Vicki Marsha Uniforms: Long-distance assistance

Vicki Marsha Uniforms: Long-distance assistance

How does a California school uniform supplier help children in war-ravaged Nigeria? By tapping into its surplus inventory — and the power of global connections.

Last year, Elizabeth Cologne was flipping through a copy of Smithsonian magazine when she came across a piece detailing efforts by the American University of Nigeria (AUN) to rescue and educate young women looking to evade the Boko Haram terrorist group. “I read the story about Dr. Margee Ensign, the president of AUN,” Cologne says. “It consumed my waking thoughts for days.”

She decided to turn those thoughts into action and contacted her brother, Tim Cologne, co-owner of Vicki Marsha Uniforms, a Huntington Beach, California, school uniform wholesaler. Tim noted that the company had surplus uniforms in its warehouse and quickly agreed to donate them to AUN.

AUN is based in Yola, a city in northeastern Nigeria. For the past decade, that part of the country has been a battleground between Boko Haram and the Nigerian army and local police. Thousands of civilians have died in the conflict, and others have been driven from their homes. The education system has been torn apart — more than 1 million children have no schools to attend. And according to Amnesty International, approximately 2,000 women and girls have been abducted by Boko Haram since the beginning of 2014, with many targeted because they were attempting to attend school.

AUN has bravely stepped into the danger zone, sending tutors into remote areas and providing basic literacy education in Yola and other cities in the region. It has launched a literacy project using notebook computers and local Wi-Fi networks and created a refuge for young women on its main campus in Yola. Ensign says that teaching them to read and do simple math will improve their job prospects and help keep them out of the clutches of the recruiters for terrorist groups. And as for the uniforms, they’re an important part of helping provide the young women with a much-needed sense of community.

The next step: Find a company willing to ship 1 ton of uniforms to AUN. After checking with several suppliers, Tim Cologne connected with FedEx, which agreed to airlift the uniforms. “At FedEx, we take global citizenship very seriously and continually look for ways to make responsible and resourceful connections,” says Nathalie Amiel. “We were happy and proud to help with such a unique and well-deserved effort.”

Ensign is extremely grateful for the donation. “It’s wonderful,” she says. “The first group of children to receive the uniforms will be those in our Feed and Read program.”

Meanwhile, the Colognes are thrilled that the uniform donations can help AUN and support Ensign’s work. “I wanted to work for her in any capacity possible,” says Elizabeth. “Whatever I can do for her cause might free up some of her time, so she can go out and do more great things.”

To learn more about AUN and its foundation, go to

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  1. Shondra TurnerMarch 24, 2016

    It is a wonderful thing that you have started. The uniforms and the efforts that you have put into this awesome gift is great. Congrats to the Colognes and everyone who took part in this journey. Bravo ZULU All!!!!

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  2. Shuichi SATOMarch 24, 2016

    FedEx delivered the surplus uniforms and the dream at the same time.
    I’m very happy to know that

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  3. DELAINA RAYMarch 24, 2016


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  4. Shirley TalleyMarch 25, 2016

    WoW! I am so grateful that we live in a land with freedoms, generous businesses and creative and loving family and friends that are moved to find solutions to major worldwide problems. Kudos to all involved: Elizabeth Cologne, the Colognes at Vickie Marshall Uniforms, Dr. Margee Ensign, and Fed Ex. Also I want to offer strong wordsof encouragement to the teachers, staff and students in those schools so under siege!

    Shirley Talley – Co-President AAUW Arizona
    AAUW has been empowering women both nationally and internationally 1881 .

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  5. Jacqueline WatsonMarch 25, 2016

    This kindness is what make me proud to work for FedEx. They are always willing to help a wonderful cause. Please continue to let the employee know what we are doing as a company. Bravo Zulu.

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  6. Nita MckayMarch 25, 2016

    I love how she put her thoughts into action! Bravo

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  7. Uwakwe AgboMarch 28, 2016

    This is corporal works of mercy done out of love and mercy, you can clearly see the miracle hands of God in every step until the uniform was delivered. For all you who allowed God to use as a vessel in this mission, the Good Lord will always meet you at the point of your needs – “I was naked and you cloth me”

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  8. Margee EnsignMarch 28, 2016

    All of us at AUN and the children in the community are so grateful. Now these children–who are both orphans and from families who are internally displaced, and who are not in school, say they are going to “school” when they wear their uniforms. Our deepest thanks to the Colognes and FedEx. Thanks to all, Margee Ensign

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  9. Josie RobertsApril 1, 2016

    Awesome story!! Its stories like this that needs to be on our daily news versus all the negativity that is broadcasted daily. Kudos to the Cologne family and Margee who saw the need to help and did just that with the help of FedEx. It makes me “PROUD” to work for a company that shows compassion for others who are in need.

    God bless you all !!

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  10. Elizabeth CologneApril 7, 2016

    Thanks to everyone at Fed Ex and Dr.Doug Barry at Conover Gould, and the entire staff at Vicki Marsha Uniforms. This was a team effort. A.U.N. and Dr. Margee Ensign are doing amazing things.

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  11. Sadanand ShirkeApril 9, 2016

    Application of knowledge and skills for a great cause is really worthy of a salute; especially in the present times of making profits being the aim. Thanks and good luck.

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  12. VirginieApril 19, 2016

    Bravo to all the actors of this wonderful adventure.