100% of all donations go straight to the girls in Rwanda. So any time we make a transfer to their schools, it is a success. - Safi Life founder, Devon Ogden
Meet the FOUNDER of our current charity partner, Safi Life, DEVON OGDEN.
Every Ella: Tell us about yourself.
Devon Ogden: I grew up in Fairfax, VA, and moved out to LA to go to USC! Graduated with a degree in theatre and film and have been acting professionally ever since :)
What is Safi Life?
Safi Life is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization that promotes female advancement in Rwanda through university scholarships and cross-cultural support.
How did you come up with the idea for Safi Life?
In the summer of 2007, a group of USC and CalArts students joined with authors, poets, and playwrights on a trip to Rwanda and Uganda. We worked with genocide survivors, former child soldiers and former sex slaves in various artistic endeavors. While there I met some amazing new Rwandan friends, and stayed in touch with them after returning home to the states. After raising money for Rwandan orphans for two years through another organization, I decided to start my own, and asked my Rwandan friends what their country needs the most. They said college scholarships to Rwandan universities are very difficult to come by, but very much a necessity. So we started Safi Life to fill that need.
Why did you choose to specifically help girls?
I believe educating women is the key to unlocking many of the world's most pressing problems, and the more we can equal the playing field in developing nations the better.
What is a typical day like for the girls you help?
They are hard at work! Class, studying, extracurricular activities. Very focused on making good grades and preparing for their future careers.
How long did it take you to go from the idea to actually launching?
About nine months, with the help of the amazing USC Small Business Clinic.
Was the nonprofit start up process smooth or were there difficulties?
Smooth but only because of the USC Small Business Clinic (can't say enough great things about them)!
What is the most rewarding part of running your own nonprofit?
Collaborating with friends and meeting new people who share the same passion for East Africa.
What is the biggest struggle of running your own nonprofit?
Finding grant money and funding -- it's a constant uphill battle!
Can you share with us any success stories?
100% of all donations go straight to the girls in Rwanda. So any time we make a transfer to their schools, it is a success. These amazing young women who previously would have had no means of affording higher education are now thriving, with bright futures. We currently have ten girls in school!!
What does the future look like for Safi Life? Any goals, programs, etc?
We are planning to create an annual summer Leadership Summit in Rwanda for the scholarship recipients to learn from female professionals from around the world, and vice versa!
Who is your biggest female inspiration and why?
My mom, for her big heart and rose colored glasses in the way she sees the world.
If you could give one piece of advice to girls and women, what would it be?
You are stronger than you think.
Any future plans for you personally?
I just moved to NYC and am hoping to find a great group of social entrepreneurs to link up with! I'd also love to go back to Rwanda soon, and eventually expand our operation to other countries.