Sierra Leone

Valentine's Day is 'Women in Action Day' and We're OPEN!

Echoers!

Today is an important anniversary! Esther's school, the Women in Action Development Project, was founded on February 14th 1996. And today, because of your support, they are able to celebrate their 23rd birthday! 

We did it! YOU did it! 

Over the last few days, the remaining donations we needed to clear that rent debt arrived and Women in Action will be able to complete another school season. I cannot thank you all enough. So many of you came through for us. Thank you, thank you. Gratitude, and appreciation are also coming from Esther and the staff and students of Women in Action as well. One of the recent videos that Esther sent me is a thank you to Esther's Echo which also goes out to all of you. I have linked the video below. ALSO, today Esther (centre red in the pics below) sent me photos from their anniversary celebration complete with heart shaped cakes for Valentine's Day. See all of that!? You made that happen! 

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What's next?

Because of the challenges with this current landlord, Women in Action will likely be moving come the Summer. I was anticipating this would be the case. But because of the recent fundraising we don't have to move locations in the midst of the school season. My ultimate goal for Esther's Echo was always building Esther her own school. We will be continuing to put funds aside for this project as well as for potential rent funding should we need to continue renting come the Fall. It's a big project, about 30K, but one of the largest steps, owning a plot of land, we've already accomplished. 

Thank you all again for your support. If you're able to give today in celebration of Women in Action's anniversary, I've included a Valentine's themed donation button below!

Wishing you all a day full of love!

Matthew

Esther Kanu sends a thank you from the staff and students of the Women in Action Development Program to Esther's Echo Esther's Echo is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the Women in Action Development Project, a vocational training centre for young women and girls in Sierra Leone.

Happy New Year! (And a Thanks from Ms. Karoma)

Happy New Year Echoers!!

I hope that 2019 is off to an amazing start for all of you! 

Big thank you all to those who contributed to our 2018 Holiday Season fundraising campaign. Between donations through the website, those who donated in person to me over the break, and funds that came through on Facebook we raised just over $3000 which beat out last year's record! Hoorah!

Where does that leave us?

We had to close the gap on Esther's outstanding rent for the end of 2018 to ensure that the Women in Action Development Project could remain in their present location. The balance was $3500US. $3000CDN translates right now to about $2100US so we are still looking at another $1400US to go. 

Esther is already receiving pressure from the landlord. We've moved the school once before because of outstanding rent payments. The process disrupted an entire semester at the school - something which we'd like to avoid. So let's ensure that we get the school off to a strong start in 2019. 

I also wanted to share a video with you. I posted this to the Facebook fundraiser but I had yet to post it to the blog. The video is a brief interview that Esther filmed with Ms. Karoma who is the cosmetology department teacher at Women in Action. You'll also hear a shoutout from the cosmetology students to the Esther's Echo supporters - YOU! Thank you for all you have done. You have made all of what you see here possible. 

Once again, Happy 2019!


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!

Heavy Flooding in Sierra Leone

Dear Echoers, 

Unfortunately I have sad news from Sierra Leone. Due to incredibly high rainfall, Freetown, the capital city of Sierra Leone, has experienced severe flooding and resulting land slides. BBC reported that hundreds had been killed in one such landslide as houses were buried on the outskirts of the capital. The Red Cross estimates that nearly 3000 people have been left without homes as a result of the rain.

Thankfully, Esther is currently visiting family out of the country and is safe from the floods. However, she shared tragic stories from home where friends had sent images of those killed by the mud slides. I will not share those images with you. Needless to say, the damage to the city is devastating as seen in other images of the flooding and landslide below.

Esther is receiving spotty information from Freetown. So far, we don't have reports that staff or students of Esther's school, the Women in Action Development Project, have been injured. However, we have learned that much of Women in Action's supplies were damaged by flooding and that the first crops planted in the new farm field we purchased last month have been washed away. 

School season begins soon at Women in Action, and this is not the start we want. Women in Action will definitely need support to get its footing again in the wake of this crisis. I'm asking for your help to literally weather this storm and see Women in Action through to the best start possible for this Fall school season. We made a huge leap forward in July with the farmland. Let's ensure this tragedy doesn't undo the progress we've made!

-Matthew

Donote to Flood Relief
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