written by Project Zawadi Volunteer, Dawn Wood

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” – Edward Everett Hale

Let’s meet Rhonda Barona, passionate Project Zawadi (PZ) supporter and fundraiser. Rhonda humbly admits her family comes from modest means, but they do have passion. As I listened to Rhonda, I could see she has a caring heart that moves her to serve others, coupled with a strong talent for networking. She is blossoming with ideas on how to raise money for education in Tanzania that stem from not actually asking people for money. She has developed a unique approach to fundraising for PZ, and we’re excited to tell her story.

Rhonda’s journey with PZ started in 2013 after she and her daughter traveled with Access 2 Tanzania. Rhonda’s family had a vacation tradition when she was younger. They would tour a school during their vacations. Her mother was an educator with a passion for children and learning. Rhonda continued that tradition with her own children. Rhonda and her daughter had the distinct pleasure to visit a primary school in Mto Wa Mbu Tanzania. Towards the end of the school tour, Rhonda turned to her daughter and said, “I don’t know what we’re doing. But we’re doing something when we get home.” This experience moved them to start fundraising to improve the school conditions for the children.

Rhonda’s fundraising ideas flow freely. As I listened, I could hear the talent she has for networking and building trust. Rhonda spent her career with the parks service gaining sponsorships for youth sports, but she didn’t really want to continue asking people directly for money in her retirement, so they brainstormed ideas after returning to the U.S.

The first idea was collecting aluminum cans. They found a company willing to donate printing of flyers to promote their first project which was raising enough money to build a classroom for Kurusanga Primary School in Rhonda’s mother’s name. They asked their community to help with collecting. Rhonda set up arrangements with a couple scrap metal businesses for a little extra per pound. To date she has raised just under $4,000 with approximately 275,000 cans collected. It takes a lot of cans to gain significant funds, so Rhonda kept thinking.

The second idea came at her grandson’s soccer game. A family member had a vehicle of furniture for charity, so they asked Rhonda if she wanted to sell it and use the money toward her fundraising. Not knowing quite what to expect from online marketplaces, Rhonda did some research. Today she maintains 3 online marketplaces through various platforms and sells furniture and household goods with all profits going to PZ.

You might ask – where do all the products come from?  Rhonda takes every opportunity with buyers to talk about PZ when they pick up their merchandise. She has a PZ business card and flyers talking about her Tanzania experience. From those conversations, the buyers then become donators. The next time they have household goods to give away, they call Rhonda. Additionally, Rhonda utilizes estate sales to help bolster her inventory. Rhonda also takes time to peruse online platforms offering free and inexpensive products. Sometimes they need some work, so Rhonda buys, refurbishes and then sells the items, with all profits going directly to Project Zawadi.

Rhonda’s fundraising efforts created opportunity for her to gain new friends. With the growth of people donating so many items, she is thankful for the additional help. Other ideas rolling around between Rhonda and her volunteer colleagues include some larger projects, stemming from recent events:

  • a new assisted living center needed to be furnished – she sold them all the dressers and nightstands she had
  • someone selling a rental house wanted to stage the house – she sold them the furniture and then they very generously donated the furniture back after they sold the house
  • someone was looking for a specific colored piece of furniture – in her online perusing she was able to locate that piece and refurbish it, fulfilling a custom order

To date, Rhonda has raised $8,000+ from her online marketplace efforts. Rhonda also facilitates direct donations to PZ from churches, family members, memorials, etc. She forwards these funds directly to Project Zawadi. In total, Rhonda and her colleagues have supported Project Zawadi with over $32,000 in donations which have built a new classroom, sponsored 6 children for 6 years in school, and renovated several other classrooms for safety.

Her can collections and furniture/ household items sales are expected to raise an additional $6,000 in 2020. Her commitment and success come from ingenuity, passion, and a talent for networking.

Rhonda is seeking change – one aluminum can, one antique dresser at a time – for the children of Kurusanga Primary School. The evolution of her efforts continues to grow. May we all consider our first small step toward our passions and utilizing our gifts to serve.

Links:

If you are interested in creating your own online fundraiser page to benefit the work of Project Zawadi, click here to be directed to our partners at Network for Good to set up your page. If you have additional questions, please contact Brianna Darling (brianna@projectzawadi.org) or Karen Stupic (kstupic@projectzawadi.org).