"So why are you here instead of her?" the interviewer asked me pointedly. I didn't have an answer. That was a very good question. It was 2011. I had returned to Sierra Leone to meet with Esther in person before the founding of Esther's Echo. While in country, Esther thought it may be helpful to do an interview on the Freetown news station to talk about the work we were doing to support Esther's school; the Women in Action Development Project.
The interview didn't go quite as I had planned. The interviewer put me to task while I sat there on national television. "Why do we need another white man telling us about the work that is going on in our own country? If this is another woman's school, why isn't she on the television? Why are you here instead of her?" She was right. This wasn't my story to tell. Not while in Sierra Leone. Not while in Esther's community. The experience on the air reminded me of the conflict I felt when I first arrived in Sierra Leone as an undergraduate student in 2004. I was in my early twenties, still a student, but was understood to be an "authority" on other people's communities as a foreign aid worker. Why? I was a white male. And I held the checkbook to an international organization.
The Women in Action Development Project, wasn't founded by international aid workers. And her project certainly wasn't founded by me. Esther began this work on her own in the midst of a war; a passionate woman passionate about the women and children in her own community. So while we echo Esther's story, we will not become the face of her work. On International Women's Day, we will remind our own community of the incredible work of women like Esther around the world who far too often go unrecognized.
Last February 14th was Women in Action Day marking the 21st anniversary of the founding of Women in Action. Esther sent me photos of the celebration at the NEW LOCATION which all of you helped us secure! I cannot thank you all enough again. You helped relocate an entire school in Sierra Leone! Esther's next project is to purchase a plot of farm land that she's had an eye on for a few years now. They are about 2,000 dollars short and so we are making this a priority for our current fundraising. The plot of land is the next step to helping Women in Action become more self-sustaining as they will be able to sell crops from the land as a source of funding for the school. Below are the images from Founding Day and Esther giving a speech as the school celebrates its anniversary for the first time in their new building!