$142,000 Rotary Clubs Grant Propels Bumpeh Chiefdom into Growing Its Own Future

$142,000 Rotary Clubs Grant Propels Bumpeh Chiefdom into Growing Its Own Future

Bumpeh Chiefdom leader Paramount Chief Charles Caulker long dreamed of developing his chiefdom using its own agriculture traditions. He wanted to grow fruit trees in his verdant tropical chiefdom that would produce income for community development for years to come.

20190120_114736 (4)“If we could raise fruit trees on a big enough scale, we could grow our own community’s future.”

“We could move to eliminate poverty in the chiefdom ourselves and make people self-reliant,” he said.

But in Sierra Leone, too often it’s one step forward and two steps back. Barely had recovery from Sierra Leone’s brutal 11-year rebel war begun, when the Ebola epidemic hit in 2014. A three-year economic crisis followed with 40 percent devaluation of its currency. Just surviving was a struggle.

Now, a two-year $142,000 Rotary International Global Grant is changing that.

Sherbro Foundation secured the grant for our Bumpeh Chiefdom partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, CCET. It will fund community-led agriculture projects designed to create income for children’s educations and resident medical care, and help women subsistence farmers achieve self-reliance.

P1000710 (2)700 coconut trees are flourishing in the first Rotary funded orchard, as well as lime, grapefruit, African plum, avocado, guava, soursop, oil palm and cassava. Most were grown in CCET’s tree nursery from local fruit seed.

Nonprofit Social enterprise  The grant creates a chiefdom social enterprise, one where agriculture projects generate regular income for nonprofit purposes. Thanks to Rotary Clubs, CCET’s Orchards for Education project is expanding to plant thousands of fruit trees to fund chiefdom education. An orchard will also be planted to feed a benevolent fund paying local hospital care costs residents cannot afford. And, women farmers are being funded to grow peanuts to fully feed and educate their children.

The Rotary Club Global Grant, the second developed by Sherbro Foundation for CCET, was spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor, Mich., lead club sponsor. The Wilmington, NC Rotary Club and 17 other Rotary Clubs contributed to the grant. The Rotary International Foundation and two Rotary Districts provided matching funds. It will be overseen by the Rotary Club of Freetown, Sierra Leone and administered by CCET.
20190119_121158 (3)Chief Caulker, center, and Rosaline Kaimbay, CCET Managing Director, right, accept the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor flag from Mary Avrakotos. Dale Smith, Wilmington, NC Rotary Club, left, led fundraising for the medical care component of the grant.

Grant impact A total of 60 acres of orchards with 4000 fruit trees will be developed through the two Rotary grants, as well as a tree nursery, a watering system and storehouse. In three to five years, the orchards will provide long-term fruit income for education and hospital medical care for Bumpeh Chiefdom’s 40,000 mostly illiterate residents.20190125_124723 (2)

 

 

Chief Caulker and project agriculture manager Ibrahim Rogers, right, inspect African plum tree seedlings grown from seed for the project. They’ll be planted now in the June rains.

Some 260 subsistence-level women farmers can double their incomes by growing peanuts with supplies they receive from the project. How can something as seemingly small as $50 for a bale of peanut seed and a drying tarp impact the women? The spokeswoman for recent participants said it best, “Indeed, our lives have been transformed.”

Their peanut harvests act as reserves, to sell as they need cash to feed their children. When annual school expenses or unplanned health care costs come up, the women can fall back on their peanut harvest to pay for them. They no longer need to take out high interest moneylender loans.

Bigger ripple effect The Rotary funded projects are having a bigger ripple effect in this rural community. The projects create 20 full-time jobs in a subsistence farming area with virtually no wage paying jobs. One hundred part-time and seasonal workers are also hired. Families’ lives improve with a regular wage-earner.

IMG-20190602-WA0000 (2)Full-time orchard workers display their protective gear purchased from the Rotary grant: rain suits for working in the rainy season and thick rubber boots for protection against injury and snakes.

In addition to being paid, Chief Caulker explained the bigger effect these jobs have on his chiefdom. The workers are learning improved growing techniques and skills under the direction of CCET’s agriculture manager, he said. They’ll take this home and apply it to their own farms and gardens. They’ll teach neighbors how to get better yields, too.

