Journey to Africa

It was a long, incredible journey to Africa and we all returned inspired.  Michael was our photographer and took thousands of images which will be uploaded to a drive and shared once he finishes making his impact video.  Here are a few from my computer. =)

Day 1: Upon arrival, we enjoyed a hearty lunch on the Raft, the only floating restuarant in the Chobe region.  This was followed by a sunset boat cruise on the Chobe River between Botswana and Namibia where we saw hippos, elephants, kudu, and elan.

 

 

 

 

Day 2: Early Morning game drive where we saw some of the big 5. Chobe is amazing because the animals are free to roam between the 4 countries of Nambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, so its always exciting when you end up at the same place at the same time.

       

Next we made a visit to the Kasane Secondary School to see the kids that made the very first walk to school with us 4 years ago. They moved up to secondary school in January, so we wanted to pay them a visit.  The execs did a great job of speaking to the students and motivating them to succeed; and Allison read the book that the Elementary School Ambassadors wrote for them. Joona made a village boys dream come true when she presented him with a laptop her family donated.

         

We then stocked up on supplies and headed to Pandamatenga where we visited the bread lady, Ma Mishack before arriving at the Eco Lodge in time for dinner, sunset and a special Happy 18th Birthday for Ruben.

Day 3: We held our Environmental Awareness Event with the Wildtrack Safaris Eco Lodge.  The Ambassadors had been planning this event for months, coming up with activities for various age groups all the way from preschool to adult.  Everyone had a great time and the villagers were very grateful for the sausages and drinks served at the end. Andrea, Alex, and Greta took some time to speak with the women of the village, empowering them to improve their lives.

         

   

   

Day 4:  We woke early and made the long walk to school with the children through the bush.  In order to truly “Walk a Mile In Their Shoes” we did not eat breakfast or take water for the walk. After the walk, we met with the Tribal Chief Ma Rebecca to request permission to enter the village.  Emily started us with a prayer (as per tribal custom) then Ronan and Maria made the request, impressing us all by introducing themselves in Setswana. We then ate breakfast before heading to the village where we installed 100 mosquito nets in memory of Teacher Sharon Holoboff.  Making record time, we finished by lunchtime so the kids had a free afternoon for swimming, studying and playing games. After dinner, we baked cupcakes for the Bakers Without Borders Event.

  

Day 5: Today was about construction!  We put up the first building (reception/office) for the school in Pandamatenga and made almost 300 bricks for the new kitchen for the bread lady.  We took a break to bring the cupcakes we made to the school and deliver them to students in their classrooms.  With the help of the Pandamatenga community, we were able to treat the students and teachers to over 600 cupcakes.  We also met with the new Silent Dropout group.  These students are at risk of dropping out of school so Ambassadors were happy to reach out to them.  We finished the day with a farewell barbecue, tribal dancers, and stick bread.

           

          

Day 6:  Today we crossed the border into Zimbabwe.  We visited the Baobab School where students met Francis, the boy who needed hearing aids and his parents and spent time with the special needs students and the computer class.  Eileen, the late Mr. Gathered’s daughter and her mother came as well.  Ambassadors have paid for Eileen’s schooling since her father died and she took a bus 10 hours to join us at the school and have lunch with us.  Maria, who raised $1000 from her birthday for Eileen’s education was especially happy to meet her. We then stopped at the majestic Victoria Falls Hotel for a group photo and a quick tour of Larry Norton’s Gallery, before hiking Victoria Falls.  Dinner that night was at the Boma where students dined on WartHog and impressed everyone with their drumming skills.

        
   

Day 7:  Today we headed to Zambia where we toured the YCTC facilities before heading to the school in Kamatanda.  After a moving ceremony with distinguished guests including the tribal chief, head man, councilmen, students, and parents, we dedicated the new library which is in the final stages of construction.  The festivities included slam poetry, songs and speeches.  Zara, Allison, Emily, Jessica, and Maddie each sponsored a child to go to secondary school and when they presented the money, the mothers danced for us and hit their knees in thanks. We met Baby Francy for the first time and gave out the Dress a Girl Around the World dresses.  We had a late lunch at Olga’s Kitchen, part of YCTC, then headed to the African Market for shopping at Souvenirs.  Dinner was at Cafe Zambezi where we celebrated Jack’s 16th birthday.

