It's International Women's Day!

Hello Echoers,

It’s International Women’s Day!

The Women in Action Development Project has over 200 enrolled students with nearly 50 of them graduating each year. That is IF the school year isn’t interrupted which, in Sierra Leone, it often can be. Women in Action has seen its share of challenges from disease outbreak, flooding, political turmoil, and closure due to struggles with rent payments. We can assist with some of the unforeseen calamities and natural disasters, but where we have the most control is over rent. 

When I first came to Sierra Leone, in 2005, Esther was paying $1000US a year in rent for the Women in Action development Project. Over the years, with economic challenges, rising housing rates in the country, and with the loss of a former landlord who was sympathetic to the challenges of the school, rent is now about $7000US a year. But, remember, that this is for an eight-story building which houses a school and a daycare centre. We came up short for rent in 2017. But not by much! We only have to raise about another 1500 dollars. I think we can do it!

In the past I've been asked, “Why are you fundraising for rent? That’s not as exciting as building schools.” But the truth is that the cost of infrastructure isn't necessarily is the most important - it’s the upkeep. Many organizations out there build school buildings, but those structures may not remain as school buildings. Many are simply left empty or re-purposed because rather than a shortage of willing teachers, or building spaces, there is a shortage of operating costs to maintain schools. Women in Action’s rent is one of their largest expenses and by helping them we are offsetting this cost so that income generated by the school can then be used to reinvest and grow.

Education is one of the most effective ways of providing new opportunities for women in one of the most difficult places in the world to live. Thankfully we also have Esther at the helm for whom I couldn’t be more grateful. The landlord for their building is looking for the rest of that rent, so let’s make it happen!

Also, as promised, photos from this past February 14th Women in Action day marking the anniversary of the school:

Donate to Women in Action on International Women's Day
 Students of Women in Action on Women in Action Day February 14th

Students of Women in Action on Women in Action Day February 14th

 Students of Women in Action with Esther (centre - long dress) on Women in Action Day Feb 14th

Students of Women in Action with Esther (centre - long dress) on Women in Action Day Feb 14th

Celebrate Women in Action Day as our Valentine!

Dear Echoers,

Today in 1996, Esther Kanu founded the Women in Action Development Project. So while we think of it as Valentine's Day, the 14th of February is also Women in Action Day! 

I spoke to Esther today congratulating her on another year at Women in Action. She said that the school was going to be hosting a service on Friday to celebrate and to "thank the organization." I'm always humbled by Esther when she sends thanks and gratitude our way because - well - she really deserves the credit. Esther established Women in Action in the midst of a civil war, recruited the teachers and the students, has seen the school through calamities like natural disasters and outbreaks of disease, and accomplished all she has in one of the most difficult places in the world to live. And you. You have all been supportive by donating your hard earned funds, keeping in contact with me, and have remained up-to-date on the latest news abroad. So I am humbled because she is the champion of her own cause, and you all support her. So really, it's my gratitude that should be going to her and all of you. 

As a Valentine's treat, here are some pictures. The first picture, taken recently, is of a class of students and their community leaders in a rural community called Waterloo outside of Freetown. Women an Action has started to work in some of these more rural communities where access to education is limited compared to the city. The next picture is from Valentine's day and Women in Action Day celebrations from last year. When the school runs its celebration this Friday, I will send along new pictures from this year.

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IMG-20170308-WA0001.jpg

 

Women in Action still needs to cover their 2017 rent and they are facing more pressure from their landlord. So, let's get in that last few thousand dollars! I know we can do it. To those of you who have already donated please know that, once again, you have my sincere gratitude. 

I wish you all a lovely Valentine's Day! Please make us yours!

-Matthew

Make Us Your Valentine!

$30 Challenge - Help Us Get a Jump Start in 2018 for Women in Action

Hello Echoers!

This past Giving Season of 2017 was one of our most successful yet. We have been so encouraged by all the support. What's next? Women in Action still has to make up rent payments that were due in January for the continued operation of their school. With the donations we sent at the end of 2017, Esther still needs about 3000 dollars to pay for last year's rent. While loans are an option to keep the school open, the costs on these loans is very high and we want to help prevent the school from slipping into debt. So here is my challenge. We are asking both new and current donors to consider a $30 donation. Just 30 dollars! What does that do? Let me tell you...

