Hellen Ogodo (Director and Teacher)
Helen is a wife, mother and a proud member of the Rusinga Island community, in Homa Bay County, Lake Victoria, Kenya. Helen has overcome remarkable challenges to earn a degree in Education and a diploma in Community based Development and Project Management. Helen hopes to complete a Masters degree in Planning and Economics of Education, when she is free from other family obligations and responsibilities. In addition to her tertiary qualifications, Helen has been trained on HIV testing and counselling and has undergone training in the Education for Life Programme, with a focus in HIV/AIDS and addictive behaviours. Helen has also benefited from training in social work, resource mobilisation and management, basic photography and basic computer applications. Helen worked for the Christian Children’s fund (CCF) for 14 years. It is through her work with CCF that she met and became friends with Lynn Williams. During her time with CCF, Helen had a variety of positions, including social worker, community mobiliser, HIV/AIDS and behaviour change co-ordinator, Project Development Officer in charge of all communication from Sponsors and Acting Manager. Helen was eventually promoted to the role of Project Manager and Sponsor Relations and Communication Coordinator.
Helen unfortunately stopped working with CCF in 2007 when the Rusinga Project was refocused away from direct relief which meant her position was dissolved. Unemployed and with limited formal education Hellen’s prospects where limited at a time when jobs were scarce. Helen had to rely on her garden to provide an income to supplement her family’s needs. Helen struggled to maintain her garden at a level that could provide for her own family and also grow enough maize to sell at the market. When drought hit the area, the maize would not grow and Helen could not provide food for her own family or to sell. Helen managed to re-establish the garden only to have it trampled by a hippopotamus. Helen was eventually able to secure alternative employment at a secondary school. At the same time, Helen also took a job as a part-time lecturer in the evenings at a local community college. Her family had no spare money and significant demands placed on them due to having responsibility to take care of elderly members of the extended family.
Helen finally was able to open her own school, Equity Brilliant, in 2013. Having worked with vulnerable people in the community for so long, she was determined to use her skills to make a positive impact on the lives of the less fortunate.
This passion was fueled by her friendship with Lynn, whose unfailing support was instrumental in Helen being able to achieve her teaching qualifications and the support necessary to establish the Equity School. Helen calls Lynn a true friend, a mentor, a teacher, a motivator, a role model, an adviser, a mother and source of strength during very hard times.
Helen currently has a helper called Eunice, who has volunteered her time to work with Helen for the past 4 years. Helen and Eunice do not receive any payment for their work and all the support the Equity School receives comes from fundraising and donations, thanks to Lynn’s unrelenting efforts.
Helen frequently expressed how truly blessed she is to have Lynn in her life.
Lynn Williams (New Zealand Fundraising)
Lynn lives in Auckland New Zealand and, despite being a world away from Rusinga island, she has supported Hellen and Equity from the beginning.
“I have always hated inequality and the fact that people born in a country like New Zealand have such an advantage over those born in a third world country. But what could I, as one ordinary person do to help?
When my daughter became pregnant with her first child I became even more aware of the contrast between lives in different countries and the life my grandchild would have, born here in New Zealand, in comparison with that of a child born in a third world country. Even though it would be a small drop in the ocean, I decided something I do was sponsor a child from a third world country to improve his or her chances in life. I decided to become a CCF (now Childfund) sponsor, but I did not like the thought that my sponsored child would receive support and small gifts, where classmates would not, unless they too were being sponsored. This bothered me, but for some time I could not see a way to do anything about it, apart from occasionally sending small things for my sponsored child’s classmates through CCF, who kindly delivered them.
Several years later my CCF case worker became Hellen Ogodo, a strong and compassionate woman. I had by then developed a serious interest in the AIDS orphans on Rusinga and wanted to do more. She went out of her way, in her own time, to help me to set up relationships with three schools and a number of orphans. She did this without ever commenting on the extra work it put on her day and she somehow found time to write me long, hand written letters to tell me how ‘my children’ and ‘my schools’ were doing. I found out recently that she had 4000 sponsorships to look after at that time, but she still found time to deal with my requests and to write.
Over the years we became good friends, just by mail. I have never met her, as although I was interested in the work being done on Rusinga and would have loved to meet her and her family and the wider community, I knew that the cost of my travel would be much more usefully spent on Rusinga children.
After leaving CCF Hellen followed her dream of becoming a teacher and eventually opened Equity Brilliant School in 2013. Since then my part in the plan has been to do fund raising to keep the school running. By the time the dream came to fruition I was living on government superannuation, doing only voluntary and part time paid work. I realised that at some point I might have to stop working altogether. I started looking for other ways to raise money to keep the school going.
I was introduced to glass fusing and really enjoyed it, so I soon set myself up with the equipment I needed to explore further and eventually started to offer necklace pendants and photo greeting cards in exchange for donations at Silverdale’s Saturday morning markets. For the past year, this hobby, alongside donations from generous friends and schools with whom I have a relationship have held MUFTI days and stalls for Equity, has helped to generate funds to keep the school running and to build the first storey of the new secure classroom.
Because there has a small team of compassionate volunteers involved, all costs have been donated, every cent raised has gone straight to the school. It gets there within 24 hours and can be in use two days later to feed, clothe or educate. Knowing that no money has been lost in administrative costs feels good, and right
It has been an amazing, heart-warming journey which could not have happened without the generosity and kindness of the people who have supported us this far.”
Ben Clotworthy (New Zealand Fundraising)
I recently met Lynn Williams who runs the fundraising in NZ for Equity School. I loved the compassion and dedication she showed in supporting this initiative. After seeing the effort she puts into traditional fundraising methods (e.g. stalls, school fundraisers etc…) I wanted to help by setting up this website, Facebook page and Give A Little pages to spread the word and hopefully secure a little more funding. Now that I have worked with and gotten to know both Lynn & Hellen since mid 2016, I’m proud to be involved with this initiative.