As the year and decade comes to a close we can’t help but reflect. It’s always a bit mind-boggling just how fast December 31st sneaks up on us. One fall day we are carving pumpkins, and then turkeys, and before you know it there is snow. But when we think back to January, it feels like ages ago. It’s been a busy year at FirstTracks with diverse site launches, hundreds of email campaigns, and countless projects and clients served. While our team remains 12 strong, we have grown and evolved a great deal.
As we reflect on 2019 we are overcome with gratitude.
We are so lucky to have an amazing team, involved and compassionate agency owners (Matt + Bob), and the opportunity to work with some pretty amazing clients and growing businesses. Every year FirstTracks has looked to the team for suggestions on charitable donations so that we can give back to a cause near and dear to our collective hearts. This year we worked with a New Hampshire-based non-profit to launch GoodSoilPartners.org. As we met with this organization to develop their new branding, website and curate its content, we learned a lot about their mission. We were overcome by Good Soil’s charitable programs and all the stories of helping children in need. As a result, we’re thrilled to select a student enrolled in the Good Soil program as the beneficiary of 2019’s FirstTracks Gives program.
Good Soil Partners offers education scholarship and focused training in leadership, business development, and entrepreneurship in order to help the youth of Malawi. Located in southeastern Africa, Malawi is a small country about the size of Virginia. It is also one of the poorest countries in the world, with a largely rural population. Agriculture is the foundation of its economy but large-scale flooding in recent years has amplified poverty and massive food shortages. About 25% of the population lives in extreme poverty, which is defined by the inability to satisfy basic food needs.
The challenges facing the people of Malawi:
HIV/AIDS, language barriers, life expectancy, and poverty are major issues facing Malawi. At the heart of issues facing this small nation is a major education crisis. While a free primary education has been offered since 2012, the student/teacher ratio in Malawi is 99 to 1. Secondary education is very expensive and nearly impossible for most. Improving education is one of Malawi’s greatest challenges. Good Soil Partners connects sponsors with some pretty special students in Malawi. These students must submit an essay, go through several interviews, and ultimately sign an agreement to adhere to certain behaviors in order to even be considered for sponsorship. Every student who is fully sponsored receives testing and exam fees, books and supplies, housing, food, computers, uniforms or clothing, mentorship, leadership training, and career guidance.
Choosing which child to sponsor…
Looking at the faces and dreams of these students makes it nearly impossible to choose. However, we set out to make an impact and that meant focusing our donation on one cause, or in this case one student. Ultimately, we settled on Saidi! Saidi is the oldest of five children and currently enrolled at Malawi Polytechnic. His parents are farmers who do not have stable income or earn enough income to provide basic needs. Saidi is also a volunteer and for 6 hours a week he tutors first-year students. Like many of the Good Soil Partner students, his goal is to be financially independent.
“I am a self-motivated, determined, and focused person who wants to create a better future for Malawi. I am a person of integrity and I do not give up easily. I realize I have a big role to play to support myself and my family in the future.”– Saidi
As a sponsor, we look forward to receiving updates from Saidi. Our sponsorship will cover his educational expenses for the year. We are all waiting to hear how school work is going and what activities he is involved with. Our connection with Good Soil Partners makes us confident and overjoyed with the opportunity to help support his dreams and, ultimately, change the trajectory of his life. On behalf of all of us here at FirstTracks, we are thinking of you Saidi and all the students in Malawi this holiday season. You inspire us, and fill our hearts.
The GoodSoilPartners.org website was launched earlier this year and is one of those projects that we won’t forget. We encourage you to learn how sponsoring a student works, support their building projects, or make a donation.