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July 22, 2017 - No Comments!

:(

As you are well aware, everything we do at WTJ is with the end goals of sustainability and self-sufficiency in mind. Our farm investments have been key in this vision, providing employment to local mothers, a nutritious diet for our young girls, and a growing income to support their secondary and tertiary education. Although far from perfect, these investments have been making leaps and bounds over the last 12 months and the future was looking very promising. To help cement this we have been in talks to have the land on which we operate transferred into a 99-year trust administered by our organisation.

The land is owned by an elderly Swiss couple who have been excited to see what WTJ have been implementing over the last 2 years, and supportive of what we have planned for the future. However, despite the fact that we have essentially spent the last 6 months preparing this trust, it is with disbelief we write to you saying the land (although promised to us) will no longer be under our care. The Swiss couple have been talking to the managers of a Swiss farming organisation which cultivate and research organic farms, and have agreed to transfer the land. With respect we wish them the best, but also share our disappointment in the fact they will NOT take responsibility for the children’s home aspect of Jacaranda.

It is hard to write this, but without the sustainability and self-sufficiency provided by the farm we can’t remain involved. Using the money of generous donors to create short term change doesn’t sit well with us. There are thousands of charities, not only in Kenya but globally, relying on donors indefinitely. This leaves most communities dependent on international aid with no real way out. Our vision was, and still is, to empower through investment and employment opportunities. Without the farm we cannot stay true to this.

🙁  The repercussions:

First and foremost, the current girls will still be cared for and supported. The home will still belong to Sicily and be under her control. We have measures in place that guarantee Sicily can still support the girls currently living at the home until they have grown up and left university. They will still be attending school and living at the home. Life won’t be disrupted.

Secondly, our staff (including Sicily) are expected to have exciting employment opportunities with the new farming organisation. As a result, we are hoping to continue with our financial planning education to make sure they can continue to send their kids to school. Regardless of whether the new organisation has places for these women, we will continue to support the mothers with school fees until a new source of income arises.

The support received hasn’t disappeared either. The WTJ account still has adequate funds to ensure the transition does not leave ANYONE behind. Any remaining donations will be passed onto a likeminded organisation in Kenya (we are still in the process of selecting this organisation, and will let you know asap). We have pre-emptively cancelled all existing subscriptions – if you have any concerns regarding this, please let us know.

As we reflect on the past two years, we are really proud to have achieved what we have together. None of it would have been possible without YOU – our incredible supporters. The fundraisers, the online donations, the artworks, the t-shirts, the website, the administrative gurus, the enthusiasm, the ideas, the questions, the praise, the coffees, the laughs, those moments when you’ve asked “how is it all going in Kenya?”… all of it has helped more than you can imagine, and for that we thank you so SO much.

We started WTJ on pure emotion and a burning need to help some horrifically unlucky young women. This attitude hasn’t wavered since day one, the only difference is that we now carry two and a half years of important lessons. To name a few, we’ve learnt how to manage cultural sensitivities when difficult decisions need to be made, the importance of maintaining transparency and accountability at all times, how to create sustainable projects that encourage self-sufficiency, how to build valuable corporate relationships, how to make difficult decisions in the face of enormous setbacks, and all of the ins and outs of setting up and running a charity in Australia… It’s safe to say we’re more prepared than ever.

So although we are completely heartbroken, the current set back isn’t the end of the world, nor is it the end of us. Harnessing the lessons learned with WTJ, we are feeling as motivated and passionate as ever to create positive change. We don’t know what it will involve, nor when it may arise, but we will be back…

If you want to have a chat with us over the phone, over email, or over a $6.47 turmeric latte, let’s make it happen.

 

Scott and Lewis

 

Scott: 0407245146, scott-walker@live.com.au
Lewis: 0451452794, lewisjohnson@ozemail.com.au

July 22, 2017 - No Comments!

:)

You have probably just read that we are winding up our operations in Kenya. As disappointed as we are, we would love nothing more than to share our achievements over the last couple of years. None of this would have been remotely possible without your incredible support. So thank you. You rock.

2016 started with a bang – the introduction of the Community Savings Program. It kicked off in response to a big problem: every day our working mothers would come to the Home and Farm, ready for a hard day’s work, and their children would spend the day playing around the property. As much as we all love having fun, they were missing out on the education they so sorely needed. After some careful budgeting and remuneration planning with our working mothers, we managed to get these children enrolled for 2016. Critical to this was the negotiation of half-price fees with the local school. The great news is that all 26 are back to school again this year.

We are also proud to share some fantastic news from our Jacaranda family...
The close of 2016 saw all of our Class 8 girls receive the results needed in their exams to progress to a quality high school (strange system, we know!). We are also very proud to say that 4 of our high school graduates are off to university this year!

Turning to the farm… Growing up in Sydney has left our hands soft and our agricultural skills lacking. If the farm was going to support the organisation, it was no use turning to us. We reached out to our Kenyan network and were lucky enough to team up with one of the best agricultural universities in the country - Egerton University. To begin the relationship, students were sent to the farm to put their theoretical expertise into practice on an 8-week community placement. During this time the students identified strengths, weaknesses, risks and opportunities before collating these points into a set of actionable recommendations. It’s safe to say that these students, with support from their superiors, had some fantastic recommendations. We were also deep in conversation with Egerton University’s key stakeholders to extend our relationship prior to receiving the news that the Farm land was being jettisoned from the Jacaranda Home.

On the back of the recommendations of the Egerton students, we purchased two high-quality dairy cows over the course of 2016. These cows have had two calves and are producing incredible amounts of milk for both consumption and selling purposes. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, but it’s looking like the return on milk sales will have paid for the cows by the end of 2017.

Before we move on from the farm, we managed to make one last investment before the end of 2016. The greenhouse had fallen to pieces and, with a pretty harsh climate, it meant growing our favourites (such as tomatoes) was proving incredibly difficult. A small investment meant we were back in action. The tomatoes have been stocked at the local supermarket, and we haven't been able to keep up with the massive demand!

After a huge year it sure was time for a break. Our ‘Mummas’ working in Kenya were able to have a week with their families over Christmas. We also managed to pick up some fireworks (about $10 worth) to celebrate the New Year with our huge extended family. There is no way to express how excited and happy the community was that night, and without seeing the Sydney fireworks, we can only assume ours were WAY better!

Turning back to our Australian support – over the course of the last 18 months, 7 volunteers travelled with us to Kenya for an experience of a lifetime. One of them even stayed on the continent for half a year!

We were also lucky enough to score an invite to the ICAP Charity Day – a global event that brings together some of the best causes for a day of celebration and giving. It was a great way to get the WTJ name out there, and draw upon some of the not-for-profit wisdom that was also in attendance. A significant donation didn’t hurt either!

As we said at the top of this post – none of these achievements would have been possible without you guys, our extended WTJ family. Know that our investments in the farm, children’s education and local employment will have expansive ripple effects in the Kenyan community which will continue to amplify, even in our absence.

Thank you and see you soon,
Scott and Lewis