In August 2016, my daughter Anna (age 15) and I traveled with the Mona Foundation to India, where we visited several of the grassroots education initiatives that Mona supports, which serve women and girls living in extreme poverty. It was not the easiest trip that we have taken, but it was without a doubt one of the best experiences of our lives. Not only were we impressed with the level of academic rigor in each of the classrooms that we visited, but we were blown away by the way in which each of the schools that we visited are changing the hearts and minds of whole communities not only about girls' education, but about gender equality more generally. It means the world to me to have had that opportunity. This trip enriched our lives and recharged us in a way that no luxury vacation could.
I choose to support the Mona Foundation because of its proven track record of success, which is a function of both the culture of the organization and its philosophy toward development.
With regard to culture, the Mona Foundation enjoys the support of a very diverse community of people. Despite their diversity, however, the Foundation's board, its staff and long-time supporters share several important things in common. They are genuinely people who care deeply about children and believe believe whole-heartedly that access to education, regardless of gender is the key to addressing global poverty. They give very selflessly. They work very collaboratively, and they are totally dedicated to the work of the Mona Foundation.
Also key to the success of the Mona Foundation is its approach to development. Many non-profits see a problem in the developing world and rush in to solve it, applying solutions that may or may not be effective for the particular community. The Mona Foundation seeks out grassroots organizations that already have a proven track record of success and a strong potential for growth. These organizations are run by truly exceptional, local leaders who have first hand knowledge of their communities, which enables them build a local network of support. It is this understanding of the local context and ability to establish sustainable community partnerships that so well positions these organizations to expand upon their prior success.
Having identified such special projects, the Mona Foundation sticks with them. Understanding that development takes time, the Mona Foundation commits to long-term partnerships with these organizations. This allows them to expand upon their reach without fear of losing funding as soon as they get started. Some foundations are leery of long-term commitments like this. Having picked its partners so carefully, however, the Mona Foundation has has tremendous success with this strategy.
Review from #MyGivingStory
Education is a right for all children. In Haiti, only those who can afford the $35/month tuition can attend a school of some quality, one without 40-50 children in a classroom. Offering more children a chance to learn is what will bring Haiti to a place of self-sufficiency and develop the country in moral, social and economic ways.
I was introduced to Mona Foundation, an educational world-wide NGO, just after it became a viable organization in 1999. I began volunteering as office help because I had time in the evenings, believed in its mission, and knew the organization needed assistance. As a classroom teacher myself, I strongly believe that everyone has the right to learning, especially those in developing countries. I enjoyed the work and felt I was participating towards positive change.
I first visited Anis Zunuzi School in Haiti on a site visit several years before the 2010 earthquake. After the crowded, noisy, dirty and almost frantic streets of Port-au-Prince, I found the school to be an island of calm, on seven acres of shaded acreage. The staff was welcoming and capable, meeting with us on several occasions to share their vision and hopes for the future. At that time, flush toilets and showers were a priority, neither of which they had. Also, they were seeking more classroom space as the school was growing and more students wanted to enroll. Over time, Mona Foundation supporters generously funded these requests. After the massive earthquake in 2010 that devastated the country, I volunteered my services with an emergency medical team. The requested showers and toilets had just been constructed a month before! School was closed so we camped on the soccer field along with some of the staff while we held clinics in classrooms during the day. Those showers and toilets were the only ones working for miles around and were most welcome by us visitors! Many of the school staff served as volunteers to help their injured community during this time, and together with the doctors and others on the medical team, we attended about 450 people a day who came with various injuries. Members of this team returned to Haiti several times over the next few months until the need for emergency medical help had been reduced.
When medical attention was no longer needed and the school reopened, I asked what else I could do to further assist. Their answer was “an art program,” since there was no art training available. So I came home and wrote an art curriculum for kindergarten through fourth grade, and incorporated as much of the vibrant Haitian art mediums as possible. I returned several times after that, taking art supplies, conducting teacher training sessions, and sharing ways to incorporate art activities to support their existing curriculum. Many of the ideas were “hands-on” which they seemed to enjoy since most of the teaching/learning in Haiti is done by rote memory. Most teachers themselves did not understand what a color wheel was or had ever held a paintbrush!
Over time I saw changes in the classroom atmosphere, some new ideas being tried and this is exciting. One teacher even stepped in to offer classes in making paper mache animals so they could be sold in the US for scholarship money for other students. I realize that what is common in US classrooms may not be comfortable for those in Haitian classrooms, but the need for creative expression is universal. When given a chance, students anywhere will happily choose color and art materials to express themselves and their subjects. Sustaining a program like this is a personal challenge but well worth it to see the teachers’ and students’ growth. Each year I return with consumable art supplies and offer workshops with additional art ideas to support their curriculum.
I will continue to visit and support Anis Zunuzi Baha'i School as much as I can when they ask for help. I feel it’s important to wait for their direction to prioritize needs for the growth of their school. Anis Zunuzi provides a quality, loving and moral education for children living in insecure situations and true poverty. This education is their path to a brighter future than they would have otherwise and in my opinion should be made available to as many children as possible. Many of the students could not attend without scholarship help because their families truly can’t afford the $35/month.
I would encourage those who can to support Anis Zunuzi Baha'i School scholarship program. I have seen such positive change in students over the years I have been visiting Haiti, and how education makes the difference between opportunity in life and becoming a victim of poor environment and life circumstance. It is a child’s right to learn and sadly not every child in Haiti can exercise that right.
