It's taken a couple of years, but Dee Raffo and Hannah Mason's fundraising efforts to help women a world away are finally paying off.
In 2010, the Whistlerites decided they wanted to celebrate their impending 30th birthdays with an act of giving. After an extensive search they decided to support the Peaks Foundation, a non-profit organization in Peru that helps women and offers donors a chance to take part in an inspirational adventure.
"You had to give a $5,000 donation, plus the trip cost $5,000," Raffo said. "Together we were going to try to raise $10,000 to give to the charity in Peru."
Unfortunately, the organization expanded the trip and upped the price tag for the personal contributions to $9,000, which made it too expensive for the pair. It got a little complicated after that.
"A lot of the stuff we did wasn't pure donation," Raffo said. "We had a rummage sale. We had stuff donated from individuals and hotels. We sat there with $5,000 wondering what to do."
Inspiration struck in October after they saw Girl Rising, a film about girls' education around the world. Deciding to hone their focus, they found an organization out of Vancouver called Change Heroes that builds schools in developing countries. Their current initiative is based in Kenya.
"Our project moved from Peru, but we kept it in women's education," Raffo said.
They decided to allocate $3,000 to that project and earmark another $1,500 to a group called One Horizon, which helps improve the lives of people in Africa. Raffo will travel to Nairobi (with her own money) in February to spend 10 days touring One Horizon's projects and learning how she might be able to offer help in the future.
"I'm going to visit seven of the centres when I'm there and get an idea of how each one works," she said. "I work for a company called GoVoluntouring.com. I'm bombarded with people going to these places — which is how I met the director of One Horizon. He encouraged me to come out and see it for myself. As much as I can imagine where the opportunities are for growth and development, I haven't been there to see it. They might just need money, but it has to be filtering into the right place. I also believe travel changes your perspective and gives you a broader sense of understanding."
One way she already plans to help during her trip is through a partnership with Luna Pads, a Vancouver-based company that makes reusable sanitary napkins. It might sound like an odd initiative, but Raffo explained that in some places when girls begin to menstruate they often drop out of school.
"They don’t have the napkins or tampons to get them through that," she said. "Luna gave us the patent to give to local seamstresses to make the (products) to help them stay in school."
Ahead of her trip, Raffo is also looking for donations of clothing for kids ranging from ages five to 10 to bring with her. Items can be dropped off at Peaked Pies.
With the money earmarked to charities, Raffo and Mason wanted to let the community know where their donations are going.
"There were moments where we didn't know where to put the money," Raffo said. "There are so many options and it can be overwhelming. You hear horror stories where you have no idea if the money is going into big administration fees or being directed the way you want. Making that decision has been a long journey.
“We're thankful to everyone who's been patient and we're glad we took that time."