How the MREF is changing the lives of children through education

The mission of the Marketing Research Education Foundation (MREF) is to unify, inspire and activate the marketing research community to help educate children and youth worldwide. The organization raises money to fund projects and seeks to unite researchers from around the world to get involved, whether through teaching, installing computer libraries or simply reading to children. With these efforts, the MREF hopes to transform the lives of children through education and in turn improve the well-being of communities around the world.
Numerous donations and grants given by the MREF have helped children from all walks of life receive a meaningful and fulfilling education. Since its inception in late 2014, the MREF has raised over $60,000 and has distributed all of the money to nonprofit programs.

The Joseph School

The MREF’s proudest achievement is providing support and sponsorship of The Joseph School, a primary school in Cabaret, Haiti, that was founded by marketing researcher Jim Bryson following the 2010 earthquake. The Joseph School opened in 2015 with a class of 30 first-graders and has since grown to 89 students enrolled in three grades, with plans to add a grade each year for the next 10 years. The school hopes to have nearly 400 students eventually attending. The MREF has pledged to support the incoming class of first-graders (the class of 2029) and will pay for the ongoing costs of their education.

The school partners with orphanages and community leaders to find students for the school and help them excel academically and develop a true sense of service. A trilingual curriculum in English, Creole and French is offered to the students to reach those who speak various languages.

Bryson, president of 20|20 Research, said he opened The Joseph School after his pastor asked him to go to Haiti and see what the church could do to help with the orphan crisis following the earthquake.

“The answer seemed to lie in educating future Haitian leaders to lead their country to solve the nation’s problems,” Bryson said. “The solutions were not going to come from the U.S. or the UN or well-meaning aid organizations. True solutions must come from Haitians themselves. But they must be equipped to identify and carry out those solutions.”

Bryson said that as with most Haitian children, the students at The Joseph School are generally poor and orphaned children, while many are from single-parent homes. Along with providing education to these students, the MREF helps fund food for the students, who Bryson said will lose weight when not in school and often return to The Joseph School with signs of malnutrition. Financial contributions to The Joseph School go toward helping hire and retain enough teachers to eventually serve grades K-12. Contributions also go toward developing the new permanent campus, which will sit on 70 acres and include classrooms and playgrounds, a chapel, dining hall, library and utilities for the students.

The work of the MREF and The Joseph School extends beyond education for the children, however, and also focuses on building the surrounding communities. The school has built a 24,000-gallon reservoir to provide clean water to students and the surrounding communities and has built seven homes for families in the community. Through the Joseph School, Bryson hopes that students will become the future leaders who will continue to support the communities of the impoverished nation.

A group of marketing researchers on a mission trip to Haiti.

Every year the MREF recruits client- and vendor-side researchers to embark on a mission trip to Haiti to visit The Joseph School and to serve the communities around Cabaret. This trip has proved to be a valuable and eye-opening experience for those who have participated, including Carl Rossow, who wrote about traveling to Haiti in January 2017 for the Quirk’s e-newsletter. Rossow is co-founder and chief operating officer of Benenson Strategy Group and is a member of the MREF board of directors. He discusses how many of those who traveled to Haiti had their preconceptions altered by the end of the trip.

“Everyone came with their own objectives, ranging from learning more about the struggles and opportunities that exist for the Haitian people, to educating themselves about global philanthropy in developing nations, to exploring a model for philanthropic service and giving,” he wrote in his article. “We came to the table with preconceived ideas about what we would see and the state of philanthropy in Haiti. However, those notions were quickly dispelled. We left Haiti feeling enlightened, knowing more about the country, its people and their needs.”

Steve Schlesinger, CEO of Schlesinger Group and an MREF board member, also traveled to Haiti and discussed the importance of providing support while keeping the Haitian culture alive.

“Don’t take the Haiti out of Haiti,” he said when asked about his biggest takeaway from the trip. “I think as an American, the first thought is to give them the same life I have in the States. That should not be the goal nor is it necessary. The Haitians are happy people and have a wonderful culture that should be embraced and enjoyed. What they do need is support for some of the things that are still a challenge there. The focus should not be to Americanize them, it should be to help support their basic needs around health care, education and basic living needs. It gave me a great appreciation of what should be important in my own life.”

Here in the U.S.

As The Joseph School helps to rebuild Haiti and support the children through education, the MREF continues to provide its support to the school and to kids here in the United States. In 2017, the MREF donated $5,000 to Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow for the third year in a row. Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow’s mission is to help disadvantaged youth and adults recognize their own self-worth and advance toward self-sufficiency and financial security through job training, academic reinforcement, improved life skills, job placement and support services.
A $5,000 grant was also awarded to Children of Promise, an organization that empowers children with incarcerated parents to break the cycle of intergenerational involvement in the criminal justice system. The grant was used for the organization’s after-school program, which provides year-round academic support, hands-on learning, therapeutic services, arts education and physical fitness.
The MREF has also given grants to provide coding classes to train at-risk youth in New Orleans along with grants to an early-learning center in St. Louis and a charter school in Southern California. Within the research industry, the MREF has raised money through The Quirk’s Events in New York and Orange County, Calif., bringing in $15,000 during the 2017 events and pledging to raise $20,000 at the events in 2018.

Continuing the mission

The important work of the MREF is far from over and the organization needs support to continue its mission. Many things can be done to help, from hands-on work to a simple donation or sponsorship. The MREF has four major donor levels to fit any financial budget and the organization offers benefits to help companies market their business.

An MREF Founding Member pledges a $30,000 donation commitment spread out over five years. A Founding Member benefits from donating by having their company logo featured on the home page of the MREF Web site and the logo on the MREF advertisements run in Quirk’s and the Insights Association. They also receive a Founding Member badge and publication of a press release announcing the donation in Quirk’s.

An MREF Advocate provides an annual donation commitment of at least $3,000 and receives their company logo on the donors page of the MREF Web site, an MREF Advocate badge and a press release in Quirk’s. An MREF Partner pledges an annual donation of $1,000, has their name on the donors page of the MREF Web site and receives an MREF Honor Roll badge. An MREF Friend pledges an annual donation of $500 and has their name on the donors page of the MREF Web site. Any other donation amounts are accepted and greatly appreciated by the MREF.

For a more in-depth and hands-on approach, keep an eye out for the next trip to Haiti so you too can learn more about The Joseph School and experience the country, the people and the children that The Joseph School and the MREF are supporting through their work.

It’s imperative that the MREF continue to gain support from researchers to fulfill their mission. While the organization has done a lot to help many kids, there are still many more who can benefit from the MREF’s mission. Support is always needed, as the MREF’s work is never done, and the organization is looking for motivated and talented individuals to help them in their mission.

Please consider donating to and/or participating with the MREF. To donate and learn more about what you can do to help, visit mrgivesback.org or e-mail info@mrgivesback.org.