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Universal Promise - Purnell Legacy Fund

When Purnell closed its doors in 2021, alumnae were searching for a way to continue the unique legacy of Purnell. They chose to partner with Universal Promise, a 501(c)3 founded by former faculty member Martha T. Cummings (1980-85). The partnership is based on a simple, sustainable idea: that buying children required school uniforms and shoes allows them access to quality education and a means by which to change their own lives. 


Click here to join the growing list of alumnae, staff, and and friends who have already funded necessary school uniforms, which include a shirt, a tie, a sweater, pants/skirt, socks, and shoes -- as well as an infusion of confidence, dignity, and upgrades schoolwide. 

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An Addo Primary School student in her new uniform


In 2023, after having funded 75 school uniforms for a high school in rural South Africa, Universal Promise and Purnell alumnae launched a new uniform drive at a primary school of 1,000 children. These students (K - 7) live in a remote community hampered by 70% unemployment. As a result, at least 200 children do not have school uniforms, which leads to ridicule, shame, school absences, poor performance, and increased drop-out rates. 


A uniform changes everything. One child reduced his stuttering issue by 90% after putting on his new items. Another child's mother wept knowing she no longer had to choose between her child's education and food. Furthermore, when children are properly outfitted, school enrollment often increases dramatically, rising by at least 20% and at times even 50% in the first few years.

A new school uniform and shoes cost roughly 41¢ per day for a year, and you may fund any or all of the cost.  If you are able to fund an entire uniform, you will receive a thank-you video from the child directly to you. Students (and guardians) appreciate the chance to thank those who supported them, their families, and their communities. That is Ubuntu: a stunning philosophy that focuses on humanity.


Purnell alumnae are doing for South African children what Purnell did for them: instilling confidence by valuing and nurturing the uniqueness of each student. As of March 2024, Purnell alumnae, staff, and friends have funded 82 school uniforms and shoes for children in Grades K - 12.  Click here to join the growing list of alumnae, staff, and friends and to see the new students for whom we are trying to raise funds. Thank you.

When one of the Pingry cleaning staff discovered a trove of brand new Purnell sports uniforms in a closet, Donna Martin knew just who to call.

      The beautiful athletic uniforms were donated to Universal Promise. They were hand-delivered in July '23 to UP's netball and soccer athletes in South Africa. This photo shows the girls all suited UP for a weekend netball tournament. The principal said they are "looking sharp and feeling proud." 


Please note, the sports uniforms are unrelated to the ongoing school uniform drive.


Two Purnell alumnae -- Bonner Boynton '91 and Bridget Reilly '91 -- joined Martha Cummings on a volunteer trip to South Africa from July 22 to August 2, 2023. Along with other volunteers, they visited schools that were working with UP. A highlight of the trip was visiting Sandisulwazi High School, where over 30 students had recently been outfitted in new school uniforms and shoes, courtesy of Purnell uniform legacy fund donations!

Want to buy a uniform for a South African student? Click here. 


Students smile about their new solar-powered lanterns, which will allow them to study at night! 

One of the most heartwarming moments of the trip was when the Purnell crew visited a classroom donated in honor of Head of School Bill Moran. Donations came from former Purnell faculty and friends, who wanted Bill's legacy as a leader to be memorialized through the education of tomorrow's leaders. Bill had the ability to see potential in every Purnell student who came through the doors of Main, and UP and Purnell alumnae are continuing that recognition of potential through their collaboration. 

Bridget's long hair was a source of fascination for many of the younger students! 

UP volunteers brought 20 laptops from the US to South Africa for the installation of a new computer lab at one of their partner schools. 

The volunteer group had the opportunity to visit multiple schools that collaborate with UP. Here, primary school students are learning the basics of yoga, which they love! 

Bridget poses with students who received uniforms as part of Purnell's uniform fund donations!

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