Born and raised in Vancouver, Priscilla Plummer founded an organization 14 years ago to mentor girls in Africa.
“It sucks to be in deep poverty and it sucks to be a girl in a deeply patriarchal society,” Plummer said. “We help kids know their lives matter. … Then it’s about helping them see their gifts and helping them see possibility.”
Her nonprofit, Global Sojourns Giving Circle, earlier this year received a boost from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust: a $145,000 grant to underwrite an executive director position for three years.
To put that in perspective, Global Sojourns Giving Circle’s total income was about $144,000 in 2020. The program served some 470 children last year, with expenses totaling about $80,000, according to the organization’s 2020 annual report.
Although Global Sojourns Giving Circle is registered in Vancouver and many of the donors are from Washington and Oregon, Plummer lives most of the year in Cape Town, South Africa, her base for the organization’s projects across three countries.
She’s in Vancouver now, as she is most summers. Plummer, 61, returns to stay at her childhood home, renowned for its international hospitality. Her parents, Don and Roberta Plummer, fostered an appreciation of the wider world.
She and her sisters decided to keep the Edgewood Park house in the family after her parents died.
“It has been an open home for friends locally and internationally since I was born,” she said. “We have always hosted people from around the world here. … We’re not ready to let that go. Global Sojourns Giving Circle is about that international community.”
The nonprofit relies on volunteers and donations, and the new executive director, Paul Ventura, will help it drum up both.
Ventura said his job is to free Plummer to focus on the work in Africa and “find a way to connect people here in Vancouver with what’s happening there.”
The nonprofit’s local office is in donated space at the downtown Vancouver financial-planning firm Johnson Bixby. (Owner Heidi Johnson Bixby serves on the nonprofit’s board of directors.)
Global Sojourns Giving Circle provides grants to community-based organizations in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa that mentor youth with a focus on empowering girls.
The clubs show girls that they have opportunities for higher education and careers, that they don’t have to start having babies young and eke by selling fruit at the local market. Each club has the freedom to operate based on where it is and who is running it.
“We are not a top-down organization,” Plummer said. “We listen. We follow.”
With an eye toward fostering gender equality, the nonprofit in recent years has also extended grants to clubs for boys in hopes of eliminating traditional patriarchal beliefs.
“For girls to get gender rights and respect, boys need to learn,” Plummer said.
One of the groups in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, built relationships between mentors and boys through chess. When they couldn’t meet indoors because of the pandemic, mentors paired up with the boys to collaborate outside on a garden that helped feed the community. Even though Africa’s COVID-19 rates were relatively low, places like Victoria Falls that are dependent on tourism were hit hard economically, Plummer said.
She runs a safari company, Global Sojourns, as a companion to the nonprofit.
“I love to help Americans experience Africa,” she said.
Many of those who travel with her are involved with the nonprofit and keen to see its success firsthand.
Change is slow but noticeable, Plummer said. “I have witnessed with my own eyes changes in relationships between boys and girls.”