December 22, 2013
Voss Foundation’s fifth year is coming to an end and we have much to celebrate!
In this anniversary year, we funded the construction of 16 clean water access points and 49 sanitation facilities in Kenya, Liberia, and Swaziland! That brings us to a total of 68 clean water access points and 159 sanitation facilities to enable community-driven development across the African continent. 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: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, and Mali.
The year began with our first young donors’ fundraiser in New York with the event-planning company Host Committee. This series of events ultimately raised enough to fund its own clean water project in Zian Town, Liberia! Soon after, we celebrated the completion of the Bergum Family’s first well funded by Lene Maria for Rent Vann when we brought them on a site visit to Kenya to attend the opening ceremony. We didn’t know then that this touching Norwegian memorial campaign would continue through a second year, funding 10 more clean water access points and 4 latrines in Kenya and Liberia. We are so grateful to the Bergums and their thousands of supporters across Norway.
On International Women’s Day, we released our second celebrated infographic, this one about the life-cycle of a woman with and without access to clean water. As with our 2012 Ripple Effect image, it was applauded and shared widely by both international development professionals and newly-informed supporters. Like all our social media, the message would not have gotten out without our pro-bono social media agency, STC Associates, helping us for an extraordinarily generous third year.
Between World Water Day and Earth Day, we participated in VOSS Water’s third annual 31 Days to Make a Difference awareness-raising campaign. As I wrote in Devex, it is corporate social responsibility like this that makes us so proud to be associated with our founders at VOSS Water. And then, just in time for Mothers’ Day in the US, jewelry designer Karen Egren launched a line of bracelets with twenty percent of sales benefiting Voss Foundation. Karen and I went on Fox Business news to discuss the partnership, and I believe there are some still available on her website if you need any last-minute holiday gifts!
In late spring, we released the results of a survey of our 2010 Give A Drop-funded Kalebuka village well, conducted by our partners Georges Malaika Foundation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is this kind of ongoing follow-up, three years later, that makes Voss Foundation stand out. Because we continue to monitor, evaluate, and repair our water projects, we can actually see the long-term impact of our work. We’ve been following some of our projects now for over four years, and we make as much information as possible available to our donors – you can always hold us accountable by tracking our Projects News web page.
Summer began with a donor trip to see our 5 newly-completed clean water wells and 100 latrines in Swaziland. You may recall from Huffington Post that I had a baby this year; while I was on maternity leave, many of our Women Helping Women honorees came to visit me and my new daughter (see photo from my Instagram at left!) – yet a further testament to our relationship with our implementing partners! We had two events in Long Island: (1) Georgica, a Wainscott restaurant that serves VOSS Water, hosted a benefit night for us, raising enough to fund their own well in Liberia; and (2), a supporter held an African Bazaar trunk show at her house in Bellport. We were sad to see our Program Assistant, Kathleen Yaworsky, leave for graduate school, but were pleased to welcome Caitlin Rackish as Program Officer.
The fall saw us go west again for our Women Helping Women San Francisco party with 2013 honoree Maya Haile Samuelsson, our first-ever African Bazaar pop-up shop hosted by Suzy Kellems Dominik and Charlot Malin. Then we had another benefit at Benefit in Boston, and our Fourth Annual WHW New York luncheon and African Bazaar. The luncheon (written up in the Wall Street Journal!) proved to be our most successful US Women Helping Women event of all time, thanks in no small part to the tireless and inspired efforts of Deborah Hughes, her team, and collaborators like Bonnie Young and Studio 3. We are so grateful to all of the devoted committee members and sponsors who made these events so successful.
Moreover, this fall we opened Casey’s Well in Jay Town, Liberia and Signe’s Well in James Town Annex, Liberia, funded by personal giving campaigns, and another for Seren and Kasipo in Kenya, funded by our Just Around the Corner art auction. That 2011 auction inspired Jet Fuel PR to host Art4Water in Miami this December to benefit Voss Foundation. We cannot thank enough our champions Casey Eltringham, Christina Rydland, and Kabi and Drew DeGeer.
Finally, as the year nears its end, I was tremendously honored to accept the African Diaspora Award on for being a Friend of Africa on behalf of Voss Foundation. To spread holiday charity and joy, Donna Karan’s Urban Zen marketplace in New York is featuring items from our African Bazaar (as mentioned in this New York ABC 7 news story!) and we just received a very generous check towards our Give A Drop campaign from Jewel raised by her Project Clean Water charity concerts this year.
We couldn’t do our work without the people who devote their time and energy behind the scenes, our pro-bono counsel at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman; VOSS’ marketing agency Tenthwave; McGladrey & Pullen; immeasurable video support from Red Stiletto Media and Castle Court Images (did you see our sweet Fifth Birthday video?); web support from Andrew Bradford Smith, Matt Mizwicki and Nell Ryan; and our dedicated Board members.
I can’t believe how far we have come in five years – and we have all of you to thank for it. We have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and how it only seems to grow each year. We’ve got some exciting new plans in the works for next year, and I can’t wait to see where they bring us. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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