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Mamaroneck Boutique Helps Benefit Children In Need

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Just $45 pays for a child in Zambia to go to elementary school for one year, a message Rye resident Sue Skaf hoped to spread to local residents during a benefit for children's charities Thursday night at Mamaroneck boutique Brigit.

Brigit, on 323 Mamaroneck Ave., benefited Children of the Ganges, which gives street children in India a school to go to and a daily hot meal, and the American Friends of Cecily's Fund.

Skaf, originally from the UK, is the director and development officer for the 501(C)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to sending Zambian children orphaned by AIDS to school. Today, there are 1.2 million orphans in Zambia, due to the prevalence of HIV and AIDS. More than one in seven adults is living with HIV and the life expectancy is just 39 years in Zambia, according to the 2010 UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS epidemic.

"The main thing, besides raising money, is raising awareness," said Skaf, whose daughter attends Rye Neck Middle School. "Even if people don't give any money, it gets them thinking about it. There's a whole generation of kids who have been left behind."

While Thursday's charity event benefited the nonprofit, in addition to Children of the Ganges, Skaf brings post cards, dolls and other items made by the people of Zambia to the Mamaroneck boutique throughout the year. Breda Leahy, owner of Brigit, donates 67 percent of those proceeds to the American Friends of Cecily's Fund.

The Cecily Fund was originally founded in the UK in 1997 when Cecily Eastwood, a 19-year-old student at the time, went to Zambia to teach in an international school and work with orphans. Eastwood tragically died in a car accident and her parents established the fund in her name to benefit the children whose lives she worked to improve.

In 2006, Skaf, who had babysat for Cecily, helped start the American Friends of Cecily's Fund, which is now helping close to 10,000 Zambian orphans get an education. The nonprofit now operates its own school in Lusaka, Zambia's capital, that serves 700 students through fourth grade. The building also houses a health center, a counseling center and a trade center, where children can learn a trade.

The rest of the children attend the government-run schools, which the fund pays for. A crucial part of the aid, funneled through other nongovernmental organizations in Zambia, is that the fund makes a commitment to each child they help reach 12th grade.

Another statistic Skaf told residents is that $25 a year can pay for midday meals for one of those 700 students at the Bwafwano School, and $90 can pay for a whole year of high school.

Leahy, a Mamaroneck resident, opened Brigit in Nov. 2010 on 323 Mamaroneck Avenue with a vision of empowering women artisans, as well as those in need. The boutique features handcrafted items by women artists from Mamaroneck to Morocco.

Leahy held a similar event for the American Friends of Cecily's Fund in June 2011. Thursday's event featured a silent auction, and a performance by world-renowned Flamenco artist Cristobal Cintron of the band Los Cintron. Los Cintron, along with Yoko Ono and Third Eye Blind, are featured on "Occupy This Album," to benefit the Occupy movement.

For more information or to make a donation, visit the American Friends of Cecily's Fund website.  Donations can also be made to The Greater Good.

Check back with The Daily Mamaroneck when we take a look at Children of the Ganges, another charity that benefited from Thursday's event.

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