors. But the punch line is that both our project consultant (who is doing formal evaluation work for us,) Nicole and I… We were all extremely happy with the project!
If you are currently a Love and Hope sponsor, you should be really proud of your support. It’s money extremely well spent! With an incredible well run centre. Hats off to our partner, Canadian Humanitarian, for operating a fantastic project. And hats off to you, for funding it!
We hope you will ask a friend to join us as a Love and Hope sponsor, so that we can enrich this program, and open another centre in the near future!