November has been such a rollercoaster month! We were so thrilled to find out on November 5 that we had been selected as one of twelve finalists for the Google Impact Challenge — out of 5,000 applications!!! We spent the majority of the month canvassing for votes and it really brought home to us how wide our network is — from the alumni who kept sharing on their social media platforms to our teachers, volunteers, Board Members and partners who kept circulating the link on WhatsApp! In fact, I walked into a potential donor’s office ready to introduce JAN only for her to tell me she had received WhatsApp messages from at least six sources (none of whom were connected) telling her to vote for JAN! WOW!!!
Thank you so much for your votes, shares, prayers, and encouragement! Though we did not win the People’s Choice Award, we walked away with $125,000 that will go a LONG way towards expanding our Company Program to more people through digital channels. THANK YOU!!! And thank you so much Google.org for dedicating two million dollars ($2,000,000!!!) to enabling 12 non-profits in Nigeria to improve their communities!
As the year draws to a close, our participation in the Google Challenge enabled us to recognize some things: we are really blessed with an awesome network of friends and I’m really blessed with a dedicated team of soldiers! The staff at JAN in every location worked hard to make this grant a reality and the fact that we scaled through many hoops to get to finalist is a testament to the validity of the work we do in Nigeria. Thank you to every member of the JAN team from senior managers to the newest interns who all worked together to show the world how important our work is. Thanks to them (and you!), we can now make our digital transformation strategy a reality!
Speaking of digital transformation, part of the anxiety around doing more programs on digital platforms has been the risk of exposing our young students to the dangers of the Internet, so when Facebook approached us about partnering with them to conduct an online safety training for our students, we jumped at the chance!!! SafeOnline, a series of classroom sessions on online safety conducted in partnership with Facebook and CCHub, kicked off this month in Lagos, Abuja, and Ibadan with plans to expand to all our cities in January. We believe in partnerships and this was another special one because (again!) it involves a JAN alum at CCHub partnering with us to coordinate the project.
And speaking of special projects, a VERY special project drew to a close with a VERY special graduation ceremony! When our Board Members decided it was time for JAN to contribute towards efforts to rehabilitate internally displaced persons (IDP) in the Northeast, we weren’t really sure what that would mean but we took on the challenge. Now over a year later, thanks to a $150,000 grant from Citi Foundation, we are so proud of the 240 youth in the Bakassi IDP Camp who participated in our ITS TYME entrepreneurial training program because they not only attended all sessions but through their businesses (varying widely from fashion design to leather goods making to farming) have demonstrated true understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Our judges were so impressed by the businesses exhibited at the ITS TYME business plan competition that took place in Maiduguri this week that they felt compelled to give more than the top three businesses prize money and ended up sharing prize money among another seven teams beyond the top three to arrive at a top 10!!!! We are confident that with these brand new entrepreneurs, Borno is on its way to being restored to its former glory as a prime trading area for Nigeria and its Northeastern neighbors. I’m very grateful to NEEM Foundation for partnering with us to make this project a roaring success!
As I said, it has been a rollercoaster month, but we have enjoyed every minute of the ride and look forward to partnering with you to do more for our youth!