Esther Kanu: Our Community Partner

Esther Kanu.JPG

Esther Kanu is a social entrepreneur and founder of the Woman In Action Development Project in Sierra Leone, Africa. At a young age, Esther was forced into marriage, became a survivor of female genital mutilation and had her first child at 18 years old without the opportunity to complete school.

When Esther was in her twenties, in the midst of a brutal civil war that raged in Sierra Leone from 1991-2001, she founded Women in Action. Her goal was to provide young women with the opportunities for education and skills training that she didn't have when she was younger. Founded February 14th 1996, the school was founded with eight other women through funds raised by community gardens and personal contributions from the founding members. To date, over 1000 girls have graduated from the center in skills such as tailoring, cosmetics, computers, English, math, small business management, and electrical. The school survives on the sales of handicrafts produced by the students, catering contracts, and donations.

Esther continues to live in Sierra Leone as head of Women in Action with her three children.

Matthew Cimone: Founder/CEO

Matthew Cimone.jpg

Matthew Cimone is a graduate of the International Development Studies Program at University of Toronto. As a youth, all he wanted to do was explore and do good in the world. On one of these adventures, he found himself in Sierra Leone where he met Esther Kanu. 

Matthew has worked with several large International organizations including Right to Play and Free the Children. Matthew is an accomplished public speaker having spoken to over 50,000 people about the need to shift our thinking of development to focus on community leaders like Esther. He has also done extensive research on how to design youth engagement programs that foster a sense of global awareness in young people. 

In his spare time, Matthew can be found on his telescope or working on his documentary film "Chasing Atlantis" exploring the retirement of the space shuttle program. You can also find him on his personal site at 

Micaela Roughton: Board of Directors

Micaela Roughton.jpg

In 2009 Micaela Roughton founded Homes of Joy, a non-profit organization formed to support orphans of HIV and AIDS in Lusaka, Zambia. Following the success of her own project, Micaela was asked to join the board of directors for Esther's Echo to help guide and direct the organization's mission. Micaela is a graduate of the African Studies program at the University of Toronto. She is currently completing her Masters in Gender and Development Studies at Simon Fraser University. 

Rob Bickford: Board of Directors

Robert Bickford.JPG

Robert Bickford is an educator, writer, and independent film producer.  He lives and works in downtown Toronto.  He writes and produces films about disability, the arts, and institutional change through popular education.  His work with Esther's Echo involves designing curriculum connections to Canadian classrooms.  This K-12 curriculum guide highlights the community development model employed by Esther and the story of her Women in Action school in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Please contact the organization to request a copy of this curriculum guide.  He's been involved with Esther's Echo as a board member since 2010. 

Albert Berry: Board of Directors

Al Berry

Albert Berry is Professor Emeritus of Economics and Research Director of the Programme on Latin America and the Caribbean at the Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto. Professor Berry's main research areas, with focus on Latin America, are labour markets and income distribution, the economics of small and medium enterprise, and agrarian structure and policy. He has worked with the Ford Foundation, the Colombian Planning Commission, and the World Bank, and acted as consultant for a number of international and other agencies. Prof. Berry has published more than 100 papers in learned journals and is the editor or co-editor of seven books including Critical Issues in International Financial Reform (Transaction Publishers, 2003), Labor Market Policies in Canada and Latin America  (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2001), and Poverty, Economic Reform, and Income Distribution in Latin America (Lynne Rienner, 1998).