Welcoming the New Year!
  In this edition....                                    
  • News and Updates
    • A Letter from Our President 
    • MURC's Legacy -- Moving Forward Together
    • Making a REAL Difference: Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives
  • Recognizing Our Members
  • Member Moment - Five Q&A by Rich Berkley
  • Community Service
  • Announcements
  • A Thought 
  • Give to Change Lives
  • Meeting Information
A Letter from our President
Dear Members,
 I am honored to be the President of this small and mighty club.  
2021 took many twists and turns, including an unexpected turn that led me to be the MURC President.  In the short time in this role, I have seen just how strong this club and its members are.  I have seen members step up and accomplish great things in a short period.
John and Carol S., your work on community service has helped bring members of the club together. 
I have joined members at the Simpson Food Pantry, where Jeff and Cheryl, the food shelf's managers, continue to be impressed with how hard the group works and how fast we get the work done. 
I saw the club quickly rally around one of our newest members, Rich, at the food pantry, Our Village Reunion, where he volunteers, and support it financially and with MURC volunteer hours.
Jean and Rich, you had your work cut out for you managing the club's finances and the global grants that Sandyand Jerry are sponsoring.  We have a number of global projects underway, and more in the works for the new year. 
Thank you, Lori, for the fantastic work on this Newsletter.  Cristina, our guest speakers continue to blow me away. 
Carrie, our president-elect, Erik, our recent past president, Carol C-H., and Mahmood, your expertise, support and dedication are appreciated.  And all those I did not mention by name, thank you for being members; our club would not be the same without each of you.
Our club continues to figure out ways to have the most significant impact, and I know with our members' big hearts, we will continue to do great things!
I look forward to getting to know all of you better in 2022!
-- Erin Bagniewski
MURC's Legacy --
Moving Forward Together
            MURC's Reach Around the World
From the Editor, Lori Simpson
The dots on this map represent places where MURC has sponsored projects over its amazing 31 years.  These projects include educational aid in Africa, maternal care in Jerusalem, village improvements in India, food help and more at home, AIDS relief in Costa Rica, eye and hearing care in Mexico, and so much more. 
We are privileged to be a part of this legacy of improving people's lives at home and in far-away places. 
As we start the new year, there is more to do.  Let's build on MURC's strong and mighty foundation and move forward together to make a difference in our communities and in the world.  Let's do more good things in 2022.
Making a REAL Difference: 
Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives
by Tsehai Wodajo, MURC Member and REAL Founder and Executive Director,
and Kathleen Coskron, REAL Board Vice-President

REAL — Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives — was founded by our member, Tsehai Wodajo, 18 years ago. Tsehai knew that education would change the lives of Ethiopian girls because that is what happened in her own life. Tsehai knew if she could help make it possible for Ethiopian girls to stay in school beyond the elementary grades and make it possible for them to graduate from high school, they would not marry at fourteen. Tsehai knew if she helped girls go to university, they would not experience the risks of early childbirth, the leading cause of death worldwide for adolescent girls.  She knew the girls could have drastically improved lives if they stayed in school, making it possible for them to achieve their potential.

The REAL Program

The REAL program employs a simple idea that was carefully structured to help the most deserving girls, and to ensure each girl's success while she is part of REAL and in her life beyond the program. 

At each REAL site, a committee of local adults meet to select 20 deserving and disadvantaged girls for the program based on family need (most have lost at least one parent, some both).  The girls are in grades six to 12 and the program works with an existing school.

For each girl in the program, a mentor is assigned and meets regularly with the girls, both as a group and individually, to provide academic, social, and financial counseling. Each girl and her family receive a stipend of the equivalent of $30.00 per month. The family receives a portion of the stipend to encourage them to let their daughter stay in school (rather than marrying early). Each girl receives a portion of the money to cover school supplies, school fees and, perhaps most importantly, a portion, 65 Ethiopian birr (about $3.45), must be deposited in the bank account each girl opens as a requirement of the program. The goal is to give the girls practice in saving money for the future and also to help them build a nest egg for their use when they graduate from high school, and in most cases, go on to university. 

The program has been a great success. REAL has served more than 450 girls, including 165 girls currently in the program. Tsehai glows when she talks about the girls—this one a midwife, that one a nurse, several engineers, and all asking how they can help, how they can give back.  

REAL girls reading a letter from their sponsor.
Below: These three REAL graduates were awarded scholarships to study in India. Mihiret T. (left) has a three-year scholarship to study biotechnology, biochemistry, and genetics. Mihiret N. (center) will study software engineering for the next four years.  Liya B.'s four-year scholarship is for geospace engineering. 
One Young Woman's Story
Seble H., says: "Starting from grade  fourth up to university, I was living with my aunt who has eight children. It was very difficult. Very much! You know what, in the large family the only one to feed the whole family was my aunt’s husband.
But soon after when I became a student of grade six, things changed. Life become better and better. That was because I got the chance to be sponsored for the six years by REAL. OMG!  It was a miracle for me. It saved me. Now I became confident, I can ask what I want for school. Even when I joined university, it was REAL’s money that I saved for six years which helped me to buy different things like [a] blanket and other things.
You know one thing, if I was not having REAL’s support, it was clear that I [would] quit my education, I [would] become hopeless. REAL gives me a second birth. Yeah, it tells me who I am and who I will be."

Seble graduated with a B.A. in Psychology in 2017 and worked as an assistant teacher in the School of Tomorrow. In 2019 she became the REAL In-Country Manager.

The Girls are Changed Forever, and the Men Are Changed, Too

Tsehai named the organization Resources for the Enrichment of African Lives, and not African Girls, because Tsehai knew the power of education radiates beyond the lives of the individual girls. “Even the men are changed,” Tsehai says. In one REAL site the elders of the community—all men—now say that education for girls is worth it. Tsehai says that eighteen years ago, girls were not even on the elder's radar, and now they are so proud of them! Now, REAL communities, led by men, want to grow the program.  Communities have seen the transformation in girls and young women in the REAL program, and how education allows them to realize their potential, which uplifts not only the young women, but also their families, communities, and country.

Tsehai travels to Ethiopia yearly to visit the sites to meet with local committees and mentors, and to offer counsel and encouragement. She also conducts on-going training sessions with mentors and in 2012 established the position of In-Country Manager who works with all the mentors and communicates regularly through Tsehai with the REAL Board of Directors in Minnesota, who are unpaid volunteers. 

REAL's Future

18 years after the first REAL site was established in Nedjo, Ethiopia, there are nine successful REAL locations in central and western Ethiopian. REAL's goal is for the program to become self-sustaining in the towns where it is now flourishing, and to grow the program. Tsehai is currently in conversation with three groups interested in bringing REAL to new communities. In the longer term, REAL plans to expand into underserved rural areas in other parts of East Africa. 

REAL will celebrate International Women's Day virtually on March 19th, 2022, from 9-11a.m. with presentations analyzing the evolving conflict in Ethiopia and its effect on REAL girls, their families, and their futures. This will also be an online fundraising opportunity.  You can get more information about this event and sign up for it after January 1, 2022, at the link below.

The success of the REAL concept proves again the truth of Margaret Mead's famous assertion: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." A dedicated, small group of people supported REAL, and Tsehai and REAL extend the opportunity to support REAL to everyone. Click the link below to learn how.

Well done, Mark and Erin!

MURC Member Mark Ritchie, President
of Global Minnesota, was "proud to be honored as 
Supporter of the Year by Minnesota Africans United." 

MURC President Erin Bagniewski, who recently received a Master of Arts degree in Comparative and International Development Education from the University of Minnesota, has accepted a position in business consulting.  In her new role, she'll be responsible to perform functional assessments of business processes and will advise as to how to merge multiple organizations into a well-functioning single organization.  



