Last week I caught up with Lotte Davis, founder of One Girl Can, a charity educating girls in sub-Saharan Africa. Originally from South Africa, now based in Canada, Lotte’s strong connection led her back to the continent in 2007. During this trip, a seed was planted, a vision formed: she would combine her entrepreneurial skills with a drive to give back and a belief in the need to invest in girl’s education. Having realised that providing girls with meaningful careers and their own source of income is key to balancing out gender equality.
How did One Girl Can come to work with Journeys By Design?
We first connected via social media in 2013, and have continued to work together on travel itineraries, for personal safaris, and for referrals to our database of Africa enthusiasts ever since. As well as collaborating on the marketing and facilitating of the luxury holidays entered into our fundraiser auctions, I particularly love how knowledgeable and personable Will and his team are, and that the business is ultimately there to serve his philanthropic interests.
Can you talk us through the beginnings of One Girl Can?
After the first trip back to Africa in 2007, I came home inspired to sponsor 24 girls, made possible via World Vision. I went on to fund water projects, a lovely opportunity to visit villages and learn about life on the ground. In 2008, Amref, a Kenyan NGO, took me to the Kibera slums in Nairobi. It was here that I came across schools needing to be rebuilt. I knew the minute I saw them, that was it. Disillusioned with the bureaucracy and pace of NGO organisations led me to starting One Girl Can. With no experience in the NGO world, miles from Africa, I see now how a lack of knowledge and any preconceptions as to how it should be done was a benefit, an opportunity to create a charity unique to our vision.
What makes One Girl Can unique as a charity?
100% of profits go to the educational programmes and building of schools. The charity is funded by a separate family business, AG Hair. We run OGC like a four pillar business, with a solid marketing and financial structure in place. The girls are treated like our clients.
Could you tell us about your donors?
They’re mostly Canadian, although we’re now set up for global involvement. People who may previously have chosen to invest locally, are now realising that gender equality is a global issue, and we make it easy for them to find a meaningful way to invest globally. Some of our donors may have already travelled to Africa, doing so for the wildlife originally, choosing to return for the people, with a desire to learn from and help preserve their unique culture, and perhaps to leave a legacy.
Could you talk us through some current projects and success stories?
As well as building six schools, we also give donors the opportunity to sponsor a girl through her education. We take a holistic approach and encourage donors and the girls to develop a relationship via updates and an exchange of letters. There’s a connection. In addition to the sponsoring, there’s mentoring – we help the girls envision the life they want to live. And then, for those that win a university scholarship, there’s continued support. We hold an annual conference in Nairobi for girls at uni, currently 110, preparing them for graduation, so they know how to get the job they want. After graduation, the story comes full circle: the girls placed in jobs are asked to donate 5% of their salary to One Girl Can for four years – and to help mentor other girls from their home villages, which they’re proud to do.
A huge thank you to Lotte Davis. Such a pleasure to speak with someone who has followed her heart so confidently, continually tried new things, nurtured strong relationships, and developed a clear vision, and is now sharing this and her success with others. Proof that one girl really can, and what better visionary leadership than that.