Friday, March 11, 2011

BBA's Student Council Grant Brings BGMI's Revenue to $4,300

As of March 8th, 2011, BGMI has raised approximately $4,300 in two years: $2,014.69 in year 1 and $2,290.05 in year two; and with the 2010-11 academic year still in full throttle, revenue from "year 2" is still being added to. Despite being burdened with excessive amounts of homework, the 30 BGMI members that volunteered to help with fund raising for Global Minimum have remained dedicated to proffering their valuable spare time. Below is a visual that can be seen on our wikispace; it breaks down our group revenue by fund raiser, date acquired, and the money raised.

During the onset of year 2, 15 more minds meant twice as many brilliant fund raising ideas. Beginning as a relatively unknown and disorganized student-led non-profit, BGMI has blossomed into an organization that has received surprising public attention and respect.

On December 9th BGMI partnered with its first local business -- Laney's Restaurant. Due to exceptional advertising both around town and within the Burr and Burton community, approximately $1,200 was raised in one night. Over 160 individuals showed up to eat and support both the local business and our student organization. The boys' varsity basketball team and girls' varsity dance team (state champions this year..congratulations!) came in at once, and a number of faculty members, parents, and other students attended as well! We would like to formally thank Laney's Restaurant for partnering with us, we're unbelievably appreciative, and can only hope to make this collaboration an annual event.

Junior Karolinka Sowulewska took it upon herself to propose BGMI create T-shirts for both advertising and to sell. She created an amazing design, which was graphically touched up by sophomore Jimmy Woodard. The design on the front will look like so:

If you would like to purchase a shirt, please contact Karolinka at!

Had BGMI failed to draw public attention, David Sengeh -- founder of Global Minimum -- would not have been selected by BBA's headmaster Mark Tashjian to be Burr and Burton's commencement speaker for the graduating senior class of 2011. Articles of this honor have been published in Burr and Burton's student newspaper The Bell Tower, and will soon be distributed to the local papers. The following picture is of David, making a speech while wearing one of BGMI's silicone bracelets:

During our successful "BGMI Week" at Burr and Burton, BGMI showed its YouTube video to the student body, which was very successful and essentially put BGMI in the school spotlight for the first time. We announced Laney's Night, and then raised money through a pie-in-the-face contest, which would allow students and teachers to pie each other during a subsequent morning all-school assembly. This raised a fair amount of cash; later that week we had our BGMI Dance which brought in approximately $300. With a little more advertising the event could have been a huge hit. We hope to have over 350 students from Manchester Elementary Middle School, Maple Street School, and the Dorset School when we begin advertising for our second annual middle school dance. Last year the dance was held at Maple Street School: This year we hope to have it at Manchester Elementary Middle School on either April 1st or 8th.

Additionally, we would also like to thank BBA's student council. BGMI applied for and received both times a generous student council grant of $500. This means that approximately 25% ($1,000) of BGMI's cumulative group fund raising has been contributed through BBA's student council. We're appreciative that BBA has been so receptive towards our efforts in buying mosquito nets for Global Minimum. Thank you student council!

MEMS has graciously decided to raise money (they raised over $650 last year for us) for BGMI again because they believe in our cause and trust us as responsible student leaders. It will be interesting to see how much money we'll be able to acquire in the coming three months. We have already surpassed last year's total; we can only hope that next year BGMI -- and what it represents -- continues to grow and remain in the public eye.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BGMI Collaborates with Laney's Restaurant in Manchester, VT.

On Thursday, December 9th, Burr and Burton’s Global Minimum Initiative will be collaborating with Laney’s Restaurant, located on Depot Street in Manchester, Vermont. Laney’s has graciously agreed to donate 100% of its profits to BGMI’s fundamental cause: buying mosquito nets for locals in Sierra Leone, West Africa. One mosquito net costs only $5 through the organization we buy nets through: the Against Malaria Foundation. See our donation page for more details:

Come and enjoy a variety of delectable dishes that Laney’s Restaurant offers, all for a wonderful cause! Check out to glance through their course selection and prices! Know what you’ll have days before you visit!

BGMI has been working diligently to brainstorm ideas to raise money for mosquito nets that will involve the whole Manchester community: middle schools, high schools, and now businesses. Our first annual BGMI/Laney’s Restaurant collaboration begins in December! In the future we hope to involve many more businesses within the Manchester community; we’re trying to promote a global cause, but at the same time, we’re unifying our local community. And thus far all has turned out as planned.

Stay tuned for upcoming BGMI events, some of which include:

Our second annual middle school BGMI benefit dance. This year we hope to change our location from Maple Street School to either Burr and Burton Academy or Manchester Elementary Middle School.

