Taking our values abroad: How Raymond James is bringing water and light to the remote villages of Africa

Explore how Raymond James advisors raised $140,000 for Innovation: Africa.

Inspiration strikes

Laura Steckler
Laura Steckler CFP®, CDFA®, CLTC®, CEP®, Senior Vice President, Investments and Managing Director, Investments, Steckler Wealth Management Group

When Raymond James financial advisor Laura Steckler approached the firm’s senior leadership and pitched her idea to turn the 2022 Chairman’s Council trip into a charitable endeavor, she did not anticipate the overwhelming support the idea would receive.

“The big take home for me was when they said ‘Yes, let’s do this,’ with no hesitation,” Laura said. “The firm is large, but the fact that they care about communities not just in St. Pete was meaningful as an advisor. It really drives home our values of giving back.”

Having been introduced to an organization that helps villages in remote regions of Africa and knowing she would be on a Chairman’s Council trip for top-performing financial advisors to South Africa soon, she decided to get Raymond James involved. Laura first connected with Innovation: Africa in 2019 when she was in Israel listening to the CEO of the organization talk at the Tel Aviv stock exchange.

“I believe Chairman’s Council trips should always include a charitable initiative,” she said. “Our approach should be to leave a place better than we found it.”

About Innovation: Africa

Children hold a sign reading " Ehlangwini Village is Grateful" while water spews out next to them.Photos courtesy of Innovation: Africa

Thousands of villages across Africa don’t have access to clean water, which is vital to health, sustainability and the ability to conduct business. Women and children have been particularly impacted by this lack of access to clean water because it is typically their role to gather water from sources that are often miles away. Women and girls are exposed to violence in these regions, so men must often accompany them, affecting their ability to work elsewhere.

Founded by Sivan Yaari in 2008 following her first experience in Africa, Innovation: Africa strives to bring solar, water and agricultural technologies to villages throughout the African continent as well as to schools, medical centers and orphanages. By implementing cutting-edge technologies and resources, they provide the infrastructure required to break the cycle of poverty by introducing energy into communities that would otherwise not have access to it. 

Their goal is to reach rural villages to increase the quality of life for all of the residents, and to complete an additional 1,200 solar and water projects, impacting a total of 10 million people over the next four years.

“It doesn’t take much to help people and we simply provide a solution to a problem that is relatively easy to address. Everyone can do it – by just installing a few solar panels, we can make an immediate and long-term change.”  –Sivan Yaari, Founder and CEO of Innovation: Africa
The Chairman's Council helps to make a difference

When Laura decided to pitch her idea to the members of the Chairman’s Council, they were incredibly receptive and supportive. Launched as an initiative to accompany the trip in 2022, she made a presentation proposing that the firm sponsor a village. Raymond James agreed to match donations up to $50,000.

Upon presenting to the attendees of the trip, the mission resonated with the audience and donations began to pour in. Together they were able to sponsor Ehlangwini Village, raising a combined $140,000 between associate donations and the firm’s match. 

Drilling occurs in the Ehlangwini Village Drilling has already begun, and a water source has been found underground at 120 meters that is capable of supplying a yield of 2.9 liters of water per second, enough to supply clean water to all 3,900 community members according to Innovation: Africa Director of Communications Michal Smith. The project is set to be completed with a dozen water taps throughout the village in early- to mid-2023.

“Seeing the smiles of the faces of the mothers and children as they open the taps full of clean water for the first time is truly priceless,” Michal said. “We know that from now on, their lives will be immediately transformed for the better and we are proud to be working together with Raymond James to make this change.”

A giving mindset

Laura’s involvement with Innovation: Africa began with an idea. 

“It started with a tiny idea in my head and exploded into this incredible reality,” she said.

Laura wants all associates to know that passion for giving can make a huge impact with the help of the firm, and financial advisors are in a unique position to have thoughtful conversations with clients, aligning values with money to reach goals through charitable giving.

“Raymond James upholds a commitment to giving that helps foster long-lasting client relationships while helping communities locally and globally by prioritizing capabilities throughout the firm to help clients achieve their charitable goals,” she said.

Her advice to other advisors looking to take on similar projects is to truly understand all aspects of the organization they want to partner with.

“I encourage people to simply do it,” Laura said. “Don’t be limited by your own ideas of impact and believe that everyone can really make big things happen.”

Learn more about Innovation: Africa at innoafrica.org and contribute to the ongoing Raymond James campaign for Innovation: Africa here: icampaign-innoafrica.org/raymond-james.*

*Note: The total in the above link does not include the Raymond James match nor contributions made by wire donation, stock donation or bank draft. 

Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards Inc. owns the certification marks CFP®, CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, CFP® (with plaque design) and CFP® (with flame design) in the U.S., which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board’s initial and ongoing certification requirements. 

Raymond James Cares

Together, we make a difference to build, strengthen and grow our communities. To learn more about the firm’s corporate philanthropy, click here.

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