How One Employee Is Standing With Communities Around the World
At McCormick, part of living our new Purpose is standing with the communities where we work and source, and Juliana Koffa Dixon, Finance Manager – Corporate Financial Planning & Analysis, is a great example of our company’s strong legacy of giving back.
In 1937, a small group of nuns from the US, belonging to the religious order of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM), set sail for Monrovia, Liberia. Their goal? To educate, develop, and support young women and girls to reach their potential, become worthy citizens, and serve their communities. Soon after their arrival, the FMM opened Saint Teresa’s Convent (STC) School, offering young women and girls the opportunity to receive a quality kindergarten through high school education. Juliana is a proud graduate of STC. She came to the US from Liberia in 1987 to study, but when civil war broke out in her homeland in 1989, she was unable to return for fourteen years.
Located on the West African coast, Liberia has a population of about 5 million people. According to UNICEF, 83% of the population lives below the poverty line and 62% of the country’s school age children have no access to primary education. During the civil war, all education stopped, and in 2014, the Ebola epidemic hit the country hard.
The Saints Friskies Alumni Association, where Juliana volunteers and is on the finance committee, works to support the education of girls at STC. A big part of their mission is to raise money for tuition, uniforms, and books. Although girls today are permitted to attend primary and secondary school, most families in Liberia simply cannot afford to send them. In 1941, the Brothers of the Holy Cross USA opened St. Patrick’s High School (SPHS) for boys just 15 minutes from STC. Sharing the same ideals and goals, they quickly became partners and allies. Unfortunately, SPHS was closed in 1996 because of the civil war, but The Saints Friskies Alumni Association (SFAA) is currently rebuilding SPHS to reopen the school for boys.
Most of the fundraising Juliana does works to fund sponsorships – enough money to cover the cost of educating as many girls as possible at STC. Sponsorships can either pay for tuition only or for tuition, uniforms, and books. Individuals, organizations, and corporations can sponsor a student and feel good knowing that 100% of their donation goes directly to those costs. After sharing her story with McCormick CEO, Lawrence Kurzius, the company has donated over $10,000 and has sponsored three students. Juliana, like McCormick, believes that organizations and companies can and do make a difference in the communities where we live and work. The Saints Friskies Alumni Association sees the untapped potential in the youth of Liberia that will enhance communities and our planet.
At the end of each school year, students send their final grades to their sponsors, along with their gratitude. Attending STC is a privilege, so they work very hard to earn good grades to make their sponsors proud. Fortunately, 80% of current annual sponsorships are renewed each year; the remaining 20% that are not are covered by donations. Like all 501 (c)(3) organizations, financial transparency is key to its success and The Saints Friskies Alumni Association prides itself on providing that transparency fully and consistently.
In 2011, Juliana returned to Liberia and visited her alma mater with her then five-year old son, Malachi. By then, STC had grown to 912 students and a lot had changed since she walked its hallways. But some of her teachers are still there, shaping the lives of young Liberian women and girls. Graduates of STC and St. Patrick’s agree, “The teachers who molded our young minds were also our mentors, disciplinarians, tutors, counselors, and coaches. They played an important role in making us the men and women that we are today.”
Juliana is passionate about continuing the legacies of the schools and standing together with other graduates to support the education of children in Liberia. Besides contributions from alumni, family, and friends, corporate donors are also critical to the success of the program. Alumni often work to educate their employers about sponsorship opportunities by sharing stories of the children. “We must remember that we are all where we are today because someone helped us get here,” she believes.
Each Memorial Day weekend, the schools hold a convention to connect graduates with their former classmates, report on progress of the their programs, and make plans for the upcoming academic year, in addition to fundraising through social media and other methods to ensure they can thrive for generations.
Juliana formed lifelong friendships at STC and credits her mathematics teacher, Brother Thomas Dillman, CSC, for inspiring her love of numbers. But it is the foresight, vision, bravery, and selflessness of the FMM nuns more than eight decades ago that she feels most indebted to.
“Their decision to come to Liberia impacted and continues to impact the lives of more Liberians than anyone will ever know. Even during the civil war, when many were fleeing the country, they stayed. Their unwavering commitment to educating youth and creating global citizens remains constant.”
To learn more about The Saints Friskies Alumni Association as they support the education of children in Liberia, please visit: www.stcsphs.org
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