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Stars Foundation invests in organisations and ideas that transform the lives of disadvantaged children and their communities globally.

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In Focus

Posted by: Muna on 11 Feb 2014
in Blog, In Focus

Welcome to our new website! As you browse our site I hope you will enjoy reading more about Stars and our team – it has been quite a journey!

In fact, that journey is to be the focus of this, my first blog for Stars. It also happens to be the first of our 'In Focus' series, where we tell the story behind one of our many incredible photographs taken through the years.

The beginning

Since I joined Stars Foundation in 2002, we have gone from one employee (me) to a team of 12.

We’ve supported the work of 58 outstanding charities helping to improve the lives of children in 24 different countries.

Our flagship programme, the Stars Impact Awards was once just open to local NGOs in Africa. Now, we are open to eligible NGOs in 100 countries. And we are expanding our horizons to take on entirely new areas of work, like Game-Changing Initiatives.

The photo

The image you see on this blog – and on our homepage – was taken in 2008 on my assessment visit to SIDAREC in Kenya. The organisation went on to become our 2008 Impact Award winner for Education.

As the sole staff member at the time, I undertook the assessment visits to shortlisted organisations for the Awards in both 2007 and 2008.

This particular photo was taken in Mukuru kwa Jenga slum. I remember pushing the metal gate open and suddenly being surrounded by children shouting "How are you?" and "Muzungu," wanting to shake my hand. At SIDAREC, I was able to see some of the essential Early Childhood Development (ECD) services being provided to children living in the slum.

What happened next

With the unrestricted funding it received, SIDAREC expanded one of its centres to double the number of children that could visit, extended its ECD programme and invested some of the money to strengthen its financial position.

As SIDAREC grew in organisational strength and programmatic diversity, so did Stars. In 2009, when the Impact Awards expanded to Asia, we hired two Programme Officers and my role then became one of overseeing the integrity of the Awards selection process.

Over time, I have had to step further away from the day-to-day operations of our programmes and the regular contact with our Award winners. This shift is only natural in a growing organisation of course, but recently I have found myself reflecting on that change.

While I continue to visit our Award holders, last year travelling with our founder across Africa, there is something immensely satisfying in having regular contact with Award winners and feeling close to and involved in their work. I still miss it.

Stars' growth

That time on the ground gave me a clear understanding of the challenges and considerations our Programmes Team faces in delivering our work. This has been of such value to me, particularly as we begin to implement our ambitious growth plan, including:

  • Addition of the WASH Award category;
  • Expansion to Latin America and the Caribbean;
  • Launch of a pilot programme with Global Fund for Children UK Trust;
  • A record number of external partners whose funding is passed on without deduction to Award winners;
  • Stars’ first public-facing campaign, Fund the Front Line, which raised more than US$360,000 and was supported by Pears Foundation, Charities Aid Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation;
  • Our move into multilateral policymaking, advocating for more responsive and empowering donor behaviour;
  • The findings of our first independent assessment into the impact of the Awards programme which we will soon be releasing; and
  • Our target of reaching 20 million people by 2020.

We've come a long way since that photo was taken in a Kenyan slum in 2008. We are doing the work with the same passion and commitment. The only difference is there are a few more of us now to help reach our ambitious goals.

And that seems like a very good thing indeed.