A Letter from Esther Herself...

Hello Echoers,

Today, rather than hearing from me, I've asked Esther to write all of you, our donors and supporters, personally about Women in Action and meeting our rent target. We were at 4000USD still to go. This past week, with your support, I was able to send 2400CDN which translated to 1725USD. That means we only have another 2275 dollars to go! 

Below is Esther's letter to you about the importance of Women in Action, what your support means, and Esther's vision for the future in her own words. The letter is a scanned image. Below the image is the raw text if you are having trouble seeing the text in the image itself. Also, today, June 14th is Esther's Birthday! For her birthday, let's hit that funding goal!

-Matthew

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We started (The Women in Action Development Project) in Freetown Western Area District just after the civil conflict in Sierra Leone. The project was and still aims at empowering children, girls and young women through skills training and capacity building for self-employment and economic reliance to help reduce the high dependency rate. Women conscious of their high illiteracy rates makes them very vulnerable in communities especially in urban and peri-urban communities, settlements and Districts. Children, girls and young women were and are still been raped, molested, and beaten by their male counterparts with little or no effective response as a result of limited or no knowledge on rights issues, high illiteracy rate, and therefore, remains extremely vulnerable and can catch to whatever is provided to them. Women in Action saw the urgent need and is trying to bridge the gaps.

At the school, the fund/support help to register and engage adolescent girls and young women into formal and informal education and life skills training or economic development and also position them to speak out on their own right issues which is still a challenge due to limited or no formal education which male counterparts take advantage. The school provides for both urban and rural children, girls and young women the space and enabling environment where they become empowered through formal and informal education and acquire meaningful life skill that enhances rapid economic development. Informatively, the school is improving because it has educated girls and young women who are now acquiring higher education in other teaching and learning institutions. The school is also improving because it has trained girls and young women who are now engaged in their own works and businesses for economic development. The school is recognized as it serves as a hope for all hopeless children and women in Sierra Leone.

The fund/support has shined a light on the school and its activities. It has also sent strong signal to women that this is a place to be if you want a bright future. It has given hope to hopeless women and has also informed the Government and public about the work of the Women in Action Development Project. This support has opened new windows for expansion to new areas. Registration is currently ongoing with the high aim of opening a “Pre-School” at Waterloo (rural community) in September to extend program services to rural children and girls where the provision is the most needed now. The agricultural activities are ongoing and the program wishes to start an animal husbandry at the Waterloo axis.

At this end, we humbly request for our balance (US 4000) to help complete the rent and implement our planned tasks and activities in 2018

We appreciate your support over the years which has created all the impact highlighted in this letter

I am yours

Faithfully

Esther Kanu – National Coordinator

Matt Speaks at "One World, One Heart" Conference

Hello Echoers, 

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak at the "One World, One Heart" youth convention at Vancouver College. The organizers saw my presentation at this past November's Model United Nations and invited me to speak at their event as well. 

One World, One Heart promotes values of global citizenship to youth. As some of you know, I am greatly inspired by space exploration and in 2014 I gave a TEDx talk at the University of Toronto about how space lends a perspective of a singular world with shared struggles. One World, One Heart was interested in hearing more about this concept. In fact, their whole theme became "One Small Step"

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I had the opportunity to share Esther's story with a whole lecture hall of incredible and passionate young people looking to change the world, one step at a time. I began with how my own love of space was fostered by a tiny telescope with my grandfather in Northern Ontario. Though I was never able to travel to space, I decided that if I couldn't explore up then I would explore out and that is how I met Esther. 

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Big thanks to the One World, One Heart team and to Vancouver College for having me!

Vancouver College also contributed a generous donation to Esther's Echo. This is really helpful right now because we are still short on Esther's 2017 rent. Her land lord is putting pressure on them. With our last batch of donations from International Women's Day, and the recent donation from Vancouver College, we can take a big chunk out of that, but we could use every penny to help see them through. Any support you could offer would be a HUGE boost right now in taking pressure off Esther, the staff, and students. 100% of your donation goes directly to Esther. Our long-term goal is to finally build Esther her own building, and, exciting news, the groundwork for this has already started! More on that in the next post.

Thank you all, again, for your continued support. Because of you, Women in Action, Esther's school, can keep their doors open bringing opportunities to women and children in one of the most difficult places in the world to live. 

Sincerely,

Matthew

Donate Today!

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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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

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