By Megan Wanner
When Twitchell first went to Zambia, it was with Elon University’s Habitat for Humanity. While there, she saw a need for more than just housing in Kaoma, the town they visited. In 2004, Twitchell and two of her friends founded Women’s Initiatives that Strengthen and Empower (WISE), a non-profit organization designed to raise money to build a school, orphanage and women’s center for the people of Kaoma.
“It’s a powerful way to make a difference,” Twitchell said. “And I never thought I could, but now I am.”
Within its first year, WISE raised $12,000. The next year the organization raised $30,000. In its third year, $75,000 was raised and $96,000 was raised this past year.
Upon donating, all donors receive a letter updating on the progress of projects WISE is doing in Zambia. Anyone who gives money specifically for a child is given a picture of the child to keep in addition to an update letter.
Providing a drilled well requires $8,000. The first well WISE supported drilling was paid for by the donations of one person donating $10,000. For Zambian women, wells are important for them to have the ability to grow vegetables and banana trees. Having a well nearby also means women do not have to travel as far to get water to use for drinking, cooking and washing clothes. Two more wells have been drilled since the first, the latest this year, bringing a total of three wells to the Zambian people.
Children in Zambia do not have to pay to attend school through ninth grade. However, they are still required to wear uniforms that Kaoman children cannot afford as people typically make a dollar a day in wages. Past ninth grade, families must pay $150 for a year of high school tuition. Through donations and fundraisers, WISE helps to pay for both of these needs in order to give children the education they desire.
“When we think about third-world countries, we think they are ignorant but they are not,” Twitchell said. “They are actually very bright.”
Currently, WISE is trying to build a safe house for women who are battered. This house would also provide a place to live during the summer for people who normally live on the high school campus during the school year and cannot go back to the orphanage as it is too full.
“We try to be careful and realize what they need versus what we think they need,” Twitchell said. “It’s important to educate ourselves so we can educate others about what they need.”
Each year, WISE travels to Zambia to provide community service to Zambian villages.
“Really what I’m passionate about is bringing people over and seeing what they do afterwards,” Twitchell said. “I love to see the interaction between Americans and Zambians.”
For more information on WISE and how to get involved, visit http://www.wisezambia.org.