I am so excited to introduce you to my good friend, Tammy Tibbetts, the founder of one of my favorite non-profits, She's the First!
What is She's The First?
She's the First is a non-profit organization that sponsors girls' education in the developing world, so that they can be the first in their families to graduate secondary school. We partner with sponsorship programs in eight countries, which you can learn all about on shesthefirst.org. Our direct impact is on students in the U.S. -- like you! -- who participate in our national fundraising campaigns, such as cupcake bake sales, a rock concert, and poetry performances, all of which teach you how to be a leader, plan events, express yourself, and use social media tools to make a profound social impact.
Why were you inspired to start She's The First?
My passion for girls' education began when I visited Liberia in 2007 with another foundation, to meet children in their sponsorship program. We organized a Christmas party for 300 orphans, who came dressed in their best outfits for the occasion. I remember one little girl dressed in what used to be another girl's Disney princess Halloween costume. I brought a bag of Starbursts with me and quickly learned it wasn't enough-more empty hands extended toward me than I could fill. The former camp counselor in me was amazed that there wasn't a single fight to resolve. I saw how their gratitude for the basics in life could so easily be kindled into a fire for learning.
I volunteered with this foundation for two years. My friends could see how passionate I was about the cause and wanted to get involved, but the tickets to our fundraising galas were too expensive for them, and they wanted to see the direct impact of their contributions. I then realized I could apply the skills from my day job--I was a prom website editor for Seventeen and had just launched DonateMyDress.org--to create a directory of school sponsorship programs, where you could help a girl to break barriers so she could be "the first" to graduate. Who knows, from there she might become the first female president of her country, just like Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia was the first female president in all of Africa! She's the First was born in 2009, originally as a YouTube video starring JoJo and some young women in Boston, with the simple message to gather your friends and online networks to sponsor a girl. The response to that video was enormous! She's the First has since grown into a 501c3 non-profit organization that has sponsored more than 200 girls in eight countries.
What has been the biggest lesson you're learned from running She's The First?
I'm learning something new every day! In a practical sense, I'm learning how to fundraise for operational expenses to sustain our rapidly growing organization, which is much more difficult than the grassroots fundraising for girls' sponsorships. You have to learn how to marry the skills of good business with the gift of storytelling when you are running a non-profit. The biggest lesson I'm still learning is how to be a strong leader. You can only do so much yourself and when you are the founder, you have a natural tendency to want to do everything! But for the organization to grow, you have to learn how to recruit talented people, delegate tasks, recognize the contributions of others, and raise up a team effort.
Do you have three tips to help young people in America make a difference in the lives of the girls you serve?
There are easy ways to get involved with She's the First!
One, you can use your social media -- spread the message of our brand-new PSA video, which teaches people how to help us sponsor girls' education
Two, you can organize a bake sale to sponsor a girl! We're famous for our tie-dye cupcakes, which students make all year-round but in full force during our National Tie-Dye Cupcake Bake-Off in November. Third, if you want to get really involved, you can start a She's the First club/chapter at your school! You can learn more about that at www.shesthefirst.org/campus.
I'll throw in a fourth--we're always looking for students in the U.S. to send notes of encouragement and stories about your life in the U.S. to students we sponsor abroad. You can leave comments for many of them here.
How can we stay connected with you and She's The First online?
We want to be where you are! We're on all the big social networks: "Like" us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, reblog us on Tumblr, re-pin us on Pinterest, watch us on YouTube or Vimeo. And, of course, shesthefirst.org.
Gallery | Ally Katzz Blog: Girls Who Rock