Gem Legacy Raises Funds to Send 17 Malawian Orphans Back to School

Gem Legacy, the new nonprofit organization founded by gem cutter Roger Dery and his family to support people in gem-mining communities, went into rapid-response mode recently to raise funds to send 17 Malawian teenage orphans, who had been forced to drop out of school due to financial hardship, back to school.

Gem Legacy announced this week that it successfully raised $2,040.48 to send the teens, who live at the Luzi Children’s Orphanage in Lilongwe, Malawi, back to school through June 2019.

The orphanage had been unable to pay the $75-per-child fees, which totaled $1,275 for the 17 students. And more was needed: The local primary school also requires each student to attend with a uniform, bag, books, pens/pencils, and geometry tools, which totaled $765 for the students.

The fund-raising was done through Gem Legacy’s network of retail jewelers and the nonprofit’s social media network and email database. The money was donated exclusively by individuals, not brands or companies.

The students, who range in age from age 13 to 17, will be returning to school this week after missing more than a month of instruction. The orphanage, school, and kids were waiting (and hoping) that the funds would come in, explains Rachel Dery, Roger’s gemologist daughter and cofounder of Gem Legacy.

“The orphanage had at one time received some minor assistance from a U.S.-based organization, but that ceased many years ago,” she says. “We met the kids and administrators of this orphanage when we traveled to Malawi in May. And with the launch of Gem Legacy, we asked our contacts in East Africa what their needs were. The orphanage immediately responded with this need. All year—and particularly during the time that was passing once the kids had been sent back to school—they had been trying to fund themselves through buying and selling gem rough in Malawi.”

Rachel says she and her family were “overwhelmed by the response” they received from jewelry professionals in their network to a plea for donations she posted on Facebook and Instagram and sent via email.

Almost immediately, she recalls,”we had received over $800, and the rest trickled in that week.”

Initially, each donor selected one of the 17 students to sponsor, and those who donated after the goal was met agreed to having their funds allocated to the school.

“Thanks to the worldwide gem community,” Roger adds, “we’re making education possible for these kids who have already experienced so much tragedy in their young lives.”

Top: One of the 17 Malawian teenage students now back at school (photo courtesy of Gem Legacy)

JCK Magazine Editor