BGMI Week at BBA. The week before Winter Break BGMI will host a variety of events at Burr and Burton, one event each day for the entire week. Ideas have included having a poker night, a karaoke night, and a concert involving local bands.

Malaria presentations at middle schools. Last year our group members each did research on a different aspect of Malaria; we then brought what we learned to local middle schools (MSS and MEMS) and gave PowerPoint presentations to students in grades 5-8. We will be doing this again this year, hopefully to an expanded number of schools! We’ve revamped our presentation and are now including YouTube videos from this past Summer’s GMin distribution!

Thanks to all of you who have supported our cause. We will keep you updated on our events as frequently as possible. If there are no announcements on this blog, check our wiki!


Monday, August 2, 2010

The 2010 Global Minimum Distribution

I've had a few requests recently from various people hoping to see some pictures of this year's 2010 bed net distribution with GMin in Sierra Leone. I have well over 400 photos and therefore am unable to completely describe the whole experience in as much detail as I would like. Therefore, I will try my best to pick some of the most interesting pictures and put you into the body of an inhabitant of one of the poorest countries in the world. The streets are dirty, disease runs rampant throughout the country, unemployment is everywhere you look, and for the most part, the money that's available is kept within the hands of the corrupt government. Long story short: this country needs help; but we can improve it. Global Minimum (GMin) is only one of many NGOs actively engaged in the country as of now. I'll attempt to be as informative as possible, and give you a glimpse into (a) the culture of Sierra Leone and (b) the inner-workings of an NGO. Let's get started.

Welcome to Freetown. This is the country's capital on the coast of the Atlantic ocean. Mathias Esmann and I flew in to Lungi International Airport, and took a boat across to Freetown. The houses were dilapidated, the roads were dirty and unkept, and there were taxis everywhere.

The first couple of nights in the capital, prior to our departure to the rural villages south of Bo, Mathias and I slept in this guesthouse. The price was 80,000 leones per night, which equates to $20 USD. Hey -- at least there was a bed net and a bathroom. I'd take this over a Mariott anyday; THEY don't have bed nets!

At David Sengeh's house in Freetown, we met up with David and Sarah VanHorn, a student at the University of New Hampshire; she helped raise money for GMin as well, and helped with a bunch of the prep work the month before our big distribution. In the picture above I believe she's making kassava, one of the main food dishes in Sierra Leone.

And it's done! From the smile on her face and the camera in her hand it's evident she was proud of her cooking. If you were to come to Sierra Leone, you'd be seeing a lot of this dish. If your'e not a rice fan, you wouldn't survive in Africa.

Here's Ester (pronounced 'Est-ah'). She liked coke, and so we took a short walk from David's house in Freetown, and bought a couple. Here's a funny story though: When you buy bottles of soda from street vendors, make sure you either drink it on the spot, or return the bottles to the vendor when you're done with the soda. I figured this out the hard way: when Mathias and I were walking back to the house one night, two crazy ladies started yelling at me, mortified that they hadn't been given back their bottles. Why? It's a cultural thing; they take the bottles back and return them for money. You learn, you learn.

...For more pictures taken in Freetown, email me at I have videos from the beach, and many more pictures from the inner city...

After Freetown, the GMin group met in Bo, where David's mother lives. Bo is the second largest city in the country, located southeast of Freetown, within the inside of the country -- not on the coast, like Freetown is. Here's ye olde poda-poda -- aka the bus we took nearly every day to take ourselves AND the nets to the 40+ villages we distributed to.

Approximately 2.5-3 hours from Bo via poda-poda lied our final destination -- Sahn Malen. Sahn is the biggest village in the Malen Chiefdom, the chiefdom which was fully covered by the 2010 distribution. There we stayed for roughly two weeks.

From snakes to scorpions to giant spiders like this one, the villages in Sierra Leone were filled with the strangest of creatures. However they only make the distribution more interesting and exciting; it wouldn't be a West African experience without them.

The whole team consisted of two white guys (me and Mathias), David, a couple of his brothers, and the rest, who were local college students from Bo. They understood the local language, Mende, and were crucial in translation; without them, the language barrier would have been trouble, and the NGO would have been plagued with inefficiencies. Here, we're all sitting around the guest house in Sahn Malen, listening to David instruct us on what to do when we take nets to a village. This was training: Day One.

Before we did any distributing, we took the poda-poda and went and dropped off all of the nets we intended to distribute to a specific set of villages the day before. The next day, then, all we had to do was drive to the villages, and they'd be there, ready to go; we didn't have to do any extra transport. And it was really nice, all of the locals were really adept at carrying the bales of nets on their heads -- I wonder why we can't do that here in America. It's a lot more efficient than carrying things in your arms.

