Tag Archives: helping youth through educational scholarships
Last week, I was asked to give a brief presentation to the Fig Tree Foundation Round Table. I quickly wrote up a speech and thought I would share it with you on our blog.
HYTES – Our Story
Hi my name is Harold Pliszka and I’m on the board of HYTES otherwise known as Helping Youth Through Educational Scholarships. The idea started in 2004 while vacationing in East Africa . We also met with my wife’s cousin who was living and volunteering in Dar es Salaam.
All through the trip, we kept meeting young worldly people who desperately wanted to go to school. Primary school is government funded but secondary students must pay for schooling in Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia and there is subsequently a huge enrolment decline. Annual school fees range from around $225 in Zambia to a more than $400 in Kenya. While these amounts might not seem like much, they are often more than a family might earn in one year.
While in Kenya, we met with friends and HYTES cofounders, Pam and Eric Amulaku. Pam is from Alberta and Eric is Kenyan. Eric had taken a young boy under his wing and they became his unofficial parents. That boy’s name is Goal Akongo and he is now a man with an incredible drive to lead his and other communities. He works in Kenya and Sudan and helped with famine relief in Somalia. We were walking through the Kibera slum in Nairobi and Goal said that Africans should be providing for the world and not taking. He told me that they just need the seed and that they can grow to improve their countries. Goal now runs our program in Kenya.
When we got back to Calgary, it occurred to me that paying school fees would be one single thing that would have a profound impact on an individual young person. That way we would be providing the ‘seed’ for students to then help themselves, their families and their communities. Since the required infrastructure was minimal and we weren’t building schools, I thought this would be a relatively easy task.
The original Guatemala program came to us from a young woman who volunteered at an indigenous school in rural Guatemala. That school was founded by massacre survivor and human rights activist, Jesus Tecu. Jesus says, “Our children are the seed of the future, we consider that a good education for them is the only manner in which to combat intolerance, construct true peace, and improve the quality of life for our communities”. HYTES is grateful that we can help that school by paying $400 annual scholarships for a number of students each year.HYTES is 100% volunteer run, we currently have three board members in Calgary and one in Edmonton. 97% of all money raised goes directly to student scholarships. We have trustworthy and caring representatives in each African country. They collect applications, meet with students and their families and then follow up with students throughout the year. Our reps are not Canadians, they are people who grew up and live in their countries of origin and they know their way around. We send them money for scholarships and they take it directly to schools with the students and get signatures from headmasters signifying that their fees are paid in full for the entire school year.
The rural school in Guatemala and one school in Tanzania act as HYTES Agents and we get a signed contract each year. These schools can select the students, and money for scholarships is sent directly to the schools.
We are currently paying school fees for 2012 and will have provided more than 600 scholarships since 2005.
While we have received three $20,000 grants from the Alberta Government, the bulk of our fundraising comes from friends and families of HYTES supporters. We need to raise approximately $60,000 each year to maintain scholarship numbers and currently have enough of a sustainability fund safely invested to cover one program year.
Marketing comes from our website, blog, facebook page and twitter account. We have also managed to get a fair amount of press over the years.
We can accept donations by cheque, cash, credit card and use CanadaHelps.org for online transactions. We are in the process of setting up with GiftTool.com so we can utilize our own merchant credit cards, provide instant tax receipting and also to help us with donor management.
Less than a week prior to our 6thAnnual Summer Fun event we were debating whether to cancel. With only a few people signed up we worried that despite our fabulous auction prizes we might not have anyone to buy them.
Competing with beautiful weather, last minute camping trips and out of town plans, we made the executive decision to go ahead and hope that our months of preparation would pay off for our students in Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia, and Guatemala.
And with $7600 raised, we think we made the right decision!
Apparently this is a last minute culture. Not only do people RSVP only days prior (if
at all) but auction donations also poured in at the final hour. We scrambled to write bid sheets for dozens of generous last minute donations including a basket of fresh vegetables from someone’s local garden!
A great part of our success can be attributed to Wesjet for their donation of 2 tickets to anywhere they fly. We raffled these off and the lucky winner told us she is soon to be married and will use the tickets for her honeymoon!
Another big contributor, Fresh Kitchen http://www.freshkitchen.ca/, donated the
fabulous food including dips to die for.
And to go with the food, many kids (and a few adults) enjoyed a lemonade slushie made in a pedal powered blender. Heather Hendrie of Powered by the People brought her blender bike and taught us how to use our own energy, via pedalling, to blend a refreshing drink. If you are really ambitious you could actually power your whole event including the band. Check it out….http://www.poweredbythepeople.ca/.
We also enjoyed the beautiful voice of singer Trish Evans http://triciaevans.com/ who not only sang but helped make announcements and kept the auction bidding going.
For the kids we had crafts, face painting and balloon artistry by Art Star Creations. The face painting was so intricate and detailed – truly little works of art – that even my 14 year old had hers done.
Finally, a general massive THANK YOU to the volunteers, all the donors and most of all the people who came out to the event and generously purchased and donated so that our HYTES kids can continue another year in school and make a difference in their communities, countries and the world.
Take a few minutes to watch these videos of some of our exceptional students in Africa: Part 1 http://youtu.be/wFC1sJ1r4_0
Part 2 http://youtu.be/1Vl3htaNV7s
By Dawn O’Connor HYTES Secretary