This December marks the first full year of Avallain Foundation operating as a tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)(3) here in the US. This status gave our donors and us the freedom to engage in numerous charitable projects around the world. Thus, 2017 has been a very productive year for Avallain Foundation, with many notable highlights and achievements in spite of the social and political challenges which many of the countries that our projects focus on have faced.

A new project in Kenya

At the beginning of the year, we teamed up with Swisscontact, a foundation for international development based in Switzerland, to bring digital education to the remote Kenyan community of Kakuma and the nearby refugee camp. Labelled “Skills4Life”, our project’s goals are to provide basic literacy, numeracy and digital literacy education to the settled community and the refugee population alike. The project was funded by SDC, the Swiss Development Agency.

To educate such a large number of people with widely varying backgrounds, languages and levels of literacy, we developed both a numeracy and a literacy app with exercises tailored specifically to the needs and experiences of these communities in Kenya. As a result, the a-ACADEMY Skills4Life software is now successfully being used by some 3’000 learners in and around Kakuma.

Spreading a-ACADEMY, Primary School throughout Africa

a-ACADEMY, Primary School is now being used in 6 counties throughout Kenya. We have partnered with several schools in slums and remote areas to provide high-quality education to some of the most underprivileged children in the country. By the end of this year, a-ACADEMY, Primary School has already reached a total of 51’787 children – and this number is set to increase further.

To make sure of that, we have established partnerships with many other organisations such as Nyumbani, Jitegemee and Kenya Connect. Our partnership with Turing Trust has even enabled us to spread a-ACADEMY, Primary School to other African countries such as Malawi and Ghana. We are looking forward to the first success stories from these countries as well.

Monitoring and evaluation ensures success

We are always eager to hear directly from the people we have helped. But we also needed to get the big picture. To this end, in 2017, we carried out a large-scale digital literacy study that aimed at investigating if a-ACADEMY, Primary School improves digital literacy among its users. Unfortunately, because of the turmoil mentioned above, not all schools using the software were able to participate in the study from start to finish.

However, we managed to overcome many of these problems, allowing us to create a representative study of the effects of a-ACADEMY, Primary School. We are happy to say that there is a definite improvement in all digital competency areas among children using a-ACADEMY.

Endorsing the Principles for Digital Development

We believe such monitoring and assessment procedures are necessary, as the success of any digital development project relies on the project being data-driven. This is a concept, which is codified in the Principles of Digital Development, which we officially endorsed later this year. The principles are designed to help charitable organisations create effective – and sustainable – development programmes. We are glad to be able to lend our experience to this effort.

Networking at home

Such cooperation is of immeasurable importance to the kinds of educational projects we engage in. This is also one of the reasons why we hosted a networking event at our regional offices in New York City this year. During the event, we met many of our direct neighbours and other members of the city’s community. In fact, we managed to gain new donors and partners who were very interested in the work we do. The response was so overwhelmingly positive that we are planning to turn this into a yearly event.

Additions to the Board of Directors

2017 has also seen some internal changes to Avallain Foundation. Notably, Dr Alexandra L. Braunstein, MD, has joined us as Vice President of the Board of Directors. “Thanks to my background as a surgeon and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at Columbia University, I hope to be able to help with delivering effective medical education in particular”, says Dr Braunstein. “In many areas of the world, like Kakuma, teaching basic medical knowledge and promoting safe habits is every bit as useful to the community as teaching academic skills”, she notes.

Looking forward to 2018

The year has been very challenging, and we could not have done as well as we did without help, as Miriam Ruiz, Avallain Foundation Executive Director and Secretary of the Board stresses: “In particular, we could not have done it without our Kenyan team. In the face of all the adversities of 2017, including the extended Kenyan election year, they kept delivering high-quality education to some of the most underprivileged children in the country. And of course, we also thank our sponsors and donors, especially Avallain AG who furnishes us with the digital education tools we need to allow people all over the world to realise their full potential.”


Miriam Ruiz