Did you know that I was born in East Africa? So were my parents and grandparents. My parents grew up in Kenya, in a beautiful, port town with white sand beaches. Mombasa is a tourist’s delight and a historical trading centre. We left when I was less than a year old so I have no memories of my own, but was raised on stories and pictures by nostalgic parents.

Growing up, I always said I’d go back. In high school, I dreamt of returning to Mombasa to work in some capacity. I hated the perception people around me had of Africa; I knew it to be a place of creativity and beauty and joy and so much potential. Like every land, it has its dark side. But every land is so much more than its dark side.

I never did go back but still plan to. This time my dream includes a husband, whose family has history in neighbouring Uganda, and 3 children. I want my children to know that their roots run deeper than all they are accustomed to in Canada. We’ll get there.

In the meantime, my desire to give back to a country my family once called home has never been extinguished. So when my friend, Jamie, told me she was volunteering with One Girl Can to raise funds for scholarships for girls in Kenya and Uganda, I felt that familiar twinge in my gut. Maybe I can do something here.

One Girl Can essentially does 3 things: they build and restore schools in rural Kenya and Uganda, they provide scholarships for girls wanting to go to vocational school or university as well as fund secondary schools, and they mentor students throughout the whole process. I personally like that they aren’t affiliated with any particular religion. My greatest pet peeve is a charity that offers help plus religious propaganda. I was relieved when Jamie said this wasn’t the case with One Girl Can, and thought I’d share that in case that was something that was important to you, too.

So, how am I helping? I’m attending their second annual fundraiser on Thursday April 21, 2016 at 6 pm at the Imperial in Vancouver (325 Main Street), eager to learn more about the work being done by this Vancouver-based organization. I’m most looking forward to listening to founder and executive director, Lotte Davis, who is also from Africa; she’ll be sharing her story and her inspiration for creating this charity. Those kinds of stories are my favourite! Her husband’s company, AG Hair, is a sponsor and will be providing a swanky gift bag (valued at $68) for everyone who buys a ticket to the event.

This year’s fundraiser aims to double last year’s funds raised, and every dollar goes directly to Ganze Girls Secondary school in Kenya. Their dormitories and washrooms need some major expansion and refurbishing; these girls live at school because if they don’t, there is a danger that they won’t come back. Every girl deserves an education and clean, appropriate living conditions.

If you want to join me, let me know so I can look out for you! I’ll most likely be hanging out at the silent auction table with a plateful of appetizers in hand. If you can’t come but would like to donate, you can do so on the eventbrite page – you can even specify which item you are buying! Click through to buy your ticket or donate, and if you know anyone who is passionate about Africa, girls’ education, gender equality, or simply doing good, please share this post with them.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative