Dear Open Doors donors,
September 29, 2015 marks the fifth anniversary of our incorporation. In the past five years, we have had the privilege of supporting 21 South African students in their educational endeavors. We have seen these students grow up in front of our eyes as artists, mathematicians, accountants, nurses, and social workers. Our scholars' stories have strengthened our belief that education is a catalyst for changing lives and transforming communities. What a joy it has been to be a part of this journey!
Like all good journeys, however, it sadly cannot go on forever. We have decided that, after five great years, we will be bringing Open Doors to an end and will not be selecting any additional scholars in 2016. While our organization will be dissolving, our hearts for the students of Masiphumelele and Ocean View certainly will not.
In our final letter to you, our amazing donors, we want to both look back and look forward. We will reflect on our first days, remind you of the achievement of our students, and be thankful for the impact we have been able to make with your support. We will also look forward at our plans for wrapping up Open Doors, at the work that wonderful education nonprofits in South Africa are doing, and at how we can continue contributing to the goal of bringing educational opportunity to all.
Open Doors was born through our experiences serving as volunteer teachers in the impoverished South African townships of Masiphumelele and Ocean View in 2009 and 2010. During that time, we were inspired by the drive of many of our secondary students to attend university but were also frustrated by the significant financial barriers they faced in accessing a tertiary education. Moved by these circumstances, we decide to create the Open Doors Foundation and successfully registered it as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in September, 2010.
Since its inception, the Open Doors Foundation has been driven by a very important yet simple mission: to help talented students from Masiphumelele and Ocean View overcome financial barriers to a college education. We believe that education empowers our scholars and helps to lift them, their families, and their broader communities from poverty.
In choosing our scholars, we have looked for students who exhibit strong academic skills, excellent character, and a desire to give back to their community. Each Open Doors Scholar receives a two-year bursary that helps to defray their tuition and other university costs, such as for textbooks, registration fees, or transportation.
Our work has relied upon close partnerships with the Masiphumelele Library, Ikamva Youth, MasiCorps, and WorldTeach South Africa -- all inspiring local organizations that work tirelessly to improve the lives of Masiphumelele and Ocean View residents. Our local partners help us to identify promising applicants, monitor our scholars’ progress in university, and remain up to date about needs on the ground.
Back in May 2011, Open Doors officially earned its permanent spot on the GlobalGiving website after raising over $5,000 from nearly 75 individual donors. In the years since then, we remain ever so appreciative and thankful for your generosity and continued support.
Our impact over the years
Open Doors scholars have been excelling academically despite having grown up in the resource-poor communities of Masipumelele and Ocean View. Today, ODF is proud to report that our scholars are thriving at or have graduated from a diverse array of universities and academic programs:
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
- Environmental Management
- Operations Management
- Human Resources
- Marine Science
University of Western Cape
- Geography / Environmental Sciences
University of Free State
- Social Science
University of Cape Town
CTI Education Group
Walter Sisulu University
False Bay College
Open Doors scholars are blossoming in university and remain thankful for the support they have received from donors like you:
- “I am very grateful to have been part of the Open Doors Foundation. It was of great help to me.” – 2011 ODF Scholar
- “Your support plays an important role towards my future. Thank you very much.” - 2012 ODF Scholar
- “I am doing very well academically and socially...I have graduated in April this year [with a] National Diploma in Accounting and I am carrying forward doing my degree in Taxation...In October last year I was hired as an accounts payable intern for a period of four months at one of the biggest consulting companies in the world…I want to say thank you for the money you have been providing for me. You guys have helped me so much - but not only me, my parents also.” - 2011 ODF Scholar
While we will not be selecting a new set of scholars in 2016, we will continue to provide scholarships to our current scholars until their bursaries have been distributed. After that time, we are then planning on transferring any remaining funds to our local partners on the ground in South Africa so they can continue to improve the lives of learners in Masiphumelele and Ocean View.
As we all know, the work of providing educational opportunity to students in South Africa is not finished. If you would also like to continue providing financial support to students in our target communities, we recommend contributing to two of our primary South African partners: MasiCorp (www.masicorp.org) or Ikamva Youth (http://ikamvayouth.org/). We have worked closely with these organizations since our inception and they are dedicated to improving educational outcomes for South African students. We look forward to continuing to hear about the good work that they do in the local community.
Finally, as Open Doors prepares to wrap up, a couple of our founders would like to share some parting thoughts:
From Amy: When Open Doors started, some of the team were still in college. One sunny Sunday afternoon in 2010, Gita and I crammed into my tiny dorm room and we Skyped with Tim – who was on the other coast – to align on a plan for supporting learners in South Africa. We then spent hours preparing for GlobalGiving’s “Open Challenge”. The challenge was to raise over $4000 from at least 50 donors in 30 days. We overcame the challenge, and sent to you – our donors – our very first progress report.
Four years and 18 progress reports later, it is now time to write one last update letter. During this period, the team at ODF has designed logos, revamped websites, completed 5 fundraisers, and supported 21 scholars in Masipumelele and Ocean View in their post-secondary education. The team is proud of what we have done. We are prouder still of having an incredible donor base with generous individuals like yourself, who make our students’ dream for education – and our dream to assist them – come true. I now know that, truly, anything is possible. And so, even as ODF closes its chapter, our collective dream of using education to empower youth and uplift communities will live on ever more ardently.
From Anthony: I remember packing to go to South Africa only a few days after graduating from college and thinking, “Isn’t it winter in South Africa now? I should probably pack a coat.” Ultimately, I forgot to pack a coat because I was a bit nervous. Not only did I not know anyone else making the trip, I had no idea what I could offer the communities there. Reflecting back now, I can tell you that I overthought things - the only thing that really mattered were the students we were aiming to help. As I worked with the students throughout the summer, I knew I wanted to make an impact greater than my physical time in South Africa. I had built so many amazing connections which I wanted to foster even after leaving.This was how I became involved with Open Doors.
Five years later, six of the students I worked have become ODF scholars. The first class of ODF scholars that I worked with will be graduating this year. I sincerely thank you for the support that you, the donors, have given us throughout the years to make this all possible. Although our time together has come to an end, we should be proud of our accomplishments. By helping students pursue higher education, we have helped them open the door to their own futures. I truly believe that we have made a generational difference in South Africa. I encourage you now to find other opportunities to support youth and their pursuit of education so that we may all do our parts in creating a better and brighter future.
All the best and thank you so much for your support over the years!
Amy Wang, Anthony Cho, Gita Ramamurti, Tim Sun
June, 2014: Gita & Peter (local partner) in SA
Simphiwe (artist): The very first ODF scholar