Chief Caulker said he himself is working to act as a role model to teach people by example. He’s growing his own fruit trees in different parts of the chiefdom and annual crops like cassava. When people see they can earn more money with fast growing fruit trees like guava plus cassava and vegetables than in traditional rice growing, they start diversifying and growing more crops themselves.

Empowering women From the project’s initial work, Chief said he feels best about empowering women subsistence farmers. By supplying women to grow peanuts as a cash crop and hiring others to grow vegetables and peanuts for the project, we “have brought hope to ending the growing economic and gender inequalities in our country,” Chief said.

“Women, who before now were relegated to the kitchen, can confess of becoming breadwinners in their families, sometimes above their husbands.”

IMG-20190522-WA0006 (2)Local women are hired as part-time workers where heavy labor is not needed. These are planting peanuts in an orchard to generate annual operating income. They’re paid wages equal to those of part-time male workers.

With Rotary Clubs’ generous support, growing its own community’s future is becoming reality in Bumpeh Chiefdom.

It’s a future they can direct themselves and multiply like seed from a harvest.

This project definitely took a village to launch – an American village. So many contributed to raising funds for a $142,000 grant. We send huge THANKS to all.

  • 19 contributing Rotary Clubs – with special thanks to grant sponsor, the Rotary Club of Ann Arbor and supporting club, Wilmington, NC Rotary Club
  • Rotary Districts 6380 and 7730
  • Rotary International Foundation
  • Fifty-five Sherbro Foundation donors – thank you!
  • Other private individual donors
Don’t Just Celebrate Women Today. Hire them.

Don’t Just Celebrate Women Today. Hire them.

Everywhere I turn today, women are being “celebrated” on International Women’s Day. Skipping this advertising opportunity would be a conspicuous absence for retailers and marketers.

Meanwhile, we’re hiring women. One of the best ways to celebrate Sierra Leone women is to give them the chance to earn actual wages for their labor – still uncommon in most of the country.

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The Inland Valley Swamp (IVS) project (above) we just helped our partner CCET start is growing vegetables. It hires women to care for tender young vegetable seedlings in raised beds built in a wetland area. It’s one of the only wage-paying job opportunities for these women who missed the chance for an education.

I’m hearing today women’s wages globally average sixty-three percent that of men. We pay 100%. The daily wage for these Rotifunk women workers is the same as wages for men workers.

The other way we’re celebrating Sierra Leone women is helping them grow their own peanuts. The Women’s Vegetable Growing project gives women a head start on becoming small farm entrepreneurs.

To celebrate women around the world, give them economic empowerment.  Everyone wins. What bigger boost to the economy is there than half the population producing to their full potential?

 

Our Lives Have Been Transformed: Women Vegetables Growers

Our Lives Have Been Transformed: Women Vegetables Growers


“We are sure and proud that what is happening in Bumpeh Chiefdom is not happening in any other chiefdom.”

Before we reached the CCET Center to meet women from the Women’s Vegetable Growing project, we could hear them. Bumpeh Chiefdom women greet visitors with a welcome done in song. See video. (It may take a moment to load.) Their distinctive style with voices in harmony sounds like a minor key. They’re singing as one with syncopated clapping. You feel embraced by their warmth.

As we took our seats inside, the hall was thundering with the women’s song and clapping.

Their welcome song is one they sing among themselves while working as teams in each other’s gardens. They sang that if they are united and help each other, together, they will all individually benefit. There’s a Sherbro word for unity and working together: Lomthibul.

They gathered to thank us for helping them grow groundnuts (peanuts) in a project they say is not found in any other chiefdom.  

Started in 2015 as an Ebola relief effort, Women’s Vegetable Growing is now entering its fifth year. Sherbro Foundation funded it for three years, with Rotary Clubs stepping in last year.

The women are proud to be part of the program, as they should be. They receive a modest grant of two bushels of groundnut seed, a drying tarpaulin and a 100 lb. bag of rice. With that, they grow enough groundnuts to sell for income and keep seed for another harvest. For once, they have their own discretionary income they use to feed and care for their families.

