...We received six more donations—this time, from local community members who were motivated by what people from abroad were doing. They asked themselves, “Why do they care about us, and we don’t?”
Since last year, we have been providing a safe space for young adults to gather, and find community, conversation, and learning. This program, called JAZZ, has continued to grow, and now it is time for us to change our space! By remodeling, we ensure there is more room for all of the amazing friends we’ve made.
Context: JAZZ shares a basement space with a local youth volunteer organization. This was very intentional—instead of starting something new, Girls Education Nation looked for opportunities in the community to find partners and amplify their work. When we realized that our audience was growing, we started into how we could continue meeting the need using existing resources.
Renting seemed like the perfect solution, but it required a lot of documentation. The locations we visited were either too small or too expensive, or the owners, upon finding out about our ties to the United States, refused to rent to us. The second challenge was the budget: JAZZ is volunteer-based, and GEN’s support is only able to extend to the meetings themselves, which include food, transportation, and a small stipend for the leaders.
The solution: As time passed and we couldn’t find anything that would satisfy our growing group, we decided to move forward with the renovation. All agreed that it will be beneficial for both JAZZ project and the youth volunteer organization. We called our renovation project “Basement,” and got to work.
Why "Basement"? It’s simple. Every basement is simple. JAZZ is simple. Every meeting has been simple. We meet, we chat, we enjoy food, we learn, we grow, we develop, we become better. Simple, right? However, our plans weren’t simple: We knew we needed a larger seating area, a new kitchen, new floors, and some modern décor to make it seem more like a meeting space, and less like “just a basement”. But we still lacked the funding to make all this possible.
The search for funding: Finding the right financial sources was more difficult than we thought. We knew that our request needed to be catchy, but still professional. During one of the JAZZ meetings, someone suggested creating a video and we liked that idea. We wanted the members to participate in this project so they would feel ownership and responsibility for making it happen. By letting them decide the plan, we included them in the overall success or failure of the project itself.
To say the least, this was a new experience for both us at Girls Education Nation and for our partnership with the volunteer organization. And everyone who worked on the video also shared their feedback on the process—it was a growth opportunity for all.
From the get-go, many people were fearful of spreading the message of what we do at JAZZ—worried that the attention of the authorities would be unwelcome.
Many others couldn’t agree on the plan of record. Finally, we agreed to record the video in the very same basement that needed to be repaired. We also got feedback on which key performance indicators we needed to track to ensure that every penny spent on the renovation would be worth it.
When we started filming, our hopes were high, but the enthusiasm started fading faster than the speed of the cars in Formula 1. During the process, many were unhappy with the quality of the camera, the recording, and the script.
Many of our volunteers wanted to give up.
After a few days of struggles, experiments, and arguments, the video was finalized and sent out to potential donors. Our hopes were low, but we had come so far, and we believed that anything is possible.
Success: We were so excited at the news that we had found funding for the first part of the project! We immediately went out to purchase all of the materials, and everyone was getting ready for demolition (“demo”) day. During this time, we received six more donations—this time, from local community members who were motivated by what people from abroad were doing. They asked themselves, “Why do they care about us, and we don’t?” By then, we knew that nothing could stop this renovation.
JAZZ was getting a new place!
Demo day went extremely well. The boys and girls took turns smashing and breaking the walls, old cabinets, and floor. Afterwards, everyone cleaned the mess. We worked as a real team, everyone helped each other, and everyone was very proud of the work we did.
What’s next? This project taught us a lot. We learned how to be persistent, how to be hopeful, and how to work as a team. It was a simple beginning to a renovation, but now we know that all of us have already contributed to our future and the future of those who will be coming to this place to find new friends, to enjoy some snacks, to learn, and to grow together.
As this project continues, we will continue to share updates!