Soma International: Our Coronavirus Pivots
The second week of March, 2020, the whole world was met by a surprise. We discovered that coronavirus had reached U.S. soil. We had just become an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We were working on establishing an official Virginia Tech chapter for Soma International. Our Virginia Tech chapter grew from having two members to having 11 members. Coronavirus was the wrench in all of our plans. We had to replan, quickly, and save our organization direction. We had to quickly pivot and throw many new ideas at the wall.
Previously, we had many events in the works in order to spread the word about Soma and to recruit. We had originally been planning to have a book drive event which would “announce us” to the community, as well as our first debut at the 61st Annual International Street Fair in Blacksburg, Virginia. Our original goal for 2020 was to construct a new rural learning center this year, as a result of the new developments, we had to push the new construction to 2021.Thanks to the extraordinary efforts of our hard working teams in our fundraising, social media, events, graphic design and videography departments, we put together a last minute April Fundraiser. Using sponsored ads on social media, as well as posting fundraising bingo boards on our Facebook and Instagram stories, Soma raised over $1,296.63. Our online fundraiser showed us the extraordinary power of communities coming together during a crisis to make a difference.
Due to increased availability, our Board of Directors were able to work together more often and figure out the logistics behind running a nonprofit. Cecilia focused on creating our department structures. Pranay, Emily, Mohamed and Cecilia worked alongside the Virginia Tech Consulting Team to create Soma’s business plan. The team was also able to meet with Bharat Thakkar, the owner of a company called Bizfhit. Thanks to Bizfhit’s input, Soma was able to gain constructive feedback and insight into how to enhance ourselves as an organization. Board members also received valuable feedback on how to revamp our website and social networks.
Currently, Cecilia is working with Eric Diogun from http://bizfhit.com/ on updating our website and logos, and creating a cohesive, professional brand style guide for Soma International. Since small agencies like ours were impacted during the pandemic, established companies offered to share their business knowledge. For Soma, this partnership with Bizfhit has been invaluable.
We are currently working on recruitment for the core of Soma International’s organization. We have enlisted new members through Linkedin, Handshake, and networking. If it wasn’t for COVID-19, we would not have found some members that we have today. The first new member we onboarded was Sean Gillon; he assists with grant proposals, legalities and insurance information. Second was Anamaria Ramirez, who will create educational programs to meet the needs of the Tanzanian people in our learning centers. Third, Min Moschopoulos, will assist in research and grant writing. We also welcomed Olivia Squirewell, who is our new recruiter. We have already grown to over 20 members – and as we keep growing, anything is possible!
A special recognition goes to our Virginia Tech Intern Officers. Since classes became virtual, they assisted us with focusing on the brand of the organization of Soma International. When Soma VT becomes a structured organization, they will become their own entity. Some students will solely serve in Soma VT Chapter, while others may contribute as interns, as well.
The isolation that coronavirus brought to our community gave us the opportunity to become stronger. We’ve come together in a whole new way to keep supporting youth in Tanzania, even during this global crisis. Over the past few months, we’ve hit our bumps in the road and dealt with surprises around every corner. But looking, we came together to support the cause of Soma International. We have been able to support one another like never before. As we became more online-based, we utilized new methods of communication, such as Zoom, Google Meet, Slack and GroupMe. We utilized GroupMe to chat between all departments, and Slack is used between the board of directors and the Soma International core members. Lastly, we used WhatsApp to Communicate internationally with Cornel Luambano, our learning centers’ Project Manager in Tanzania. Cornel currently evaluates each learning center to collect information as to what needs to be completed at the learning centers. We also utilize WhatsApp to communicate with lawyers.
Most importantly – we have given people a cause to care about in this time of uncertainty. This is the most priceless gift. We want to thank every individual who has donated to us during this time. We are grateful. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to recruit new members, work together, revamp our social networking structure, create our own branding guide, as well strategize new plans for the upcoming year. Thank you, supporters of Soma, and stay tuned for more updates over the next few months!
Knowledge Is Boundless
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Writer: Sadie Andersen, M. Cecilia Silva Montoya
Editors: Mackenzie Hyde, M. Cecilia Silva Montoya