In 2018, the program started supporting women for two harvests to give them a strong enough base to then keep planting and gain self-reliance.

As we sat together, their spokesperson Hawanatu Sesay (above) explained, income in this rural area is dependent on agriculture. “Our only means of survival is though agriculture.”

These were representatives of the last group of 106 women selected for the project because they’re mature and vulnerable. “Most of us are widows. Some lost their husbands, and other men are not able to work now; they’re too old. Some [don’t take] responsibility for our welfare.” Hawanatu herself is a widow. She has more education than most, dropping out of junior secondary school to marry when she became pregnant. Her husband died and left her with two young children. She depends on her garden for income to feed her children.

When women first join the project, Rosaline Kaimbay, director of CCET-SL (the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation) (above, right), explains the goal is to help them transform their own lives. They’re being helped with funding from Sherbro Foundation and now Rotary Clubs.

Today, the women told us, “Indeed, it’s a reality. Our lives have been transformed and we’re happy!”

They no longer need to rely on men to feed their families. “When we don’t have money, we take a few groundnuts [we grew] and sell them in the market and buy what we need to cook.”

“Before this time, ” Hawanatu continued, “our children were forced into early marriage because we don’t have much to give them. They go to school hungry. Because of this, they’re prone to getting boyfriends who give them money [and get them pregnant]. Now, we’re able to feed our children and they don’t get into early marriage.”

The women are also grateful to be beneficiaries of other CCET-SL programs. “You’ve given our children [in the girls scholarship program] uniforms and books. Through your help, some of our children are now at university with the college scholarships you’ve given them.”

“Through the efforts of CCET-SL and the Adult Literacy program (above), most of us are now able to sign our names. Before, we were unable to read the [school] results of our children. Now we can look at their [report card] and see whether they passed their exams or not.”

The women also appreciate their 9th grade children could participate in the after-school tutoring program preparing for them for the senior high entrance exam, the BECE. They saw their children being fed three times a day in the intensive study camp before the exam – while they only have money to feed once or twice a day. “Because you did this, most of our children passed their BECE exam and we’re grateful.” All these things “are a big lesson to us.”

By now, tears were rolling down my face as I recalled the dark days in early 2015 when Ebola was nearly over, but a 3-year economic crisis just starting. We asked Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker what Sherbro Foundation could do to help. Fund women to grow vegetables as a quick way for them to earn income, he said. The women today rightfully said Chief Caulker is “the brains behind this program.”

Women’s Vegetable Growing has grown from the first group of 30 to 106 women last year. By investing in them with several programs, CCET-SL enables the women to focus on growing groundnuts and maximize the seed they save to grow another and larger next crop. Nearly 400 women in total have been supported to move towards self-reliance. With families of five and more, the community impact is significant.

The women are proud to also contribute to the success of the program. It’s become a tradition spontaneously started by the first group of grateful women growers that they donate some seed back to help the next group.

“Because we are united, that is why the groundnuts you’ve given us we’re able to reproduce them and help other women. We’re happy and proud to help other women.

When starting a new program, you hope it will be embraced by the community and beneficiaries helped in a measurable way. It’s a priceless reward to now hear these women as a group say their lives have been transformed.

Let me thank all who have supported Women’s Vegetable Growing over the years. I hope you, too, now feel rewarded by your generosity.

We hope to expand Women’s Vegetable Growing with new funding to help the most successful of these women entrepreneurs develop their gardens into small businesses. They can then hire workers, creating local wage-paying employment.

Women farmers have great potential to become a driver of local economic development. As they said, they are united.

—- Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director

Eat. Pray. Learn.

Eat. Pray. Learn.

Come January, 63 girls will be starting on a path few Bumpeh Chiefdom girls ever reach. They’ll eagerly begin senior high school.

IMG-20180724-WA0006 (2)Girls in CCET’s tutoring program waiting to start their senior-high entrance exam.

Last January, our partner CCET started their first after-school tutoring program for 9th grade girls. Extra classes fill learning gaps schools can’t provide and help girls successfully pass their senior-high entrance exams — and be well prepared for senior-high learning.

Eighty-one girls from four local schools started the program, coming to 4 pm classes three days a week, including their first computer training. Seventy-five continued for 7 months, finishing in July just before the national exam.

img-20180722-wa0002.jpgWhy the title Eat. Pray. Learn?