Now, to the good part: the actual distribution.

At each village we went to, we began the distribution with a town meeting. We called all the town locals together and explained to them exactly what we were gonna do. This is a crucial aspect that many NGOs overlook because without knowing how to use the nets properly, you don't know where they'll be when you come back to see if they're being used properly or not. They might be being used for fishing, or even worse, they may have been sold for a small amount of money. Being told exactly how to use them, and why it's important to cover yourself -- and your children (especially the under-fives and pregnant women) -- is very helpful.

Subsequent to the town meeting, the GMin team would generally break up into pairs and take five bundles of nets from the bale (one bale = 120 nets; one bundle = five nets), about thirty nets, to start. They'd then spread out and go to the individual households in the village and collect data...and finally distribute the nets. THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly where your donated money goes. I was there. I was at the distribution in Sierra Leone. The money goes directly to buying THESE nets for THESE villagers. And they're so appreciative.

We would then take crucial data. At each household we would record the following: the number of people living in the house, the number of pregnant women, the number of under fives, the number of old nets in the household, and the number of sleeping spaces. After 40+ villages, the data becomes more and more valuable. David was in charge of putting the data together and analyzing it. It's data that must be published and seen by the world. The numbers we took are statistics in their rawest form. Ever think of where articles from Time or Foreign Policy or Newsweek get their valuable statistics? They get them from small and large-scale research groups such as GMin.

In total, we distributed 10,500 LLINs (long-lasting insecticide treated mosquito nets), and achieved full coverage of EVERY sleeping space in the Malen Chiefdom. The Sierra Leonean government made a promise to its people that it would have full coverage of all of Sierra Leone by 2010. The 2010 GMin distribution only pressures the government to fulfill its promise. Why?
GMin did it. GMin took the data, and covered the people, completely with donations. The Sierra Leonean government has much money, definitely more money than GMin does. Therefore, it too can ensure full coverage. We did. The question? Whether it will go through with its promise or not. I guess we'll find out.

We were in Sahn Malen for approximately two weeks, talking and distributing to hundreds of people. There will be a distribution next year to finish the second chiefdom which we began. If the government covers its people, great. If, however, it doesn't, then GMin will have to continue to prove that it can, and absolutely should, be done.

There are many more stories I could tell and pictures I could show, but that was the distribution in a nutshell. If you have any questions, concerns, etc., don't hesitate to contact me at I'd be happy to talk with you and discuss the trip, or anything else, further. Here are a few more photos, for kicks:

Sunshine N' Suds: BGMI Car Wash

How many high school students do you know that would sacrifice a whole Sunday morning – in fact, a whole summer Sunday morning – to voyage to the local town center and run a car wash to raise money for mosquito nets? My guess: not too many. However, that’s exactly what happened yesterday afternoon between 10:00 am and 2:00 pm at Shaw’s supermarket, in downtown Manchester, Vermont.

The 2010-2011 school year hasn’t even started yet and the fundraising has already begun. Some BGMI members came straight from work, picked up a hose, and didn’t stop working until the supervisors at Shaw’s had to kick them out. Others made commutes of over an hour from home, committing their day to hard – but undoubtedly rewarding – work. Some weren’t even part of the service-learning initiative, and just came and helped because of the shining sun and friendly atmosphere. Parents, students, and even a generous amount of teachers from the local Manchester area came and supported our cause.

We set our price to $5 per car wash; one car wash would equate to approximately one mosquito net; one mosquito net (according to GMin data) covers approximately 2.3 people. We had a grand total of $260. Let’s do the math. That’s 52 cars washed (not quite, some donated more money than necessary, of course), 52 nets, and 120 villagers covered; that’s 120 less people who have to die from malaria each year. And how long did it take? Four hours at a food hub in Vermont. How much effort did it take? Not much – with so many BGMI members willing to partake in the work, the day was done before any of us knew it.

Africa’s already underdeveloped economy is further plagued by malaria. According to the June 21st issue of Time, malaria costs Africa nearly $12 billion a year – 1.3% of its economic growth (Alex Perry/APAC). I’d like to copy a small excerpt from that same Time article. It may appear a tad hyperbolic, but in my opinion, it works when you’re trying to convince an audience about the gravity of something like malaria:

“The history of malaria is a long one. Originating in West Africa, it spread to half of humankind by the mid-19th century and has killed tens of millions and infected hundreds of millions more, including eight American Presidents. Malaria played a role in stopping Alexander the Great in India. It contributed to the fall of Rome, the relocation of the Vatican and the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. It still rages in the poverty-stricken world: it killed 863,000 people in 2008 – 89% of them African, and 88% of those people under 5.”

