Three Sisters : Trois Soeurs, L3C
- Social Enterprise / Donate Back
- November 4th, 2015
Areas of Impact
OfferingProduct & Service
Who are we?
Three Sisters : Trois Soeurs L3C is classified as a low profit, high social impact organization registered in the state of Michigan in 2014. It’s co-founder is Dr. Marcy Hessling O’Neil, an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Michigan State University, who was a Fulbrighter in Benin in 2010.
Marcy researches the effects of education on the students and their families in West Africa and teaches courses on Peace and Justice, Social Entrepreneurship, and Human Rights at MSU. She formed Three Sisters in response to a need identified within the local community in Benin.
Information about Benin and TS Education Fund
Benin is a small country in West Africa with a population of just over ten million. It is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a Gross National Income per capita of $800. Nearly 70% of the adults in Benin are not able to read, which means that many of the parents of school-aged children are unable to assist their kids with their homework.
Many parents in Benin recognize the importance of education in providing their children with more opportunities, especially as the world becomes increasingly digital. Primary school enrollment is close to 100%, and even the poorest of the poor are willing to do what it takes to get their children in schools. The problem is that many of these schools are overcrowded, have unqualified or under-qualified teachers, and lack adequate learning materials. As a result, students may attend school but still not be able to read by the time they take the national exams required to move from primary to secondary school.
We all know how disheartening it can be to fail an exam, and if you are a parent, you know how embarrassed kids can be to even tell you that they have not done well on a test. What’s even more important than morale, though, is the prospect that failing the exam means that it is probably the last time that student sets foot in a school. 1/3 of the students in Benin never make it to secondary school – but if we look at the differences between the wealthier students and poorer students statistics show that nearly 60% of the poorest children in Benin never attend secondary school.
At Three Sisters we wanted to do something to help some of the kids that we know who live in conditions that are unthinkable for most of us in the United States. Most of them do not have electricity, running water, or even toilets in their homes. Yet their parents send them to school, pay for their uniforms and school supplies, and attend school functions. That’s pretty amazing. The problem arises, however, when parents or guardians cannot read and therefore can’t help the kids with their homework. That’s where we come in.
From September through June our tutors visit their homes twice a week for semi-private tutoring sessions. They evaluate the students strengths and weaknesses and aid them in completing/correcting their homework. We had 7 students last year, and each one of them passed their grade and improved in their standings in the class. For the 2016/17 academic year there are 10 students who are in our program ranging in ages from 5-18. They will receive tutoring in math, science, French, English, and geography.
How are we financed?
We are organized as a social entrepreneurship rather than a traditional non-profit because we’re hopeful and optimistic. We want to see a day when charity is no longer necessary, and Benin’s economy is strong enough to support it’s population. At the same time, there is a lot of work to do before that happens. So we’ve got a two-pronged approach to funding our tutoring program.
Our entrepreneurial side works with local artisans in Benin who design and create handmade jewelry, accessories, and artwork. We import these items and sell them retail via our website (www.threesisters.org or www.tseducationfund.com). Through the process we enlist the assistance of Peace Corps volunteers who help us with logistics, quality control, product design, and monitoring to ensure that no inappropriate child labor is being used on the products.
All profits from the sale of TS products goes directly into the TS Education Fund – but we’re still ramping up with the artisans. Most of them work out of their homes, and regularly have to deal with power outages, transportation issues, and other challenges that come with life in Benin. Over the next 18 months we’d like to strengthen the supply chain so that we have a steady income into the TS Education Fund.
In the meantime, we are accepting donations from individuals who see the value in our work, and who see the potential in these kids. Our budget for the 2016/2017 year is $9500. Individuals can donate directly through our website and have the option of designating a specific student or activity for their donation.
**None of the co-founders takes a salary from TS, all are volunteer positions. The staff in Benin are paid for their time.**