Tutoring ended with a 3-week study “camp”, where girls lived 24/7 at CCET’s education center. They had intensive review, drilling on practice test questions, study time and generally got pumped up to take the exam together.  Students, left, in study camp evening classes.

Thanks to funding from the Beaman Family Fund, we were able to feed these young scholars three meals a day during the camp. Below, students take a lunch break outside.

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img-20180722-wa0003-2-e1544378321317.jpgAnd prayer in all faiths, left, is part of the camp day. At day’s end, tables were pushed to the side and girls spread out on the floor to sleep dormitory style.

The experience of living and studying together in a focused environment with the support of their teachers and peers – and good nourishment — helped push girls over the finish line for the exam.

We weren’t sure what to expect from the new Sierra Leone government on this year’s exam. The nature of the questions didn’t change, but they applied more rigorous exam monitoring and scoring. They are emphasizing improving education and eliminating corruption at all levels, including on national school exams. Exam results were reported in November.

Sixty-three passes among girls completing the tutoring program is very good. For perspective, only 120 girls in total were enrolled in all grades of senior high last year. So, these 63 girls will be a strong group of new 10th graders, prepared to thrive in senior high.

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On average, the girls in the tutoring program outperformed local schools as whole.

They also did better on average in math and science scores, areas targeted in tutoring classes, left.

 

img-20180606-wa0003-3.jpgWe especially want to congratulate Bumpeh Academy who had the highest exam results (all students, boys and girls) among schools in 3 adjoining chiefdoms.

Some of their classrooms lack four walls, yet they deliver good results.

Girls from the tutoring program, left, made up about half the school’s students taking the exam.

Girls from the tutoring program were also among the top positions for all local 9th graders taking the exam — both boys and girls. Congratulations to Hellen Bangura for coming in first of any Bumpeh Chiefdom student. Adama Mansaray of Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School and Isatu Conteh of Bumpeh Academy were among those in second and third positions. You make us proud.

The tutoring program is one example of the education programs our partner CCET provides for the benefit of the whole community. Led by a former school principal and staffed with teachers, they do a great job of identifying needs and designing practical, low-cost solutions that maximize use of limited resources for students in all local schools.

Sherbro Foundation is helping CCET create a sustainable solution to keeping the girls scholarship and tutoring programs funded and improving into the future. Orchards for Education plants fruit trees, long-term income from fruit sales for CCET’s education programs.

Please consider an end-of-the-year gift and see it grow by 50%, matched through a Rotary Club grant! Help plant fruit trees and you’ll keep sending girls to school for years to come. Gifting by December 25 will help us meet Rotary’s deadline for the grant request.

Many thanks to all of you for supporting Bumpeh Chiefdom programs and making 2018 a blessed year. We’re grateful for your generosity and outpouring of support!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season,

— Arlene Golembiewski and the Sherbro Foundation Board of Directors: Chris Golembiewski, Cheryl Farmer and Steve Papelian

 

 

 

Celebrating Day of the Girl with Scholarships for 460 Girls

Celebrating Day of the Girl with Scholarships for 460 Girls

Sherbro Foundation celebrates October 11th, the International Day of Girl, by giving 460 Sierra Leone girls the gift of education.

We met our 2018-19 Scholarship program goal! 460 girls in four Bumpeh Chiefdom schools are ready to learn with scholarship awards of new school uniforms and notebooks.

Students at Bumpeh Academy Secondary School assemble for the scholarship award ceremony.

Big thanks go out to our generous donors whose support has grown the scholarship program from 67 junior high girls in one school to 460 girls covering all six levels of secondary school in four schools.

In its 6th year, 1700 scholarships have been awarded, giving over 600 girls the opportunity to continue their education. Girls are staying in school and progressing into senior high with repeat scholarships, many returning for a third or even fourth year.

Enjoy the pictures of so many girls eager to start another year of secondary school.

Bumpeh Academy Acting Principal Daniel Koroma said schools are full to overflowing with students this year after the new Sierra Leone government announced its “free education” program. It paid school fees for all students for the first time and deposited the money before the first day of school.