          

 

 

Day 8:  We drove to the border after breakfast, then took speed boats across the river to Botswana.  After a visit to a local orphanage, we ate lunch, then headed to the airport for our long journey home.

 

 

Ambassadors Update

The New Year is starting off busy for Ambassadors!

In December, two of our volunteer teachers in Kamatanda welcomed a baby girl.  While we have long wanted to provide decent housing for our teachers, the new baby increased the urgency as the current mud stick structures allow holes for snakes and rats to enter. With the heavy rains, the walls of the houses melt away and must be repacked.  The Starbucks organization in Moscow has agreed to help us with this project. During the month of February, you can stop by any Moscow Starbucks and purchase a hot chocolate to support teacher housing in Zambia. Every cup counts!

Teacher Caroline and Baby Francy

The February Starbucks Hot Chocolate Campaign.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To add to the fun, we  are asking everyone who supports this campaign to post a selfie from Starbucks with their hot chocolate.  You can post them to the Ambassadors Community Facebook Page. https://www.facebook.com/aasambassadors Don’t forget to add the hashtag #StarbucksForZambia A few of our Ambassadors have already stopped by for a cup.

Ambassaodors Ciara and Jacob enjoying their hot chololate!

Alma and Emily stop by for a creamey cup of cooca!

We wired the money to the clinic for Francis to get his hearing aids.  We will transfer money to his father this week to pay the bus fare to the capital city where the hearing aids will be fitted to Francis’ ears. His hearing will not be restored without cochlear implants, but the hearing aids should help increase loud noises for his safety.

The new crop of maize has been planted for our food program and last week, we broke ground on our new library in Kamatanda, Zambia.  This week, the students from YCTC are busy laying our foundation.  In Pandamatenga, Botswana, the foundation for the entire school is complete and farmers are working on getting the materials from South Africa to build our first classroom.

Last Friday, we hosted Open Art Theater with their performance of “Cinderella”. Open Art Theater is a program of ARC, which strives to give young adults with Down’s Syndrome the opportunity to perform. Ambassador volunteers work with these aspiring performers on Saturdays and were happy to host them on Friday. Through ticket sales and concessions, we raised  over $1000 for this great organization. The ES Ambassadors helped us to promote this event and were our greeters at the door, handing out programs and smiles.

Cinderella actors

Ambassadors have been busy planning activities for our Environmental Awareness event in Botswana.  They also took part in ICC’s Pay It Forward Campaign.  If you were the recipient of a random act of kindness, please place your card in the box located in the hall of flags so we can see how far our circle of kindness has grown!

Coming soon: Ambassadors will be sharing the love this Valentine’s Day so look for our shirts in the hall of flags where we will be passing out Hershey’s Kisses.

Sharing the love this Valentine’s Day!

Our next update will come next month after we travel to Africa,so you can look forward to some photos of our journey.

Happy Holidays from the AAS Ambassadors!

The AAS Ambassadors wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season!  We hope that whether your break takes you on travels to distant lands or keeps you here in the holiday lights of Moscow, you find some small way to make a difference in the lives of others.

Today, our President Maria Fomina, made a donation of over $1000 to help pay for Eileen Munsaka’s school fees.  She raised this money by asking her family and friends to skip giving her presents this year and instead donate funds to something she is so passionate about.  As advisors, we try to inspire our students, but we find it is often them who inspire us.  Such a selfless act by someone who already gives so much to this organization is incredibly moving.

 

If you would like to contribute in this season of giving, here are three great ways that you can help Ambassadors contribute to some amazing individuals. Click on the blue donate links below to make a donation that will immediately impact someone’s life.  All donations are tax deductible through our Friends of AAS 501C3 Account #133947443.

