Wanaka’s Cassandra Treadwell is the co-founder and chief executive of international charity So They Can. Also living in town are the charity’s fundraising manager Sarah Holmes and Raewyn Phipps, who has been leading fundraising adventures for So They Can in Africa for the past four years.
The multinational charity was founded by Ms Treadwell, with friend Keri Chittenden, when she was living in Sydney in 2009.
“The Wanaka community has been amazing,” she said of the support she had received since arriving 18 months ago.
Ms Treadwell became aware of the need to help those living in poverty in Africa after backpacking in Africa.
An initial fundraising effort, during which friends throughout the world held dinner parties, raised $30,000 and the charity was launched.
Close to 600,000 Kenyans had been displaced after violence following the 2007 election, Ms Treadwell said.
“We visited a refugee camp and people just asked for education.”
The charity worked in “very much a partnership” with local communities, she said.
“Whereas we have material wealth they have emotional wealth. It’s very much an exchange. It makes you realise how lucky we are back here.”
Education was the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, stopping tribal violence and empowering people to see beyond tribal allegiances, she said.
“We focus our efforts and funds on providing quality education to children and adults, specifically women, to increase the number of students who graduate from high school and can seek further education or employment. This in turn grows the economy and breaks the cycle of poverty.”
The charity currently:
Educates 1080 children at Aberdare Ranges Primary School in Nakuru, Kenya.
Provides a nurturing home for 120 orphaned and vulnerable children at the Miti Mingi Village.
Educates and provides loans to women facing extreme poverty through a microfinance business school.
Supports a community medical centre that services the wider Nakuru community of 20,000.
Operates the Mamire Teachers’ College in a remote rural part of Tanzania.
Has formed an educational collaboration with 26 schools in Tanzania providing access to better education for more than 5000 children.
Works together with local communities to establish numerous social businesses to create jobs and generate funds.
Among So They Can’s ambassadors are Neil and Sharon Finn, Miranda Harcourt, Kimbra Johnson and Conrad Smith.
Last month a group of Wanaka people joined Ms Treadwell and Ms Phipps on a bike ride through Kenya and visited several of So They Can’s projects. The trip raised $50,000 for the charity.
“It was great to see a real Wanaka contingent join us on the ride,” Ms Treadwell said.
“Connecting new people to our communities and projects in Kenya is always heartwarming,” she said.
The charity is planning a trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in August next year.