“Through ongoing collaboration and regular visits, I have developed strong relationships with the leaders of our partners in Zambia, Nicaragua and Mexico. I am constantly humbled by the dedication and perseverance of these leaders in our joint goal to empower future leaders and lift communities out of poverty.”
We hope you enjoy reviewing some of our 2018 milestones highlighted in this report…
A GROWING VEGETABLE FARM // TWAPIA, ZAMBIA
New farmland, purchased in Twapia, Zambia – near the Hope Community School campus – has been one of the most exciting success stories for our Zambian partners this year. The farm is 25 acres in total, 7 of which were cleared and planted this year.
As the farm grows, the vegetables will generate revenue for the school and provide employment opportunities for the people of Twapia. Already, many of the Hope students are gaining hands-on agriculture skills.
You can see the farm in person if you join us on a journey to Zambia, but until then, please enjoy this virtual tour…
Initially the farmland was pure bush – difficult to access unless you had a machete to cut your way through the thickets.
The whole Hope community joined together to clear the land.
Critical water access was established on the farm to allow for irrigation, with the help of a solar panel.
The cultivation efforts have involved the whole Hope community – students, parents, families and teachers. Spark Ventures travelers have also spent time at the farm, assisting with planting crops from cabbages to banana trees!
Vegetables from the farm are already supplementing the meal program at Hope Community School.
The farm also provides great job opportunities for students like Cephas, who grew up at Hope House Orphanage. He recently earned a certificate in construction and is supervising work to build living quarters on the property.
We have been thrilled by the success of the farm in 2018 and we look forward to the sustainability it will provide the Hope community in the years to come!
SUPPORTING A PSYCHOLOGIST // LEON, NICARAGUA
Beginning in April of 2018, Nicaragua has been experiencing an ongoing crisis. Since then, the country has been subjected to significant political and social turmoil, resulting in serious violent protests, blockades and demonstrations. The impact on the lives of those Las Tías serves has been significant, but thanks to support from the Spark Ventures community, they are working on continuing to provide their community critical services.
In the midst of national turmoil, our partners at Las Tías continue to provide critical nutrition, education and healthcare to some of their community’s most vulnerable children. The protests and blockades caused food shortages making Las Tías’ meal program even more critical for these vulnerable kids. The demonstrations were at times violent and significantly impacted the daily lives of the Las Tías community. Because of this, the on-staff psychologist and social worker stepped in to play an even more important role in the lives of the children who have experienced traumatic events and are living in the midst of uncertainty and instability.
In the midst of the crisis, one of Las Tías’ other funding organizations had to stop their operations and therefore, stopped their support of Las Tías. They had been providing critical funding to pay the on-staff psychologist. Upon receiving this news, the Spark Ventures community stepped into action – raising over $10,000 above and beyond our regular support for Las Tías to ensure that the salary of the psychologist (plus additional staff members) would be secure for the coming year and beyond.
The Las Tías psychologist is named Kenia – she has been with the program for two and a half years and she supports the children with individual and group sessions. However, her interventions don’t just address the needs of the children directly – she also works works with the parents, coaching them on how to educate and support their children in these challenging times.
The Las Tías leadership recently shared the following, “For Las Tias, Kenia’s role is very important – we cannot go without this role. We see it as crucial to support the development and progress of the children.” Thanks to the Spark Ventures community, they can count on having the funding they need to continue providing this critical programming.
MEET ALEJANDRO // SAN PANCHO, MEXICO
An enthusiastic and energetic kid, but struggling to keep his grades up in school, Alejandro thrived with intervention from the educators at Entreamigos. Their Grupo Selva program provides intensive educational and social-emotional support, setting students on a path for success.
Alejandro was born in San Pancho and began to attend Entreamigos every day from an early age with his sister Roxana. He started in the Entreamigos Scholarship Program when he was in second grade. But, shortly after entering the program his grades began to slip. The Entreamigos coordinators realized he needed an extra level of support, so he was moved to the Grupo Selva (the “Jungle Group”), which is funded by Spark Ventures.
