Jessie Kuipers first heard of The Esther School at GEMS Leadership Conference in 2013. She was instantly captivated as she listened to Jean Selles, a teacher at the school, talk about what was happening in a village in Zambia.
“I decided I wanted to go to The Esther School while I was at the conference”, Jessie commented, “Joe took a little convincing. But after a year of us talking and talking about it, Joe said, ‘We need to go’.”
Joe and Jessie, along with their children Cecilia, Grace, Sam, and Gabe, began brainstorming their visit to Zambia. The Kuipers knew they had to raise money in order to make it there. But they also didn’t want to come empty handed.
“We started a family business to cover the cost of taking our family to The Esther School. The business was called, “Pinned by Ci,” [read more about “Pinned by Ci” here] and it was all DIY crafts that Cecilia had pinned on Pinterest. About 90% of our items were made out of skids we found and were given.”
For the next year, the Kuipers spent many nights and weekends building coffee tables, bookshelves, benches, chalkboards, and more. Their basement was dedicated to the project, with items and building supplies covering the floor. Every member of the Kuipers family was involved from designing, building, painting, and selling.
“We wanted the money we raised for our family to come from our own labor,” said Jessie, “But we wanted to get others excited about The Esther School. We felt we couldn’t just come to The Esther School; we had to do something.”
The year leading up to their arrival in Nyangwena, the Kuipers decided to raise $20,000 for The Esther School. The family decided on an envelope fundraiser. They made a giant board with pasted envelopes marked from $1-$200.
“Each envelope’s number corresponded with a donation of that amount. Envelope 1 was a gift of $1, envelope 2: a gift of $2, envelop 50: a gift of $50, etc. When you add up all the envelopes together, it equals $20,000,” Jessie explained. “We were originally going to try and raise $10,000 (envelopes 1-150). But Joe did the math one night and said we would only need 50 more people to make it $20,000. So we choose that.”
The Kuipers spent a year making phone calls and speaking in churches and GEMS Clubs. They threw pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners. Three weeks before they came, they needed $2,000 to meet their goal. So, the family set out to the local businesses and shared about The Esther School.
On the day they left, they had raised $22,000 for the school.
The Kuipers family spent two weeks at The Esther School. Joe worked alongside the Zambian men in the Guest House, the children played with the students, and their two oldest, Cecilia and Grace, spent time helping in preschool.
“We’ve been totally impacted,” Jessie reflected. “We’re all going home changed and we’re waiting to see what God is going to do through this trip.”
Read about their experience in their own words at www.kuipersafricanadventures.blogspot.com