Echoing Good Changes Lives with Small Grants

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In its second year, the nonprofit is adding a bakery in Guatemala to its community projects. Its first projects have helped feed schoolchildren in Uganda.

Molly Beckert founded the nonprofit Echoing Good.

Molly Beckert founded the nonprofit Echoing Good.

We believe that when you do good, the echoes of that action can be heard around the world. Good inspires more good.

Molly Beckert, founder of Echoing Good, returned this month from Uganda, where the nonprofit feeds more than 1,450 schoolchildren every day.

"I was thrilled to see the progress that Okwir Primary School has made," says Beckert, who started Echoing Good in Mill Valley, Calif., in 2011. "We believe that when you do good, the echoes of that action can be heard around the world. Good inspires more good."

Each project is inspired by a need in its community, and people from the community take the lead, she says.

"Through the funding of these projects, we empower communities to create their own meaningful change. While the projects we support are relatively small in budget, the results are high in impact and most importantly, sustainable."

The Okwir school in the East African country was Echoing Good's pilot project. Beckert says she worked with the community to build a 20-acre farm to feed the schoolchildren. "Before the farm, students were dropping out at alarming rates because of hunger and malnutrition. When the project began, there were 340 students attending Okwir and now more than 550 students are enrolled.

"Teachers have seen the students’ concentration, performance, behavior and general well-being greatly improve because of the feeding program."

The acreage produces more than enough food to feed the children, and the surplus is sold to sustain the farm year after year, she says. The same model is being used at the Awoo Primary School, also in Uganda. Echoing Good is helping build a 40-acre farm on land donated by Awoo.

"Most of the schoolchildren were not getting adequate nutrition at home," Beckert says. "Many of their parents were struggling with the decision to either keep their children in school or pay for food. This is a dilemma that no child or parent should face."

She visited this month when the students got their first meal at school. Attendance grew quickly from 800 to 900 children, she says.

"In addition to the maintenance of the farm, parents have contributed 850 shillings per child for the hire of school cooks and the purchase of salt and cooking items. Parents also took the initiative to build a new school kitchen that can accommodate the 900 daily meals that must be cooked. This level of community involvement is essential for the success and sustainability of a project such as this."

Echoing Good is seeking $12,500 for its next project: Building the first bakery in San Jose, Guatemala, Beckert says.

"In addition to generating income, the bakery will provide community members with the skills needed to run small businesses," she says. "Villagers will be trained in everything from bread-baking to management."

Beckert has a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a minor in peace research and conflict resolution from the University of Southern California.

"I volunteered in Costa Rica and Tanzania. Then I participated in the Semester at Sea program, visiting countries around the world, including Brazil, Japan, India and Vietnam. In 2009, I studied abroad in Uganda and Rwanda, and I recognized the potential to dramatically improve the lives of communities through simple and relatively inexpensive projects."

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