Founded by Sol and Robert Price, PriceSmart operates membership warehouse clubs in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. PriceSmart sponsors an annual fundraising campaign to benefit the Aprender y Crecer program. The campaign that took place in November and December 2016 brought in an astounding $1,124,111 through donations from members at the cash registers as well as collection boxes located in each club. Price Philanthropies committed to match these donations dollar for dollar up to a maximum amount for each country yielding an additional $440,000, bringing the grand total raised to $1,564,111.
Aprender y Crecer provides school supplies and educational materials to more than 86,000 students and 4,200 teachers at 180 public schools in Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama. Each student receives a package including everything from notebooks and pencils to scissors, geometry sets, colored pencils and glue. Each teacher receives a package of materials for use in the classroom and the schools each receive a selection of cleaning supplies.
As a point of reference, the Long Beach Unified School District, the third largest public school district in California, has around 78,000 students. Since its inception in 2006, Aprender y Crecer has donated more than 442,000 school supply packages to students.
PriceSmart Senior Vice President of Marketing and Member Services José Luis Marin and his team are instrumental in the planning and execution of the annual campaign. “For me personally and without question, being able to visit one of these schools and see these kids get excited for their new books and supplies is one of the greatest satisfactions of my work here at PriceSmart,” commented Mr. Marin. “Knowing that this program has been able to deliver over 400,000 school supply packages to children is just amazing.”
Donations and matching funds raised in a certain country are invested in the schools participating in Aprender y Crecer in that country, for things outside the regular scope of the program like reading books given to each child, literature collections for the libraries, furniture, equipment, and professional development for teachers. To date, Aprender y Crecer has given more than 279,000 books directly to children, in addition to thousands more books donated to equip school libraries.
Depending on the amount of funds raised, Aprender y Crecer may select additional schools to participate in the program so that more students and teachers receive the basic school supplies necessary for a quality education. At last count 96 of the program’s 180 schools are maintained with fundraising monies.
The amount of money collected is especially significant given the cultures and realities in the countries where the donations are made. Despite the prevalence of these types of fundraising campaigns in supermarkets and other retailers for the benefit of a variety of causes, many people are very skeptical about donating, fearing the money will never reach the intended beneficiaries. In contrast, PriceSmart members are confident their donation will be well utilized because of the reputation of the business, the credibility of the Aprender y Crecer program itself, and the fact that the foundation also contributes matching funds.
Since 2007, the fundraising campaign for Aprender y Crecer has collected nearly $5.5 million in donations from PriceSmart members plus nearly $2.3 million in matching funds from Price Philanthropies. Each year the amount of member donations has grown substantially.
“It is amazing to see the growth that our campaign has had during the last ten years,” said Mr. Marin. “Year after year when our campaign ends I have that mixed feeling of knowing that we exceeded our goals, but also knowing that there is always much more we can do.”