[Update November 2017: IWEN has changed their name to "Her International" to instantly, clearly and simply state the organization’s commitment to the advancement of women’s empowerment around the world. While the name is changing, their projects, vision, and mandate will not. Her International is still committed to helping marginalized women and girls through education and life skills opportunities, and we are still committed to sponsoring girls' educations through their "Empowerment Through Education" program.]
By the end of our 2016/17 season, we had accomplished our original goal of funding Resmi and Jasper's lifetime educations in Nepal. On top of that, we had also managed to secure funds for Komol's education, helped over 75 families rebuild after the terrible earthquakes, equipped Rajan's factory with backup battery power, built a sanitary toilet and bathroom, replaced cows and goats that were killed in the earthquake... You get the idea: we'd reached "our finish line".
So, we turned to you, our supporters, to ask your opinion on what to do with any future profits from jacket sales should we continue our fundraising work.
What You Said
Thank you to the 400 people who took the time to provide us with your opinions. We really appreciated the thoughtfulness that you put into sharing ideas and felt the emotion in your suggestions for ways to continue to help Nepal. We were truly touched by your kind words of encouragement and the response reminded us just how big a "Village" of J4J supporters now exists!
Most of you suggested that we continue to focus on children's education, our original intention behind creating Jackets for Jasper. The main themes running through your comments were:
- Funding a teacher over the long term or providing needed resources to existing schools helps a larger number of children;
- Given the 54% illiteracy among women in Nepal, a focus on girls is important;
- Without a secure home, an education and studying are luxuries;
- Partnering with another organization can be risky but could also increase our abilities
- Our direct-to-Nepal link (no middleman, 100% transparency) is special and creates trust in Jackets for Jasper
"J4J Village" Connections
We spent the summer thinking about what we can do: what aligns with our intentions and is still manageable? What kind of financial support can we provide to support children's education in Nepal? How can we avoid overstepping our skills and capacity without leaving room for good intentions to go sideways?
We also spent time remembering the introductions and referrals that our customers have made over the years to other people and organizations that are similar to J4J in spirit. One of them really stood out from the rest.
In 2014, we were put in touch with a Kelowna, BC-based organization called IWEN (Intercultural Women's Education Network) that was very much aligned with our goals, culture and objectives. We had the good fortune to meet with the organization's founder (Michelle) and Country Director (Dinesh) when we were in Kathmandu. They hosted us for a lovely meal while we talked about our respective projects and challenges.
We were very impressed with their desire to learn from Nepali villagers about their community's needs and IWEN's ability to help meet these needs with their network of people in Nepal and their dedicated board of volunteers in Kelowna. Unlike us, they have a solid foundation of dedicated people on the ground in Nepal who can oversee projects, communicate with families and manage funds reliably - things that we can't do from Canada.
IWEN has been working in Nepal since 2005 with the goal of "Empowering marginalized women and girls through education" with an emphasis in the remote Dang region of Western Nepal.
IWEN's Empowerment Through Education program provides support, empowerment and funding for girls to attend school from Kindergarten to high school graduation. Their program covers each girl's school fees, supplies, school uniform, personal hygiene products, tutoring and a bicycle. Simultaneous with girls going to school, IWEN provides life skills courses and microcredit for mothers and women of the village.
Since IWEN has an established presence and proven success helping girls attend school, we decided that this year all jacket profits will go to their Empowerment Through Education program.
Every jacket we sell will fund approximately 1 month of schooling.
12 jackets sold = 1 year of school!
We will be continuing our model of ensuring that each girl's educational future is financially secured so that no person is left behind for lack of funds later.
IWEN is a wonderful and trustworthy group that provide a number of girls' and women's programs including micro-loans, support for the mentally challenged, life skills and adult education. We are thrilled to be partnering with them. We urge you to have a look at their website to better understand what great work they do and to be confident that your support through jacket purchases will be well-spent. As always if you have any questions, please reach out to us.