People interpreted free school as including uniforms, but the government didn’t have the money to cover these.

“What the government could not do, you have done,” Acting Principal Koroma told me. “You are reaching an area the government could not afford.”

For many girls, the uniform they receive as their scholarship award will be the only one they have. They’ll wear it day after day for the full school year. Girls have stayed out of school for want of a uniform.

When the scholarship award gives girls a second uniform, it also helps keep them in school. Many students walk four, five, even six miles each way to school.  If they arrive home at 4 p.m. soaked in the rain or hot and sweaty, it’s late to wash their uniform.

The tropical sun sets quickly and it’s dark by 7 p.m. If the uniform isn’t dry by morning, it’s cold to walk in the chilly early dawn hours in wet clothes. Students have missed school Koroma said because they’re ashamed to come without their uniform.

Two sets of clothes for the whole year isn’t much!

Rosaline Kaimbay, Managing Director of our partner CCET, presents Walter Schutz Memorial Secondary School students with uniforms.

Parents are proud to see their daughters continue in school for another year. I’ve learned it’s a fallacy that Sierra Leone parents favor boys over girls, or don’t want girls to go to school.

Time and again I hear adults say, when you educate a girl, you educate the country. Educated women will bring up educated children and they’re the backbone of the country. Girls drop out for the simple reason they cannot afford to continue in school.

Most mothers shown above lost their opportunity to go to secondary school, or even to finish primary school. They’re delighted to cheer their daughters on.

The uniform and exercise books in each award actually cost more than school fees. It takes a big burden off parents, most of whom are subsistence farmers and petty traders. After feeding and clothing their families, there’s little cash to go for school expenses.

We’re especially pleased to welcome Junneth Kamara back to school with her scholarship, left with Bumpeh Academy Principal Koroma.

A 27-year old mother of three and senior high drop out, she returned to school last year with a scholarship.

Junneth picked up in the 10th grade where she had left off four years before, and has now passed into the 11th grade. She’s a woman on a mission to become a nurse, and is a wonderful role model for all.

In schools without text books, students must take notes teachers write on blackboards.

Senior high scholarship awardees get four hardbound notebooks they can refer to two or three years later when studying for their national school completion exams.

“The scholarship program is changing the lives of girls –  giving them direction and ambition.” Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker

“[Before the program] they didn’t know what their future could be,” he said. “With every year in school, they’re avoiding pregnancy. They’re looking for partners who share their academic vision for the future. … They even look different. They look like people serious about acquiring education for their future.”

That’s a lot to celebrate on this Day of the Girl.

Sherbro Foundation Executive Director receives National Peace Corps Association’s 2018 Shriver Humanitarian award

Sherbro Foundation Executive Director receives National Peace Corps Association’s 2018 Shriver Humanitarian award

We’re proud to announce Sherbro Foundation Executive Director Arlene Golembiewski received the National Peace Corps Association’s 2018 Sargent Shriver Humanitarian award for her work in Sierra Leone.  The Shriver award is NPCA’s highest award for a returned Peace Crops volunteer and recognizes their continued public service.40137733_1958865257469111_4284494628134060032_n (2)Arlene received the Shriver award at the NPCA annual conference. L to R with Sherbro Foundation Board members: Chris Golembiewski, Arlene, Cheryl Farmer, Steve Papelian.

Arlene said of her award: “My early Peace Corps experience remains the foundation for everything I’ve done. This award really goes to Sherbro Foundation’s community partner, the Center for Community Empowerment & Transformation, whose creative ideas and leadership have achieved so much. CCET hopes to encourage others on community-led rural development and share their examples. It’s been my privilege to work with them.”

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Arlene and Bumpeh Chiefdom’s Paramount Chief Charles Caulker, visiting with Emma, a participant in the Women’s Vegetable Growing project that helps women farmers move from subsistence to self-reliance.

 

 

 

For more on the award and Arlene’s work in Sierra Leone:  https://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articles/announcing-the-2018-shriver-award-winner-arlene-golembiewski

Never Too Late to Return to School

Never Too Late to Return to School

Junneth is one of the most enthusiastic 10th graders you’ll meet. She confidently said she’ll pass to Sierra Leone’s 11th grade, and she just did.