There, Alejandro received additional support, including classes on how to work as a team, how to pay attention in a classroom setting, how to improve cooperation skills and respect for those around you. Plus, he received regular tutoring support. Thanks to this intensive intervention, Alejandro’s grades and his behavior in school improved remarkably. He is now 13 and recently graduated from the Grupo Selva. He has the opportunity to return to the Entreamigos Scholarship Program, now better equipped than before to take advantage of the educational opportunities available to him.
Alejandro’s mother, Yessenia, says she is happy and grateful that Alejandro has received this personal support from Entreamigos. As long as they continue to show dedication to their studies, he and his sister Roxana’s educational expenses and school related needs will be supported by Entreamigos all the way until they graduate from high school, something Yessenia would have struggled to do on her own.
Alejandro has graduated from Grupo Selva, but thanks to Spark Ventures’ ongoing support of the program, 20 of his peers each year are able to receive this intensive educational support, setting them on a path for success.
Grupo Selva students supported annually by Spark Ventures
A LONG AWAITED LIBRARY // TWAPIA, ZAMBIA
Thanks to a powerful partnership with Lincoln Park Preschool & Kindergarten, 2018 brought construction on a new library at Hope Community School. With ribbon cutting set for 2019, the eager readers at Hope will soon have brand new books at their fingertips.
One activity every visitor to Hope Community School partakes in is the ongoing “reading program” where travelers are paired with one or two students to practice reading aloud. The students are eager to be selected for this program – it serves as an incentive for teachers to use, a reward for those who are doing well in school and have good attendance. The travelers also always cherish this one-on-one time with students, where they can get to know the same child over the course of their week in Zambia. By the end of the week, quiet smiles break out into gleeful laughter as the student/traveler pairs have become fast friends.
Because reading is always an important part of our journeys to Zambia, many travelers have taken note of the limited reading resources available to the teachers and students at Hope School. This also stood out to Sharon Kozek and her team of Lincoln Park Preschool & Kindergarten (LPP) teachers when they first traveled to Zambia in early 2017. LPP’s support first helped launch a preschool at Hope in 2017, but improving the reading resources was always top-of-mind for Sharon and her team. So, it is with great excitement that construction began in 2018 to build a dedicated library facility. The new library will open up enormous possibilities for these young learners, who until now, have had very little access to reading materials outside of the classroom.
The Spark Ventures community has been eager to set the library up for success – our Associate Board completed a successful fundraiser to outfit the library with it’s first 1000 books. And travelers have been bringing suitcases full of books to Zambia over the past year. Needless to say, the shelves will not be empty when the library opens it’s doors on day one.
“Leaders are readers, readers are leaders. I am a leader of today and tomorrow. Books will make me a better reader.” – Eneless Ng’andwe, Grade 5
“Books in the library will help me to learn how to speak and write in English and other languages.” – Oscar Malama, Grade 3
The library will also provide a job for a friendly and familiar face to many in the Spark Ventures community. Jane Mulenga, a graduate of Hope School and Hope House Orphanage will be trained to serve as the librarian at the new facility. She was in the first cohort of students to live at Hope House Orphanage and now she speaks enthusiastically about how she will be proud to be able to give back to this community that invested so much in her.
Interested in seeing the new library facility first hand? You can join a Spark Ventures journey to Zambia in 2019 (or consider travel to one of our other partner locations). More info on upcoming trips here.
Financial supporters in 2018 (thank you to each and every one of you!)
Board of Directors
For the time period: July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018
Patti O’Neil | Chair
Rush University Medical Center
Founder & Co-CEO, Ignite
Cofounder, Spark Ventures
Investment Advisor, Marcus Capital, LLC
Kathy Campbell Wolf | Vice Chair
Julie Tafel Klaus
Scott Barbeau | Treasurer
Kristin Schrepfermman | Secretary
Director of Internal Audit, US Foods
Senior Broker & Founding Member, @ Properties
Current Leadership Team