Hearing aids for Francis who is completely deaf in one ear and 80% deaf in the other. He needs cochlear implants at a cost of $24,000 but we are trying to get him hearing aids ($1500) to help until we can reach  our long term goal.

DONATE TO FRANCIS

 

Boarding school fees for Eileen Munsaka whose father  Mr. Gathered was tragically killed walking home from school (she has 3 years of boarding school left – $1500 per year)

DONATE TO EILEEN

 

Teacher training for our volunteer teachers at the AAS Ambassadors Learning Center in Kamatanda, Zambia.  These teachers are all orphans from the village and work for free surviving on parent donations of about $15 a month to buy food and soap. With the help of the elementary school, we were able to pay for their first year of teacher training, but they still need the final year’s tuition which starts in January. Cost $1500 per teacher (there are 6 teachers total). DONATE TO OUR VOLUNTEER TEACHERS

You do not have to donate money to make a difference.  Share a smile with a stranger, offer to carry a bag, switch your plane seat so a family can sit together, donate your old coats to help others fight the cold: EVERY SMALL ACT OF KINDNESS MATTERS!

Global Evening and Project Highlights

The year is moving quickly and with American Thanksgiving just around the corner, we want to give thanks to our many supporters who have made our work possible. On Saturday, we had our 3rd Annual Global Evening, celebrating our accomplishments and raising funds for our global projects.  The event raised over $11,000.  We hope to build a library at the Ambassadors Learning Center in Kamatanda as well as contribute to projects in Zimbabwe and Botswana.

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Last week, the Ambassadors paid for Francis to travel to Harare with his father to get his hearing tested.  The results showed he is completely deaf in one ear and 70% deaf in the other.  We raised enough for hearing aids for him this weekend so sound can be amplified, but will be unable to provide the surgery the doctors recommended as it is $24,000.  Still, his father is grateful for anything we can give.

francis

We also raised enough for Eileen to stay in boarding school one more year.  Eileen’s father (pictured above left) was a good friend to Ambassadors and was tragically killed when walking home from school last year.  The Ambassadors paid for Eileen’s education that year which will end in January.  We now have enough funds for her to attend another year.  Maria Fomina, our President asked for friends to support Eileen’s education instead of giving birthday presents this year. She has raised over $800 so far.

In October, we paid for seed and a plow and oxen so that the Kamatanda school could replant maize as part of the food program we established last year.  Each child at the Ambassadors Learning Center receives a bowl of corn and rice each day.  Since some walk up to 10 km to reach our school, this nutrition will get the ready to learn.

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We paid the balance left on the teacher training we funded last year with the generous support of the Elementary School. Special thanks to Mr. Rick Olson and his ES StuCo team who were instrumental in this. One teacher wrote to tell us that she is one of 7 children with HIV. Her parents are both sick with the disease and her mother is also blind.  They could never afford to pay for her education, so she is very grateful that we are giving her what her parents wish they could.  We paid for the first year of teacher training for 6 teachers at a cost of $1500 per person.  They still have one more year to complete the program, so we are hoping we can raise the funds for this.  All of our teachers are volunteers, and with the exception of the teacher I just mentioned, they are orphans.  Parents donate money  for soap and food, but they never get more than $15 a month.

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We have also paid for an Auto Mechanics shop for YCTC, a training program that helps reduce aids by giving free training to aids orphans and former prostitutes so they can learn a skill and earn a  living. We provided 2 tool kits for students to share and learn with. There is a volunteer house at YCTC where people donate a year to serving others, but it did not have any facilities, so we built a restroom attachment.  Hopefully, this will make life more comfortable and sanitary for volunteers.

In everything we do, we try to focus on the needs of the communities we serve.  Our trip in March will be focused on service and making a difference. We are planning an Awareness Campaign for Pandamatenga so the next few months will be spent seeking knowledge and planning activities.

We wish you all the warmest of holidays in whatever corner of the world your travels will take you. For Ambassadors, our hearts will be with the children of Africa.

