December 30, 2014
Wow! What a year 2014 has been! I think the best way to sum it up is a year of superlatives, as we reached impressive milestones and broke records in our impact and that of our incredible supporters.
In our sixth year, we funded the construction of 21 clean water access points and over $100,000 in water, sanitation, and hygiene infrastructure and maintenance in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Liberia, and Uganda! That brings us to a total of 89 clean water access points and 299 sanitation facilities to enable community-driven development across Sub-Saharan Africa. Serving communities, schools, orphanages, health clinics, gardens, artisan groups and more, our wells, water systems, and hygiene and sanitation facilities have improved health, education, women’s empowerment, economies, and politics in these three countries — and continued to do so in our other ongoing project countries: Ethiopia, Mali, and Swaziland.
We started off the year with the wonderful news that Lene Maria for Rent Vann, the Bergum family’s beautiful campaign in Norway with Voss Foundation in memory of their daughter and sister, Lene Maria, had reached the 1 million kroner mark in their fundraising efforts! And in January we got a report from our partners in Mali that our eight clean water access points there, funded by VOSS Water and Give A Drop, continue to function and serve the communities of Pel and Kanikombole, five years after funding.
We rounded out the first quarter with a trip to Latakwen, the first project we ever funded, on the five-year anniversary of its completion. Our Program Director Caitlin Rackish spent several days in the community to learn the true impact of our solar water system. It’s this kind of dedication to follow-up and reporting, and to our partners and the communities we work with, that I think makes Voss Foundation different — and of which I am exceedingly proud.
Just before World Water Day on March 22nd, we announced our updated mission statement. As I said then, it does not change our mission so much as it does the way we talk about it. Our new statement reflects what we have learned over the years through our close relationships and continued communication: that our work is more than just clean water, sanitation, and hygiene — it is about how they are “an engine for growth,” as our founder says, and having access to them empowers people and communities to develop themselves.
Between World Water Day and Earth Day, VOSS Water held their fourth annual 31 Days to Make a Difference awareness-raising campaign. This year, we worked with them and FACE Africa, our partner on the ground in in Liberia to chronicle the implementation of a well, from start to setback to triumphant finish. Transparency is another important reason Voss Foundation stands out, and we were happy to share with all of VOSS’ followers the same kind of radical honesty our supporters enjoy every day.
Our Women Helping Women Oslo event in April launched our charitable jewelry designed by Camilla Prtyz, Tanya Ross, and Trine Ditlevsen. These stunning pieces have not only raised tens of thousands of dollars for Voss Foundation, they have clearly resonated with celebrities and donors around the world with sales and press from Australia, to Europe, to the US. The bracelets and necklaces are available on our website — I never take mine off and don’t think you will either!
As spring turned to summer, we began work on Kileswa, our eighth project in Kenya with Milgis Trust and saw our most successful Women Helping Women Boston event yet, nearly doubling our next-highest grossing Boston event! And we launched a great new partnership with Good Future and Hope Orphanage and School (GF&H) in Uganda.
The summer months were the busiest we’ve ever seen! In July, we gathered together fashion designers, stylists, editors, and taste-makers for the first time for cocktails and curating our 2014 African Bazaar in New York City. That event was strategically scheduled when several of our implementing partners were in New York for Nest’s first Artisan Summit, where our Program Director spoke about our work.
We had two events in the Hamptons: Georgica’s Second Annual Clean Water Benefit in July and East Hampton Meets East Africa: Beth O’Donnell’s open artist studio and Carolyn Roumeguere’s trunk show in August. In August, we also traveled with the Bergum family to the opening ceremony of their second clean water project in Kenya, at the Milgis School in Ilgwe Eldome.
As summer went on, the enormity of the Ebola crisis in Liberia became clear and, since then, we’ve been in close contact with our partner to monitor the
situation and make sure our projects are still functioning – hygiene is the only way to combat this deadly virus. While we are currently unable to pursue new projects there, we will continue to stay on top of things and keep you informed.
This fall we announced our 2014 Women Helping Women dedicated clean water project for our third and fourth wells with Georges Malaika Foundation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and our 2014 WHW honorees: Kristy Caylor of Maiyet and Rebecca van Bergen of Nest. We kicked off autumn events with a Women Helping Women Committee party hosted by Edward Tyler Nahem at his Manhattan gallery. October brought our third annual Women Helping Women San Francisco event, better than ever; then, in November, our Fifth Annual Women Helping Women New York Luncheon shattered our previous attendance and fundraising records! I can’t express enough gratitude to Deborah Hughes Inc., and all of our Event Hosts, Event Chairs, Event Committee members, and Sponsors for making these events the successes they were.
But, as thrilled as I am with our own hard work, I am even more gratified by the outpouring of support we get from grassroots campaigns. Our Board member Tenny Field and his wife Kim kicked off their fundraising efforts with an event at New York’s legendary Explorers Club in October to fund the water and sanitation systems for teachers’ houses and dormitories at GF&H’s school and orphanage. We have launched a number of other personal giving campaigns this year, including two from VOSS Water employees Jamie Meek in San Francisco and Katie Karp in Las Vegas. I encourage you to create your own this year!
We haven’t slowed down as the year comes to a close! In November we started our ninth Kenya project, in Lekeri, with Lene Maria for Rent Vann, which has additionally funded several new projects for GF&H. So has an extraordinary year-end donation from our Give A Drop partner Jewel’s Project Clean Water, our largest single donation yet, some of which is also going to Women Helping Women – how fitting for a woman who has helped so many women, especially on the occasion of the five-year anniversary of this partnership!
We couldn’t do our work without the people who devote their time and energy behind the scenes: our new Accountant Allen Jacobson, Development Consultant Julie Shafer; Sophie Ann Terrisse, Christine Borkowski and the angels at STC Associates who have provided us with pro-bono social media support every week since 2010; pro-bono counsel at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman; McGladrey & Pullen; immeasurable video support from Red Stiletto Media; web support from Matt Mizwicki and Nell Ryan; and our dedicated Board members, event hosts and committee members, and interns and volunteers.It’s incredible to see how our momentum keeps building – your increased support year over year allows us to fund more and more projects and change innumerable lives in Sub-Saharan Africa with access to clean water, sanitation, and hygiene. We’ve got some very exciting new plans in the works for next year, including Just Around the Next Corner, the sequel to our astonishing 2011 art auction. I look forward to keeping you posted and hope you will continue to follow our progress on our website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, or by signing up for our mailing lists. Email us at email@example.com for more information.
In the meantime, I am happy to send, from the Voss Foundation family to yours, the best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.
Kara Gerson, Executive Director