Dear Desert Flower Family,
The year 2019 was very exciting - for the team of the Desert Flower Foundation and for me as founder of the Foundation. When I review the year again, I get so many impressions, memories and emotions. Since I decided more than 20 years ago to declare war on the cruel ritual of female genital mutilation (FGM), we have achieved an incredible amount. However, 2019 was a very special year. Thanks to your generous support we have been able to implement many projects very successfully.
You can read about which ones in detail here in the Desert Flower Foundation's big 2019 review:
- Three "Desert Flower Schools" for 1,200 children - a dream comes true!
In 2019, the kick-off was given for the construction of the first three "Desert Flower Schools" for a total of 1,200 children in Sierra Leone (West Africa). The schools bear names of the donors.
Kiera Chaplin in the footsteps of her world famous grandfather
The granddaughter of the unforgettable Charlie Chaplin has been president of the "Fondation Fleur du Desert" in Paris, the sister organisation of the Desert Flower Foundation, since the beginning of the year. With the opening of the "Kiera Chaplin Desert Flower School" in River Number 2, she follows her grandfather's great wish. Charlie Chaplin himself had a difficult childhood in London and never had access to good education. Later, as a successful artist, he continued to support schools and educational projects for children. Education is also the top priority for her and for us in working with Kiera.
A big thank to the Holzer family
Our second "Desert Flower School" in Allen Town bears the name "Werner Holzer Desert Flower School". Werner Holzer was editor of the Frankfurter Rundschau and one of the most prominent journalists in Germany. The Black Continent and its people were always close to his heart, he was one of the great experts on Africa. His son Philip had the wonderful idea to build the school in Sierra Leone in honour of his father.
The Rotary Club Heidenheim School as a Mother's Day gift
The Rotary Club of Heidenheim an der Brenz (GER) organizes an annual Mother's Day concert to raise funds for a social project. In 2019, Waris Dirie was the guest of honor at the event, which attracted more than 1,000 enthusiastic visitors. At the end of the concert there was a new record of donations and the Mother's Day gift was perfect: the construction of the "Rotary Club Heidenheim School" in Tombo (Sierra Leone) was financed.
- 1 million educational boxes for Africa - Waris Diries heart's desire
In 2019, we distributed 10,000 Desert Flower educational boxes to schools in Africa. 25,000 additional boxes have already been reordered. According to UNESCO, 34 percent of the 1.2 billion people in Africa are illiterate (status: 2018). Girls and women are the worst affected. Up to 30 school children have to share one schoolbook. Countries with high illiteracy rates in Africa also have the highest rate of female genital mutilation (FGM). For Waris Dirie this educational project is a matter close to her heart. As a nomadic girl in the desert of Somalia, it was her dream one day to visit the school and get the chance for education. This wish was denied to her as a girl. Our ambitious goal is to distribute one million Desert Flower educational boxes with reading and exercise booklet, pencils, sharpeners, wooden ruler and school backpack free of charge to African schools that renounce FGM. The "Fritz Henkel Foundation" presented us with the "Million Chances Award" in 2018 for this unique educational project.
- "Save A Little Desert Flower" - magic 1,000 sponsorships achieved
The sponsorship project is one of our flagships. Launched three years ago, we wanted to save 1,000 girls in Sierra Leone from FGM, forced marriage and enable them to attend school. Today we can proudly report to you: We reached this magic number in 2019! According to the sponsorship contract, parents and guardians commit themselves never to have their girls genitally circumcised and to send them regularly to school. For this purpose we provide monthly financial support. In 2019, our sponsored girls were also examined by a doctor of the Desert Flower Foundation for their physical integrity as part of the general health check.
- The "Desert Flower Safe House": A safe place for girls fleeing violence
Female genital mutilation (FGM) is one of the most horrific crimes of violence against young girls and women. This is why we used donations to build the first "Desert Flower Safe House" in Sierra Leone in 2019, because nowhere else girls and women are treated worse and more brutally than in Africa. Thanks to "Desert Flower Safe House" they now find a safe place to protect themselves from home and sexual violence.
- First "Desert Flower Library": Good books for Africa
"I always wanted to build a Desert Flower Library in Africa to teach people the value of a book, the value of education. Books are the best antidote to intellectual poverty," says Waris Dirie. In 2019, we laid the foundation stone, and the construction of the "Desert Flower Library" including the computer center in Sierra Leone is progressing at a rapid pace. The official opening will follow in the new year. This is the next milestone in our major education initiative for Africa.
- Sensational collaboration with Coco de Mer and Rankin for "EndFGM"
2019 was also the year of the sensational "EndFGM" campaign. On the initiative of the British lingerie label Coco de Mer, which financed the campaign in its entirety, the first collaboration between star photographer Rankin and Waris Dirie took place. After many years, our founder stood in front of the camera for the "ICONS Collection" of Coco de Mer and celebrated a much acclaimed international comeback as a supermodel at the age of 54. More than 120 media, from Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, New York Times, Sunday Times, Sky News, El Pais, Welt, Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung as well as TV stations and internet platforms reported on our "EndFGM" campaign and showed the Rankin video. A small hint: In the video Waris appeared for the first time with her sons Aleeke and Leon, who actively support their mother in her mission (link to the video).
- Dr. Conny gives FGM sufferers back their self-confidence at the Desert Flower Center
The success story of our Desert Flower Centers in Berlin, Stockholm, Amsterdam and Paris continued in 2019. Hundreds of women affected by FGM were treated holistically and many of them have undergone genital reoperation. At the Desert Flower Center in the Waldfriede Hospital in Berlin, we founded in 2014 the first Desert Flower self-help group together with Dr. Cornelia "Conny" Strunz, General Secretary of the Desert Flower Foundation Germany. Regular workshops on sexual education, women's rights in Germany, as well as yoga and gymnastics classes were very popular also in 2019. The Berlin team around head Dr. Conny Strunz, together with chief physician Dr. Roland Scherer, President of the Desert Flower Foundation Germany, regularly organizes seminars and workshops for medical personnel from all over the world to share their knowledge.
- Unique! Father Peter Konteh fights as a catholic priest at the front line against FGM
This is really unique! Father Peter Konteh is the first Catholic priest who publicly speaks out against female genital mutilation (FGM). He is not only president of Caritas Sierra Leone, but also founder and president of the Desert Flower Foundation Sierra Leone. His great organisational talent and his commitment to the rights of girls and women have brought us very far in 2019 in educational projects in Sierra Leone. His support for the poorest of the poor is exemplary. We would like to thank Father Peter Konteh for his great cooperation.
Dear donor, as you can see, thanks to your support we were able to successfully implement many projects in 2019. But we have much more to do.
WE WISH YOU ALL A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!