Junneth is also a 27 year-old mother of three. She’s back in school again in Rotifunk’s Bumpeh Academy with a scholarship and uniform after a five-year absence.

Junneth had passed the senior high entrance exam years ago, but her single mother just couldn’t afford her school fees, and she had to drop out. She doesn’t know her father. Along the way, Junneth married, bore four children, and lost one.

Sherbro Foundation’s Girls Scholarship program makes it a priority to keep young women like Junneth from dropping out of school. We offer scholarships to advance them to senior high and on to graduation. At $25, it’s an incredible bargain.

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People tell me Junneth is one of the hardest working people they know. She gardens all around the house she lives in. Her landlady, above left, gave her a room rent-free because she works so hard to support herself and her children.

20180706_151933 (3)Junneth grows sweet potatoes, (left), corn, yams and eggplant to eat and to sell in the market for money to live on. You’ll see her in a nearby river after school catching fish to eat.

Her husband is an “unqualified” teacher in another town. He’s not credentialed to be paid by the government, so his income is meager. He has little to offer his family.

As time went on, Junneth became more and more motivated to return to school. “I don’t want to sit down and be a woman who be in the kitchen,” she told me. “If I don’t have education in my head, he [my husband] will leave me and go to another who has learned. So that give me the cause to return to school.”

20180706_152359_Moment(28)She explained, an educated woman can work and improve the community. People respect her. Men respect her. When a woman can earn a living and help the family, it helps her marriage. She said, “If I learn, I also [will] have something. He will give; I will also give.” A two-career couple is needed in Sierra Leone to move away from subsistence farming to a more middle class life, just as much as it’s needed in the US.

It also frustrated Junneth to watch many of her friends who completed high school do well with paying jobs. “Some of my sisters go to college. Some of them are teachers. Some are nurses right now… When I see them, I feel offended. I say, why? Some of them, I beat them [on the past senior high entrance exam].”

Junneth also knew that her children would fare better with an educated mother’s help. “When I learn, my children also learn.”

Last September, Junneth went to Rosaline Kaimbay, managing director of the Center for Community Empowerment and Transformation, which administers Sherbro Foundation’s Girls’ Scholarship program. “I cry to her, please help me. And she did. I really appreciate it.”

20180706_152359_Moment(30)Mrs. Kaimbay arranged a scholarship, asked Bumpeh Academy to enroll Junneth in school and gave her a uniform. She became a proud 10th grade student, in her first year of senior high, picking up where she left off years before.

 “She’s doing very well,” Mrs. Kaimbay said proudly.

Her principal just confirmed that Junneth passed her first year despite her long absence, and is moving on to 11th grade. She’s become a role model for other girls in school – and for her children.

Junneth knows where she’s going.

“I want to do nursing. That is my plan.” 

My grandmother was a nurse and taught me many things. She called me, even during the night, when delivering a baby. I want to be higher than [my companions who are nurses] if I put my focus there.”  With a small hospital in Rotifunk and government health centers in villages around the area, there should be a job for Junneth when she’s ready.

Junneth’s story of determination to get an education despite the odds and life’s cruel detours is not unique. Many Sierra Leone senior high “girls” are really young women, 21 and 22 years of age or more by the time they graduate. Their educations were interrupted – maybe more than once – because their families couldn’t continue to pay. Often one or both parents died, became ill, left the home, or aged and stopped working.

Early marriage and children are the fate of too many young women forced to drop out like Junneth. Sherbro Foundation’s goal is to keep them in school, learning and preparing for careers where they can support their families and help develop their communities.

I’d say that’s a tremendous investment from a $25 scholarship. Paramount Chief Charles Caulker sends his thanks for everyone’s support in sending Bumpeh Chiefdom girls to school. Parents, he says, are taking advantage of the opportunity the Scholarship Program offers to educate their children.

“More girls here are learning and at a higher level than ever before.”

You can return Junneth to school in September and young women like her. Please help here: I’ll send a young woman to school. 

We’ll double your impact. Our matching funds are being claimed. But the Sherbro Foundation Board will match the next $4000 donated.

 Thank you!

— Arlene Golembiewski, Executive Director