Not your typical corporate giving story
How a little inspiration, buy-in from colleagues, and a generous matching grant made one Madison American Family Insurance employee’s dream of building a school in Ghana a reality.
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While construction on the school Rogers and American Family funded wouldn’t start until November 2016, Pencils of Promise gave Rogers the opportunity to see firsthand where the money he helped raise was going. He traveled to Ghana in late September 2016 and got to see school Pencils of Promise had previously completed, as well as meet many of the community members his fundraising will benefit.
The feeling Rogers had upon his visit — indescribable.
The new Adaklu Avelebe DA Basic School features three classrooms and will serve pre-primary and kindergarten students in the small farming community for at least 20 years.
Previously, the pre-primary and primary school students of the Adaklu Avelebe DA Basic School attended classes in one of two provisional structures built by the community. These structures were made of materials from trees and offered no shelter from the elements. Additionally, they lacked proper floors, formal windows, and doors, which resulted in little separation from outside distractions. This exposure to the elements, paired with the lack of formal spaces for learning, hindered student engagement and development.
“To see the conditions that many kids go to school in was amazing,” Rogers explains. “I can’t imagine trying to learn in a building with cracking mud walls or a tin roof on a day with driving rain. Not only that, but many of these kids walk two to three miles to school each way every day, starting from the age of 4 or 5.
“Having a 4-year-old myself, I can’t imagine sending him off in the morning for a two- to three-mile walk to school. It was a great reminder for me that every child is born with the same potential as any of my boys. Inside one of those kids’ brains might be the cure for cancer or a solution to world hunger or another great scientific discovery. They just need the opportunity to unlock that potential.”
Rogers particularly notes how surprised he was to see everyone he met filled with so much joy. “Even though they had very little, everyone we met was incredibly joyful and willing to share whatever they had. The sense of community and coming together was palpable.”
He also didn’t expect the region to be so green and filled with luscious plant life. The eastern region of Ghana, along the border with Togo, gets an abundance of rain due to its proximity to Lake Volta.
His final surprise came from learning just how much of an impact the $53,000 he and American Family raised will go. In addition to making the outer structure possible, the school was outfitted with desks and chairs, as well as four new latrines and a hand-washing station, ensuring better hygiene for all students and teachers.
The building is expected to serve the hundreds, if not thousands, of children in the small community for the next 20 years, and the money raised will provide books and other educational materials — such as e-readers — to the school for its first three years.
One of the things that set Pencils of Promise apart is its commitment to 100% direct giving. By covering its operational costs through private donors, events, and companies, 100% of every dollar donated online goes directly into Pencils of Promise’s programs to educate more children.
“The biggest difficulty was just getting started,” notes Rogers. “Everyone has a great idea and wants to make a difference, but getting started is the hardest part. I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’m not comfortable asking others for money. But when it’s something you’re passionate about, asking others to jump on board is much easier.”
He credits the success of his fundraising campaign on two things — “Pencils of Promise is a great organization doing great work to improve the lives of others, so they are easy to get behind. And it was a shared experience for all the leaders and an opportunity to accomplish a tremendous goal together. People love helping others achieve their dream and this was an opportunity for those 200 people to collectively help me achieve a dream.”
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