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Hope, Dreams, and a Touch of Technology goes a long way in Liberian Schools and Orphanages

I’ve attended the SuperSaturday event for the last two years.  It’s packed with the top retail analysts and C-level executives who are in town for the NRF Annual Convention & Expo.  The event is fast-paced covering the latest data and trends in the retail industry.  However, what I look forward to most about the event is Greg Buzek/IHL Services talking about the Retail Orphan Initiative (www.retailroi.org) and how our (Epicor) sponsorship donations aided children around the world – providing new schools, playgrounds, safe water wells, building homes for orphans and caregivers, rescuing hundreds of girls from human trafficking, and distributing high nutrient meals to starving people.

Being able to give through sponsorships is wonderful but seeing who you’re giving to is truly magical.  I know this because I just came back from visiting three schools and two orphanages in Liberia that have benefited from RetailROI funding.

What did I see?  Hundreds of smiling, happy children hungry to learn, dream, and aspire to become doctors, teachers, beauticians, carpenters and journalists in a country they love so dearly.  They may not have electricity or running water but they have a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, a school to attend – with teachers, a principal and a pastor mentor – thanks to RetailROI and Lifesong for Orphans.  Eight months ago RetailROI sent Jones Christian Academy twenty netbooks so they could start a computer class.  This week we installed Khan Academy software which will provide both teachers and students additional lessons across several subjects and improve their computer skills.  Also with their new printer, they may even start printing out tests!

Liberia Computer Lab

Being there in person also helped us to better assess other needs of the schools and orphanages that we can provide assistance to in the future, like building an additional classroom for the deaf students at the Rehab School (their classroom has been located outside), ensuring every child has a desk to sit at, fixing security/property walls that haven’t been able to withstand excess water during the rainy season, determining what can be put in place to better prepare the kids for high school, college, and employment and so much more.

However, the highlight of my trip was spending time with the kids.  I am very grateful to Build-A-Bear-Workshop® who filled one of my suitcases with 100 smallfrys® bears, bunnies, and monkeys to give to the kids.  From the youngest to the oldest – the kids loved them!

Liberia Group Picture

To no surprise, there was not a learning curve on how to use gamessurprise, there was not a learning curve on how to use games on my iPad even though most had never seen one – their favorites were Angry Birds, Tomcat, and Paper Toss – not to mention seeing themselves in the camera.

[[blogvideo:http://www.youtube.com/v/rLHkbUMY5RA]]

Key “learnings” for me are these kids need a secure place to live with opportunities to dream and be able to see those dreams come true.  Our funding needs to focus on sustainable long term items such as education and technology that will allow for them to succeed in the future.  To assist with this funding, Epicor will be taking donations of $10 for RetailROI at the upcoming NRF in January 2013.  As a thank you for your donation you will receive a Build-A-Bear Workshop smallfry® bear, bunnie or monkey.  Please visit Epicor at the NRF Expo (booth #1805) and Help a friend – build a future!

Three key goals of RetailROI:

  1. Bring Awareness to the enormous needs of orphans worldwide
  2. Encourage companies (Retailers, Vendors, Manufacturers) to create programs internally for their companies to help with the need
  3. Raise Funds through the following ways to help "feet on the street" charities who are making a real difference

For more information about the Retail Orphan Initiative, please visit www.retailroi.org. 

Posted by Diane Cerulli, Director Retail Product Marketing, Epicor

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