When Dave Cuddy travelled to East Africa to do outreach work with Canada World Youth, he was struck by the importance and value families there place on education.
For many, having an education means a person can contribute in more meaningful ways to their family’s well-being, said Cuddy, a relatively new resident of Metchosin.
“There’s been a number of things that have struck me about it,” he said, reflecting on his initial trip and his current undertaking, a national program called Education is Power (EIP). “I would say that the lack of opportunity is what is preventing people from making a better livelihood for themselves, and giving back to their community in a more sustainable and healthy way.”
With secondary school costing families as much as $450 a year, many are unable to continue sending their children to school, which leads to a cycle of poverty and stagnancy.
“Education is the major force that was lacking. With all of the other challenges that were surrounding people in East Africa, education was a tool that could help them solve each and every one of those challenges. I found that people were very passionate about receiving an education; they see it as a gift.”
Current initiatives for which EIP partners are raising funds include providing tuition for five post-secondary and 16 secondary students in Kenya and Tanzania, the continuation of youth empowerment programs, the hiring of two new teachers at an overcrowded school in Kenya, and helping sponsor 19 high school and seven college/university students to continue their studies.
Cuddy, a founding director for EIP and a student in Royal Roads University’s global management master program, and his wife Robyn Penfold, a teacher-on-call in the Sooke School District, are looking to rally support here for this non-profit charitable program, and are focusing on local youth.
The initial goal, Penfold said, is to get students and staff at West Shore schools excited about the opportunity to help these people for whom education is a critical element to a successful life.
She and Cuddy have classes in five Vancouver Island schools on board so far, and they welcome requests to speak to local students and staff about the program.
“We really like the students to own it, because it’s really about them figuring out their place in making a difference,” Penfold said. “We like students to brainstorm, think it out, feel that much more proud about what they do. Putting together a project themselves builds confidence.”
While fundraising on a school-by-school basis is one of the ultimate goals, there is an even bigger push right now to give students and teachers the tools with which to help the cause.
Thanks to a commitment by the Karen and Fred Green Foundation, every dollar raised by Canadian classrooms or youth groups between now and Dec. 1 will be matched with a $3 donation to EIP, up to $25,000.
“They wanted to do this to engage more youth,” Penfold said of the donors. “They liked what we were doing as an organization. They didn’t want to just give a chunk of money, they wanted to make sure it was being productive.”
Youth helping youth is a key premise of the volunteer-run charity.
“Definitely we’re planting the seeds of the idea,” she said. “We want to get into schools and motivate kids. The goal with this matching funds campaign is to motivate the kids to make it at least a little ways further. It’s an opportunity to see their change magnified.”
To jumpstart the local campaign, the couple are giving a presentation outlining EIP’s mission next Monday, Sept. 28, starting at 7 p.m. in the boardroom at Stephen Whipp Financial, 734 Goldstream Ave.
For more information on the organization, visit educationispower.org, find them on Facebook at Education is Power Africa, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-999-9556.