We are often told a similar story of Africa over and over again; poor and helpless individuals who need our help to make change happen. But that has not been our experience. Let us introduce you to Esther Kanu. Esther is a native of Sierra Leone, a country that saw one of the world's worst civil wars and left the nation in ruins. In the midst of that war, community leaders came forward, without the assistance of any international donations or support, to make a difference. One of those leaders was Esther. Esther is a survivor herself. After experiencing the horrors of female genital mutilation, poverty, forced marriage, and war, she dedicated herself to a mission: that no young woman in Sierra Leone should have to face the life Esther had. And with that mission, in the middle of a civil war, Esther started a school called the Women in Action Development Project designed to provide young women and girls in Sierra Leone with an opportunity to go to school, learn trade skills, and find employment. Twenty years later, her school is still in operation, surviving past the civil war to help reintegrate a whole generation of youth who grew up in the middle of conflict. Esther's school now has an annual enrolment of 250 girls and nearly a thousand graduates, some of whom have returned as teachers.
Far from the typical story. Esther's project was started without any international assistance, continued during a time of conflict when most international organizations left Sierra Leone, and would likely continue into the future without us. We recognize the amazing partner a community leader like Esther would make in making even greater changes happen in a country like Sierra Leone. What would a courageous and visionary person like her could do with a source of international funding? That's the question we asked when founding Esther's Echo.
Our slogan "Telling a Different Story of Africa", and the importance of telling stories like Esther's, is inspired by the TED talk "The Danger of the Single Story" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.