Partnering with Australian charity, Compassion makes a significant difference not only in the lives of vulnerable children, but also their families and wider communities. Learn about Virginia MacPherson’s passion for philanthropy and how she partnered with Compassion to make a difference for young women and girls in Kenya by funding an education campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation.
14 Mar, 2022
Extreme poverty disproportionately affects women and girls around the world. Limited or lack of access to education, low paying work and unfavourable societal and cultural norms leaves young girls vulnerable to child marriage, female genital mutilation and gender-based violence. The World Bank estimates that the ongoing COVID-19 crisis will continue to disproportionately impact children, women and girls, threatening to reverse hard-won gains towards gender equality and empowerment.
So how does partnering with a charity in Australia make an ongoing impact for women and girls all over the world?
Compassion is an Australian charity that works in local communities by partnering with the local church to make a difference. Through funding critical projects that aim to promote equality and empowerment for women and girls through advocacy and education, Compassion takes a preventative approach to protecting the rights of children. One of these projects is focused on eradicating the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM).
Female genital mutilation is the partial or total removal of external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It is almost always carried out on young girls between infancy and adolescence. The World Health Organisation calls it “an extreme form of discrimination against women”, “a violation of the rights of children”, and a fundamental infringement of “the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”
It is estimated that more than 200 million women and girls today have undergone female genital mutilation across 30 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The need is pressing. That’s why Melbourne-based Virginia MacPherson, a long-time supporter of Compassion, wanted to get involved.
Virginia’s relationship with Compassion started all the way back in 2008. She is a passionate advocate for vulnerable children and currently sponsors 22 children living below the poverty line through Compassion, while writing letters to a further 10 on behalf of other sponsors. She has been on multiple trips with Compassion to visit her sponsored children around the world and has experienced firsthand both the impact the work has on the lives of the children as well as the ripple effects on their families and communities.
The significant impact she has witnessed led her to partner with Compassion to support specific philanthropy projects in communities around the world.
This included funding Mums and Babies programs, water and sanitation projects and education and training programs like the FGM project. Funding specific philanthropy projects as Virginia has is a valuable way to partner with Compassion and bring hope to vulnerable children and their communities.
Working as a doctor at the specialised Mercy Hospital for Women, Virginia has a professional understanding of the devastating consequences of female genital mutilation on women, which include bleeding and problems urinating, the development of cysts and infections, as well as complications in childbirth and increased risk of newborn deaths. This is in addition to the severe mental and emotional trauma suffered by girls during the ritual, which has lasting and on-going effects.
When Virginia became aware of the education campaign in Kenya a few years ago, she wanted to help fund the project. Virginia decided to fundraise across her professional network to get others involved in the initiative too. Because Compassion’s projects are compelling to both Christians and non-Christians, Virginia says this helps to involve others and bring awareness to the overall work of Compassion. They were able to fund the campaign in full and Virginia flew to Kenya to visit the project and see the impact of the campaign in 2016.
There Virginia learned how the campaign had worked, what the money was spent on and the results in the community thus far.
“I discovered that FGM is a vital rite of passage for Maasai girls and that it can't simply be stopped without a replacement rite of passage.
So, alongside the community education and advocacy, the campaign also involved instituting a week-long camp for the girls that has become a substitute rite of passage.
The parents are involved for the final day, and the camp has been successful in instilling a strong sense that the girls have now ‘become’ women,” says Virginia.
instilling a strong sense that the girls have now ‘become’ women,” says Virginia.
Education campaigns funded by supporters like Virginia are integral to seeing transformation not only in children but also in their families and wider community. They typically involve key members from a child’s family and the community as well as local leaders.
Because Compassion is committed to sustainable child development, philanthropy projects are always carried out as long-term collaborations with maximum community engagement. With deep roots in their communities, local churches are best placed to identify children’s needs and respond with contextual solutions that change lives and provide empowerment long-term. This is why local community leaders are equipped with the information and skills to drive the implementation of projects and respond confidently to any changes along the way.
The highlight of Virginia’s trip to Kenya was when she met Elizabeth, who was 15 years old at the time. Elizabeth and her twin sister were staying 30 km away with their grandmother when they learned they would be subject to female genital mutilation while they were away from the Compassion centre.
Because of the education they had received, they knew this was not what they wanted, so they fled 30 km through the night back to the Compassion centre—a dangerous journey with wild animals posing a very real risk. They asked the Compassion staff to intervene, which they did successfully, and Elizabeth is now a local advocate against female genital mutilation.
“Visiting the project helped me see how incredibly valuable this sort of extensive education campaign is and will be. I realised that for every girl that doesn’t have to undergo FGM, that means her own children and grandchildren won’t have to. There is a generational impact,” says Virginia.
With strong community investment, philanthropy projects like the education campaign have effects far beyond the physical work, touching all aspects of community life: building the local economy, investing in the community’s skilled workers, and giving children a strong support network as they grow.
Virginia has funded at least six projects over the last decade, and she’s not done yet. In fact, she is currently fundraising for another education campaign focused on eradicating female genital mutilation in Tanzania. Her firsthand experience of sponsoring children and funding projects through Compassion, seeing how the work is carried out by the local staff with good stewardship, diligence and integrity and the significant impact it has on the lives of the entire community means that Virginia hopes to partner with Compassion for years to come.
“That's what's kept me so affiliated with Compassion,” says Virginia. “Seeing the integrity, the really good use of money over here, as well as out there.”
“This tells me that Compassion is very diligent about making sure, even in the field, that money is handled well. And that gave me great confidence that the money I put in has been looked after.”
She believes engaging in philanthropy opportunities by partnering with Compassion will continue to make a difference in the lives of children and families living in poverty around the world. As Virginia discovered, funding a specific project with Compassion results in a true partnership. With updates on the project’s activities and successes through children and staff letters, interviews and photos, alongside a relationship manager who is available to answer questions, it truly is a partnership that works together to make an impact!
While she is looking ahead at future projects, Virginia strongly encourages anyone interested in philanthropy and looking to partner with Compassion to take the next step themselves. Over the years, she has leveraged professional opportunities and found creative ways to involve others, which has enabled her to make a greater impact.
“I only work three days a week and my husband runs a church. I’m not a wealthy doctor in the way that many are,” says Virginia. “So thinking of creative ways to partner with Compassion means I can still give to bigger projects, with other people, and it’s more than I could do myself as an individual.”
Thinking about all she has seen over the years, the children she has met, the communities she has seen impacted, the people that have come to faith and the lives that have been transformed, Virginia starts to tear up.
“I would say to anybody, don't hesitate. Get involved with Compassion because yes, you will have a temporal impact here, but you will have an eternal impact in heaven.”
You too can partner with Compassion and be a part of a solution more powerful than poverty. You can have an impact in the lives of vulnerable children, both in the present world and in the one to come.
If you are interested in funding a project with Compassion like Virginia, you can find out more about partnership by using the link below. Whether you are interested in women’s empowerment, literacy, child sponsorship or you have another cause you are passionate about, there is something for you at Compassion. Together, let's make a significant impact!
Alternatively, you can make a one-time donation today to a cause you are passionate about. When you give a donation to a Critical Need, your gift is not only tax deductible in Australia but also gives a child living in poverty life-saving support. Poverty leaves children without any safety net or protection, so when unforeseen circumstances arise, there is often little hope for recovery. You can give an online donation today and make a significant impact!
To claim a tax deduction at the end of the financial year, all you need to do is keep an eye on your email. Your receipt for your tax return will be emailed to you by our friendly team.
Words by Sidhara Udalagama.
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