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First INSPIRE!africa Fundraiser A Success!!

The week of February 19 was an incredibly fulfilling week for me. All the hard work we had put into building INSPIRE!africa since the idea came to me only 7 months previously, had come to fruition.

It was heart warming to see so many people come out to the events we planned during the week and to express such interest and support for the work we are doing.

My expectations were exceeded as well as our goals of increasing awareness of INSPIRE!africa and the Rwanda Girls School project, raising $20,000 and having an enjoyable evening.

I am truly grateful to many, and especially to those who enthusiastically volunteered and donated their services and money to make the week such a success.

To everyone who came out to our events as well as those who volunteered to made it possible, thank you all for being inspired to make a difference!

Sincerely, Margaret

An Inspiring Evening

On February 22, 2007, an energetic and compassionate crowd filled the Virginia Christopher Fine Art Gallery in Calgary for the first INSPIRE!africa fundraiser and raised $36,000 for the Rwanda Girls School. About 200 guests came out for the post-work event that featured passionate speeches about why Africa, and more specifically, the Rwanda Girls School, needs our support.

fundraiser drumming

In addition to the fantastic food provided by Vue Cafe, attendees were treated to African drumming provided by Ibrahim Diallo and Batafon, fabulous items in a silent auction and of course, motivating words from the event organizers and special guests.

INSPIRE!africa’s Margaret McQuiston kicked off the event by recounting her own trip to East Africa last May and what encourages her to try and make life better for those who live there.

Margaret spoke about how she met people who were determined to rebuild their lives, families and communities. It was this willpower that inspired her to help others by establishing INSPIRE!africa.

fundraiser andyAndy Amour, spoke from a very personal place as he discussed what the genocide has done to his homeland of Rwanda. Andy, a high school teacher in Calgary, spoke of how his own family back in Rwanda has taken in orphan children because those kids have no other adult to care for them.

AIDS and the genocide have torn his country apart but the people have hope for a brighter future when education becomes a right rather than a privilege.

Finally, Rebecca Tinsley spoke about the Rwanda Girls School and the importance of education in helping Rwanda rebuild. Rebecca talked about how an educated population of women will help turn the country around.

To do this, you start educating the girls, who then become mothers educating their children and their community.

fundraiser 05The ripple effect is enormous. Once again, Becky’s talk was both inspiring and moving, particularly when she spoke about how Rwandans see themselves as survivors not victims of the genocide, and it is for this reason she believes there is real hope for the future of Rwanda.

All the money raised from the silent auction items and the shopping list donation items will go directly towards start-up costs for the Rwanda Girls School. Many people expressed their interest in sponsoring a girl with tuition, room and board.

Although the school will not be in full operation until January 2009, INSPIRE!africa is looking into ways that supporters will have the opportunity to begin their sponsorship of girls by assisting potential students to prepare for the very critical grade 6 exams. More information will be available soon on this website.

What does $36,000 buy?

These are just some of the ways funds raised at the February event could help the Rwanda Girls School.

• One classroom plus uniforms and shoes for 457 girls
• Desks and chairs for 600 students
• Dormitories for 28 girls
• Stock 7 classrooms with school supplies
• A teacher’s salary for 10 years

fundraiser 03

From One School to Another

Students at Strathcona Tweedsmuir School learn the value of education.

The two schools couldn’t be more different. One is an exclusive Canadian private school with a proud history; the other is struggling to exist in a country whose own recent history is less proud.

But on a cold, snowy morning last February, the students of Strathcona Tweedsmuir School in Okotoks connected with their fellow students on the other side of the planet.

On February 22, INSPIRE!africa Board Member Alix Macdonald, volunteer Sandra Engstrom and Becky Tinsley, one of the founding members of the Rwanda Girls School, headed out to the country. The trio spent the day meeting with Strathcona Tweedsmuir students and building a connection between two very different schools, one in Canada and one in Rwanda.

fundraiser 06Becky went to the school to raise awareness and educate both students and staff about the opportunities to support education in Rwanda that will become available as the school grows.

Drawing on her extensive experience as a journalist and aid worker in Africa, Becky spoke about both the Rwandan genocide and the current crisis in Darfur. Directly and honestly, Becky explained how we can help put a stop to the current genocide in Darfur as opposed to standing by like the international community did with the Rwanda situation twelve years ago.

“All three of us were filled with hope when we left the school,” explained INSPIRE!africa volunteer Sandra Engstrom. “The students were incredibly captivated and asked such insightful questions that we were really motivated to bring these two schools together. This future generation of social activists has had their interest sufficiently peaked!”

fundraiser 07

These budding future activists were out in full force at the first INSPIRE!africa fundraising event later that evening. Students from Strathcona Tweedsmuir welcomed guests and manned the coat room throughout the evening.

Many thanks to these enthusiastic volunteers for helping to drive this organization forward and for reaching out, one school to another.

By Sandra Engstrom – Volunteer INSPIRE!africa

Corporate Calgary Kicks In

To wrap up the week, on Friday February 23 Rebecca joined a group of senior executives during a breakfast at the Bow Valley Club. Rebecca spoke about both the beauty and the horror that is Rwanda through pictures and stories from her many trips to the country.

She also talked about how the people of Rwanda are moving on from the genocide with great determination and support from various development initiatives. Rebecca noted how the Rwanda Girls School will play a significant part in this rebuilding process. She ended by inviting everyone to come to Rwanda and speak to the school girls about their experiences as Calgary’s female leaders.

studentsRwandan Message Reaches Calgary Academy

INSPIRE!africa kicked off the February awareness and fundraising week at the Calgary Academy, a private school dedicated to preparing students with learning challenges for today’s changing world.

The International Travel Studies Program welcomed Rebecca Tinsley where she began by sharing her experiences in the former Yugoslavia and witnessing the impacts of "ethnic cleansing", a polite euphemism for genocide.

In her slide show, Rebecca gave a face to the countless victims of the genocide in Rwanda and explained how their plight has not ended, due to the difficulty in bringing the perpetrators to justice. She related stories of victims living next to the people who carried out heinous acts of violence against family members.

rebecca lecture

But Rebecca's story was not one of despair; rather, it was one of hope - a hope for the future of the people in Rwanda and a longing and desire to move past their experiences and continue to grow as a nation. The people she introduced us to do not want pity. They want opportunities and the Rwanda Girls School gives them that opportunity.

Rebecca is an inspiring individual. She has seen the impacts of man's inhumanity to man. Rebecca works tirelessly to assist in changing the course of Rwandan history and we thank her for that.

By Sean Beaton- Director of the International Travel Studies Program