Women in Action has a student population of approximately 250 young women and children. Students receive both vocational and academic skills training ranging from computer skills, language comprehension, and mathematics to hair braiding, tailoring, batik art, and catering. The school has also added a daycare centre to allow parents with young children to attend the school. Students who have graduated remain a part of the school through the "Old Girl's Club" - an alumni association which Esther remains in contact with to monitor their success. Many of these women have gone on to start their own catering businesses, find employment with local organizations, or even start internet cafes. 

 Esther with students on graduation day at Women in Action

Esther with students on graduation day at Women in Action

Education has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of combating poverty, especially providing education opportunities to young women and girls. Furthermore, we are working with Esther Kanu, our local partner who founded Women in Action. This is not an international project that stops when priorities change or international staff go home. Through flooding, disease, and war Esther as operated her school and we believe in her leadership and intimate knowledge of the local community. 

 Esther visiting rural communities outside of Freetown to talk about Women in Action

Esther visiting rural communities outside of Freetown to talk about Women in Action

So let's get that rent cost covered so Esther can focus on the important task of providing opportunities and choices to her community in one of the most difficult places in the world to live!

-Matthew

Donate to Women in Action Today

 

 

What a Year!

Hello Echoers!

2017 was a great year! Last January saw the end of our best giving season yet. February we spoke at Mulgrave Secondary's "Action for Esther" fundraiser. In the Spring we appeared at Capilano University's Justice High conference after celebrating International Women's day.  In the Summer, we completed the purchase of a new plot of farmland for Esther's school, The Women in Action Development Project.  Also through the Summer, you helped raise funds to support Women in Action through the heavy Sierra Leone flooding. This past November 28th was our largest single donation day ever during Giving Tuesday. I was the keynote speaker at the Connect Model United Nations Conference sharing Esther's story. And finally we wrapped up this year surpassing last year's best giving season. Thank you all so much for your support during all our adventures. 

But we don't want to stop there! I think we can yet accomplish even more. Esther is still short on clearing  rent costs on their school building for 2017 meaning expensive loans to keep the school open. Let's finish 2017 even stronger than we already have. Every donation means reduced school fees for students, higher wages for teachers, and a greater diversity of education at the school. Every dollar you donate goes directly to Esther and the Women in Action Development Project providing education and mentorship to vulnerable women and girls in one of the most challenging places in the world to live. We wish you all an incredible 2018 and our sincere thanks to all of you who have made 2017 a successful year for Esther's Echo.

Sincerely,

Matthew

Make your 2017 Donation!
 Esther during her visit to Vancouver, Canada

Esther during her visit to Vancouver, Canada

 

 

At the Model United Nations and Best Giving Tuesday Yet!

Hello Echoers!

This past November had two highlights that we wanted to share! First, Matthew was chosen as keynote speaker for the Connect Model United Nations conference in Vancouver this year. Past speakers have included names like Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. Matthew's talk brought together our work with Esther's Echo seen through the lens of Matthew's passion for space and space exploration; an orbital perspective where the world is seen from above and where we share common hopes and challenges. In Matthew's words "from space, and I use the word 'astronomical' literally here, our differences become astronomically tiny and our similarities astronomically large." The work of Esther's Echo was shared with over 300 high school delegates and teachers in attendance at the Model United Nations conference where Matthew encouraged them to think cooperatively rather than competitively about the challenges facing our world. 

 Matthew presenting at the Connect MUN Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver

Matthew presenting at the Connect MUN Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver

We also wanted to celebrate Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday, on November 28th, marked the start of the Holiday Giving Season. This year, we tallied a record $2700! All in ONE day! Thank you all so very much for your generosity! This is the most successful Giving Tuesday campaign we've ever had. Esther is not quite in the clear yet, however. We've helped raise about half of what she needs to clear rent on the building that houses the Women in Action Development Project. Without the rest, Esther could be forced to take out expensive loans, reduce teachers pay, or increase school fees. We want to help avoid all that so are calling on you to help by donating or sharing our story with others. To those of you who have already supported Esther's work, our sincerest thanks! You are helping to keep over two hundred young women and children in school and daycare programs. We will continue to update you all as we head into the Holidays! All the best on Holiday preparations!