When an overwhelming majority of all malaria deaths come from sub-Saharan Africa (that’s Sierra Leone!), it’s evident that that’s the place to focus your attention when attempting to eradicate the beast we call malaria. And although $260 at a car wash won’t make up for Africa’s $12 billion annual loss due to malaria, it’s a start. It’s something. We’re generating future leaders, future humanitarians that may someday literally change the world as we know it. And it could have all started in high school in Vermont with a bunch of friends washing cars, with a goal in mind and a cause to pursue.

Photography: Courtesy of Amy Hammond, BBA '11

Friday, July 30, 2010

A Global Connection: Vermont and Sierra Leone

Established in 2009 by Burr and Burton Academy students Richard Siu, Michaela Madden, and myself, Luke Drabyn, Burr and Burton Academy's Global Minimum Initiative (henceforth known as BGMI) successfully fund raised over $2,000 for insecticide-treated nets for Harvard grad. David Sengeh and Princeton senior Mathias Esmann's Global Minimum (GMin) NGO.

Global Minimum efforts reside in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where members of the NGO distribute these insecticide-treated nets to local villagers in the southern region of the country -- namely, the Malen Chiefdom (efforts as of current, however, have expanded into a second chiefdom). Taking crucial data such as the number of pregnant women and number of children under five years old, GMin effectively distributes the nets to each household in a given village, covering each sleeping space as needed. For more info on GMin or the most recent 2010 distribution, visit the NGO's website.

Back to Burr and Burton's efforts. How did BGMI raise this money, exactly? Comprised of humanitarian-conscious student-leaders, BGMI members visited elementary and high schools in Manchester, Vermont, and made presentations concerning leadership, Global Minimum, and why even the smallest efforts can help any cause. The learning was mutual: BGMI members got a chance to improve their public speaking skills and presentation prowess, while students at these elementary and middle schools were educated on various issues that we thought we important to comprehend.

This photo was taken at Manchester Elementary Middle School, located in the center of the town of Manchester, Vermont. We began our presentation by addressing both students 5th-8th grade and faculty; in total, there were probably 100-200 people. However, that's a rough approximation. We'd start by showing a Youtube video on World Malaria Day. Here's the link to that video. It's relatively short and really highlights how easily efforts to afford these nets for all of Africa can be. One of said highlights: the Pentagon gets a daily budget of approximately $1.5 billion -- that's enough money to cover every sleeping space in Africa for five years; perhaps it's time to rethink how we spend our money, no? Should these great sums of money go towards war, or for nets in Africa towards families who live on literally less than a dollar a day? That said, it is also important to recognize that the answer isn't as black-and-white as we think it is. We need answers; we need solutions to how to effectively allocate funds for the general welfare of these poor, often uneducated people who have nothing.

Manchester Elementary School raised over $600 -- roughly 120 nets -- for Global Minimum. I personally helped with GMin's 2010 distribution in 2010 in Sierra Leone and made sure I saw exactly how these donated nets were being distributed. The answer: effectively, by leaders who care and are diligent in the way they work. So Manchester Elementary School -- thank you, your contribution helped over 250 men, women, and children protect themselves against malaria.

Additionally, we'd like to thank Maple Street School -- also located in Manchester, Vermont, for allowing us to present to their 5th-8th grade students. Subsequent to our presentation there, we actually held a dance in MSS's gym for the students from the surrounding schools; that fundraiser contributed nearly $250 to Global Minimum. Students and faculty of MSS: thank you, your generous efforts have done great things for those in Africa.

Another great money-maker: these "BGMI/GMIN" silicone bracelets, purchased from We purchased them in bulk and sold them at the MSS dance. We also sold them around campus at BBA, our high school. $5 apiece meant that one purchased bracelet meant one mosquito net for a villager in Sierra Leone. We made great bank -- more than $300 worth -- with the selling of these bracelets. Moreover, what's interesting is that I brought a whole bunch of these with me to Sierra Leone, and all 10-15 Global Minimum members that helped with the distribution wore one. They've seemed to become the official GMin wristband. Very cool.

Next year at BBA we hope to set up a program through which students who apply to BGMI have the opportunity to take a trip to Sierra Leone each summer and -- like me -- become inspired by the work being done in the country. If successful, it will be an unparalleled opportunity for leadership experience. However, as GMin says, it's by no means a "self-help trip to Africa." It's a grueling trip, with a copious amount of arduous work. So therefore, more information on the trip will be available in the near future. If you're interested in joining the service-learning group BGMI, don't hesitate to contact me. My email is I check it constantly.

Comments, questions and concerns are encouraged and welcomed. More info on the 2010 distribution will come soon -- pictures, videos, and more! Until then...