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Fall Fundraising

The leaves have quickly changed colors as the Ambassadors finished their first big fundraiser, the Sport-a-thon. Ambassadors and other students spent Saturday at the school, completing sports activities to earn money for our future projects. The event raised over $2000.  We are now focused on our biggest fundraiser of the year, our Global Evening. This event shines a spotlight on student achievement and shares the stories of those we want to help.  This year’s event will be held at the Four Seasons in Moscow. If you would like to attend, contact Ms. Francy (francy.johnson@aas.ru) to request an invitation. The cost is 4800r and includes a full buffet dinner, entertainment, presentations, and silent auction featuring hotel stays, autographed books, and gift baskets from around the world. Seating is limited. If you would like to order a table for your group, please contact Ms. Francy immediately. francy.johnson@aas.ru

celebrate

This year, we have found many more projects than we can accomplish alone, so we have created a Global Ambassadors website where other schools can join us in reaching our goals.  We are currently working with a high school in Minnesota and a University in Montreal. You can visit our page to learn more about our work and the projects we support   www.globalambassadorsclub.com

Wishing you all safe travels this October break!  If you see something unique on your journey, consider bringing it back for our global evening baskets. =)

 

 

 

Thank you for an incredible year!

As the year comes to a close, the Ambassadors would like to thank everyone who supported them this year.  Throughout the AAS Community, and across the globe, people rallied behind our cause, helping us to make a difference and increase our global awareness.  The Project Humanity organization in the states met us in Botswana for an Alcohol Awareness Campaign which educated villagers about the effects of alcohol and encouraged children to make healthy choices.  Two students from Gaborone raised funds to help us install mosquito nets and drove 11 hours to help us install them.  The Dress-A-Girl Around the World women in Florida made 50 dresses with dolls in the pockets for us to take this summer.  Our ES raised funds to train teachers at our new school and the HS staff donated the desks and furniture for the classrooms.  Our PTO gave us $3000 in matching charitable funds – $1000 for each country where we work. The Vafeidis Family sponsored our Global Evening which raised $11,000 for our school in Zambia and our Director led a challenge that raised another $20,000. In total, the Ambassadors raised over $50,000 this year for global projects.  Our mission of spreading global awareness through education and school building was realized when we stood in front of our new school block, The AAS Ambassadors Learning Center in Kamatanda, Zambia.  On a  local level, we had ambassadors volunteering for the PTO and Open Art Theater, even bringing the children to the Bolshoi for a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Our work continues, with more projects being initiated this summer.  THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR SUPPORT!

 

Take a leap and make a difference!

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Leap day, February 29th, only falls once every four years, so take this opportunity to make a difference that will be remembered until the next leap year. The Ambassadors new school block in Kamatanda is nearly complete.  The final section of the roof will be finished this week.  This new school block has two classrooms and an administration office.  All that remains is to raise the funds to furnish the building.  All of the furniture will be hand crafted by YCTC (Youth Community Training Center) students from local Teakwood.  If you would like to donate to this cause, please follow the Paypal link of your choice and make your purchase OR make a payment to the school cashier with the description “AAS AMBASSADORS FURNISH A SCHOOL FUND”.

STUDENT DESK AND BENCH $75 EACH  These are double desk and we need 10 per classroom (20 total)

TEACHER DESK $250 EACH  We need 2 teacher desks

ADMINISTRATION OFFICE DESK $320  We need 1 administration desk

OFFICE/TEACHER CHAIRS $80 EACH  We need 3 chairs

FULL HEIGHT CUPBOARD $400 We need 1 full cupboard

HALF HEIGHT CUPBOARD $300 EACH We need 2 half cupboards

BOOKSHELVES $150 EACH We need 2 of these

NOTICE BOARDS $50 We need 3 notice boards

HAND WASH STAND $60 We need 1 of these

STORAGE CUPBOARD WITH DRAWERS $300 We need 1 of these

LOUNGE SET FOR ADMIN OFFICE $350 We need 1 of these

OVERHEADS $200 We need 1 of these