We Kept Women in Action Open Another Semester! Now On to Giving Tuesday!

Echoers!

Great news! In August we were running a fundraising campaign to see if we could close out 2018’s rent for Esther. And we did! We got all the funding we needed by the end of the month and transferred the funds. Through September, Esther brought the funds to the landlord and we waited as Esther negotiated with the landlord because we were late and they were starting to threaten legal action. But I recently received confirmation that we are okay at least until the end of this year.

Wire transfer receipt to Women in Action for the balance that YOU helped fundraise! Hoorah!

Wire transfer receipt to Women in Action for the balance that YOU helped fundraise! Hoorah!

So here is where I share our next two fundraising goals. By April, I’d like to ensure Esther has all the rent paid for 2019 which will be another 7,000 USD. 2500 of that we need by the end of December to allow Esther to remain for the Spring semester.

What about the second goal? Here is where things get more exciting. Over the last year, I’ve been talking about plans to build Esther her own building. I’ve wanted to do this for years because it means that our funding dollars aren’t just paying rent, but actually providing a space that BELONGS to Women in Action itself. That would mean that future donated dollars can ALL go directly to expanding curriculum, paying teacher salaries, and lowering student fees. Some of our funding already accomplishes these more exciting budget line items, but a majority of the funding goes to landlords. Rent is important. It keeps the school operating. But ultimately we want something more sustainable. How much will that cost? Originally, I thought the costs would be much higher – in excess of 100,000 USD. However, Esther has drawn up a plan with an engineer and it is more like 35,000 USD which is amazing. The school already has a plot of land to construct the new space which we helped to purchase a few years ago.

Activities resume for the Fall Semester at Women in Action

Activities resume for the Fall Semester at Women in Action

In addition, to help get things started, the staff and students have already started to construct parts of the building that they can do on their own.

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How can you help? Giving Tuesday is coming November 27th! Please consider us again this year. Last year’s Giving Tuesday was the single largest fundraising day we ever had. Our first goal is to cover the more immediate need which is Esther’s Rent. Anything in addition to that goal we raise between now and April will go to the construction project. You can find our profile at: https://givingtuesday.ca/partners/esthers-echo.

Thank you all so much again for your continued support! Also, welcome to our new donors who helped us during the August fundraising push!

Sincerely,

Matthew

Donate Today!

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