In communicating recently with a young man I met during my work as a volunteer in Haiti, I asked how his siblings were doing. He said school was no longer an option, because their mom could not make enough selling in the market to send all four children to school. He was on scholarship to university but the other three had to stay home. Quickly I connected with others who had worked in Haiti with me and soon we gathered scholarship support for these three children for the year, including books, uniforms and exam fees. But what of others? Many children in Haiti need financial support for their education. Thirty-five dollars a month will make a world of difference to those who have few options for school.
Review from #MyGivingStory
This educational foundation is an amazing composite of hard-working volunteers, dedicated to supporting the mission and goals of its founding members. Thousands of children around the globe have been allowed educational opportunities where there were few available to them before. Hope for a better future has been given to those who had little. As a volunteer/staff member who had the privilege to travel to Mona supported projects both in Panama and Haiti, I can more fully understand and appreciate the impact of the project improvements in each country. By encouraging the directors of each project to outline their own development choices, the Mona Foundation builds capacity within each project, from the ground up. 100% of designated contributed funds go directly to the project and 97% of general fund contributions are sent to the projects. This foundation can be trusted to do what it says it will do--support and educate marginalized children and improve their life-long opportunities because of it.
The Anis Zunuzi school struggled for years to make a plan and achieve it but never realised its plans because it lacked a lot of funding to make those changes. With the help of the Mona Foundation long cherished dreams became a reality and new classrooms, basketball court, dining room and kitchen, and bahtrooms were all completed. This grealty uplifted the staff who work hard to provide an above average education for its students who are mostly very poor.
I am the Treasurer of a school in Haiti that has received assistance from the Mona Foundation over the last few years. Their understanding of the slow process of development assistance and the benefits of local implementation, coupled with their patience and extraordinary generosity, is extremely rare. After the terrible earthquake of 12 January 2010, the Mona Foundation immediately responded with funds and volunteers and has made a real difference in the area. Working with Mona is a pleasure for us. They require a sensible amount of accountability and reporting and are flexible when circumstances change, all of which makes our job easier. An exemplary organization.
It is rare to see an organization that has the insights into development as Mona Foundation does. It truly understands what 'grassroots' means by supporting projects that are started by the community themselves and then it helps them develop the skills to help themselves. Now that is sustainability! The Mona Foundation also fully understands the power of education, especially that of girls, in combating poverty. And when do you have 100% of your donation go directly to the project and not to administrative overhead? There is so much integrity at this foundation.
I have known about the Mona Foundation for the past 2 years, and I have recently become involved as a supporter of the organization. The Mona Foundation believes in empowering individuals through educational initiatives and raising the status of women and girls around the world. The most important issue for me was to see how this plan was placed into action. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to Haiti with members of the Mona Foundation and see firsthand the work that the organization is doing there. I was extremely impressed with the dedication and sacrifice that the people involved in the projects in Haiti are making. The teachers, administrators and volunteers in Haiti were all committed to assuring that children receive an education, who would have otherwise not been given this opportunity. They were also concerned with providing these children a character building program or moral education, as well. The moral education, in turn, provides children with a feeling of self-worth, integrity and personal accountability, which when repeated over time, will hopefully, become incorporated into their way of life.The other aspect of the process that was impressive to see was that the Mona Foundation uses grassroots initiatives in all their projects. The Mona Foundation encourages local community members to direct projects and to make decisions, in turn empowering the local population and maintaining sustainability. I find the values and mission of the Mona Foundation are in line with what I believe will help make the world a better place to live in.
What attracted me most to the Mona Foundation as a volunteer was being able to put my professional talents to use for the betterment of the world. What kept me coming back was having the vantage point of seeing first hand how the Mona Foundation lovingly accompanies the organizations they work with -- in a learning mode and through consultation. I was amazed at the level of deep trust and respect that has been cultivated as a result. Also the caliber of people who literally toil in service to their communities at project sites around the globe -- to bring about universal educate -- to raise the status of women and girls -- truly touched my very soul. My life is changed for being part of the Mona Foundation and I will always be grateful.
My wife and I have been involved with Mona Foundation since 2005. I'm a firm believer in education as a sustainable tool for lifting people out of poverty. Mona's focus on supporting projects established by the people who live in the actual communities, projects that are already self sustained ensures that with or without outside help these worthy efforts will continue to benefit the people they are meant to serve.
I have been involved with the Mona Foundation for almost three years. I began as an attendee at the annual fundraiser and immediately was touched by the incredible, personal stories of children in developing countries whose lives had been directly touched by the support the foundation gives in the area of education and skills development. The following year I was able to champion a corporate sponsorship for a table at the annual event, and the associates who joined me were equally impressed. This year, I have deepened my commitment to this amazing organization by helping plan their fundraising activities, do e-outreach, and identify other individuals who have skillsets the foundation can use to grow. Mona Foundation is incredibly unique in that the projects that are invested in are "grassroots" endevours...they are started and nurtured by native leaders in each country, and Mona serves as a consultant and monetary support in areas that are driven by the project/program leaders themselves. The priorities are set by those running the educational programs - not by an outside organization. It is a partnership that is based on long term commitment, building on trust and deepening relationships. The opportunities to help through the Mona Foundation are endless and exciting. The people associated with Mona are from many backgrounds, and it is a non-sectarian organization.