Five Q&A by Rich Berkley  

1. You're very involved in helping people in need in our communities.  What  organizations do you support?
I work with Power of People Leadership Institute, FreedomWorks, Boys of Hope, Our Village Reunion food pantry, and Memorialize the Movement.
2.  What leads you to choose a particular organization
to support?
I choose to work with an organization if it aligns with my mission. I like organizations that empower people to better their lives while also giving back. 
3.  Tell us about the prison aftercare program you work with.  
I have worked with rehabilitation/prison aftercare programs for almost two years, including FreedomWorks.  I help mentor guys who are coming out of prison. There is a high rate of guys going back to prison, so we help with resources and support to change their lives. 
I teach a financial literacy class because that is a huge reason a lot of guys go back to prison; a lot of the men were dealing drugs or in other illegal businesses before prison, so they are used to quick money.  As they get out of jail, they do not have great job prospects, and without options or support many go back to their former activities in order to support themselves.  With some financial education and other support, some men can see themselves, for the first time, having a life that does not include drugs and other illegal activities. 
I do this work because my birth dad struggled with these problems, so I know firsthand how it impacts people's lives and the lives around them.  Our country does an awful job rehabilitating people after prison.  If we focused on this as a country, so many problems would be fixed.  
4.  What are one or two things, large or small, that if done by individuals, would change lives in our community?
If people volunteered their time in a community where they do not live, I think it would change everything.  Many people donate to a cause but do not actually go help in person.  Giving money is easy and doesn't take effort.  But we cannot just throw money at problems and hope they go away.  We need people to be involved in these programs for them to work well. 
Also, people are disconnected from what's happening outside their community.  If people went to low-income spaces, and engaged with people, a lot of the discrimination and misconceptions would go away because we would be able to see people in need as actual people, with real everyday lives and families and struggles, and not just as statistics, or some distant problem that does not affect everyone.  
5.  What do you do professionally now, and what do you see yourself doing in the future?
I am a financial advisor.  This profession allows me to pick my own schedule which allows me to do everything I do in the community, so I plan to continue in it.  Also, it allows me to help people become financially literate and free.
MURC Members Help Distribute Food at Our Village Reunion at First Covenant Church on Dec. 4, 2021
What's Happening in January and February --
Everyone is Welcome -- Please Join Us
  • What:    Setting up and distributing food to families
  • Where:  Our Village Reunion at First Covenant Church at 810 S 7th St, Downtown Minneapolis
  • When:   Saturday, Jan. 8th, 10:00 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • What:    Stocking food on shelves in food pantry
  • Where:  Simpson Food Pantry at 2740 1st Ave S, Minneapolis
  • When:   Friday, Feb. 4th, 9 a.m. to noon 
Questions?  Contact Carol at
cskulst@msn.com for parking and other information
---MURC's Virtual Food Drive is going on now---
Thank you to MURC members and friends who, with matching donations, have raised nearly $9,000 to-date and the food drive will continue throughout 2022.  
The Food Group received a matching-funds challenge from the Luther Automotive Group; donations made now through the end of 2021 will be matched up to $75,000. 
Please give if you can. 


---Follow MURC on our LinkedIn page---

Be a MURC ambassador; watch for new weekly posts and share them with others.


---MURC Board Members Elected for Rotary Year July/2022 through June/2023---
The following Board Members were elected during the Dec. 15th, 2021, all-member Club Assembly meeting:
Carrie McGhee
Immediate Past President
Erin Bagniewski
Club Treasurer
Mike Nation
Carol Cline-Hedblom
Rotary Foundation Chair
Jean Westberg
Membership Chair
Erik van Kuijk
Community Service Co-Chair
Carol Skulstad
Community Service Co-Chair
John Bantle
Public Image / Public Relations Chair
Club Service Chair
Lori Simpson
Club Foundation Co-Treasurer
Jean Westberg
Club Foundation Co-Treasurer
Rich Berkley
Program Chair
Cristina Czaia
World Service Chair / Foundation Chair  
Mahmood Zaidi
Carol Cline-Hedblom 
Member-at-Large (Foundation)

"Life is short" really means
"do something."
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

   Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian writer
  whose works include novels, short stories, and nonfiction.


                    If you wish to donate to

                    The Rotary Foundation (Rotary International)

                    click here.


              MURC has a goal of having each member contribute each year.

            If you choose to give, please open an account and
     choose the Annual Fund
                 so that your donation is counted toward 
       MURC's contribution goal.
                   If you wish to donate to
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                     Service Foundation,
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 We are a small and mighty group of local professionals and we   are part of a global network of 1.2 million Rotarians.
 We meet Wednesdays, noon-1:15 p.m.  During the COVID-19   pandemic, club meetings are held online via Zoom.  To join our   meeting and receive the Zoom link, email us at   mplsunivrotary@gmail.com.
Newsletter Editor
Lori Simpson
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