It's Valentine's day! It's ALSO Women in Action Day! February 14th marks the anniversary of the founding of Women in Action by Esther Kanu in 1996. I often think about the environment in which Esther began her project; the middle of a civil war. Sierra Leone's "Blood Diamond" war lasted from 1991 to 2002 ending just two years before I arrived in the country for the first time. When I came to Sierra Leone, the streets were still filled with UNAMSIL soldiers (United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone) working to disarm and demobilize the nation. Many believed Westerners were simply looking for diamonds themselves. I was often offered diamonds when walking about the streets of Freetown. Many of these "diamonds" were bits of broken glass sold by desperate people.
I think of all the resources available to those with vision here in North America; entrepreneurs interested in bringing an idea to life. Esther started her school with none of those same resources and with none of the same social/political stability. This was a war. But she saw need and went to work. I am not certain I have that kind of mettle and I am thankful that, within Canada, it is likely my character and strength will never be tested like that. Esther's was and she persevered.
Last year marked Women in Action's 20th anniversary. At the time, we weren't certain if Women in Action would continue due to the sale of the building Esther was renting. Last year on February 14th, we were hoping to move the school into their new building. My hope was, by this time a year later, that Esther would be established in the new location. With all the support that came in this last year, especially toward the Holiday Season, Women in Action has successfully relocated. 20 years in their previous building and on 21 they have their new building thanks to all of you. Esther's last report from the end of January indicated that the rent was paid for 2016. Esther is looking forward to April 1st where the school will graduate 50 students. In late April, Esther said that Women in Action will also conduct the catering services for an Alumnus' wedding!
One piece of less great news to share: In a past blog, I had mentioned that Esther's Echo had submitted an entry for the Roddenberry Foundation Prize. Unfortunately, we heard back that out of the 600 applicants, Esther's Echo was not selected. I was discouraged by the outcome. However, I am still proud of our application and the foundation announced the grant will continue on to be an annual event. They can expect more applications from us in the future.
Back to more positive news, Mulgrave Secondary School hosted their “Action For Esther” fundraiser on January 27th which I attended as a speaker. Action for Esther was originally scheduled for December 2016 but was delayed due to all the snow we've had in Vancouver. The event is not only a fundraiser, but a weekend simulation for participating students ranging from Grade 7 to 9. Students in the program experience a weekend in the life of a refugee. The scenario is organized and performed by senior students and staff in the school as a form of experiential learning. The presentation I gave this year at Action for Esther was inspired by our video for the Roddenberry Foundation; seeing the world from an orbital perspective free of border lines and where global issues are not confined to one nation or another. Big thanks to Antony Wilson and Mulgrave Secondary for bringing me in again to speak and for the continuing support of Esther's Echo. Tony snapped this photo which is a great summary of the presentation showing Africa taken during the Apollo missions.
As it is now 2017, we're starting work toward covering the rent on Esther's new building for this year. Please consider making us your Valentine today during Women in Action Day and help spread the love by sharing us with your networks/peeps!