February 2017

A new year!

Thanks to you, we reached our 2016 campaign goal with flying colours. Your generous actions and donations mean that the wonderful Peer Literacy Program in Sierra Leone with our partner, CAUSE Canada, will be funded for two full years. As well, this past November, I was able to personally deliver the final version of our innovative Mobile Learning Lab (MLL).

In 2017, we will continue to fund that amazing program and add another to our long list of investments in girls’ education: supporting Maasai girls in Tanzania through the Stephen Lewis Foundation and their local partner, Maasai Women Development Organization (MWEDO).

Our $100,000 for this ground-breaking project in Tanzania will enable 100 girls to attend high school for the first time, with all expenses covered: food and lodging, tuition fees, school supplies, health support and community engagement. In this part of Tanzania, where only 1 in 100 girls attends high school, our funding will have a major impact.

We are very proud to be working once again with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which has been an excellent partner since our first project together in 2006. Their rigour, transparency, experience and strong values in support of women and their communities are very much aligned with our beliefs and perspective.

Thank you for your belief in the transformative impact of girls’ education!

Wanda Bedard,
President

Watch Wanda’s inspiring TED talk: Girls’ education in the developing world.

Can you help us with freight costs to ship 150 tablets to Sierra Leone? If you can help, please contact Wanda at info@60milliongirls.org.

SAVE THE DATE: Luncheon at the Beaconsfield Golf Club
Wednesday, May 31st  

A donor’s perspective

By Paula Gallagher

Donors and volunteers are the heart of the 60 million girls Foundation. We thought a profile of one of our West Coast donors would demonstrate the strength of the Foundation, the pride in its accomplishments, and show the optimism for future endeavours.

Linda M. lives on Vancouver Island. I asked Linda to answer four questions. Her answers are eloquent and self-explanatory.

What is your background, and how did you develop an interest in educating girls?
I have been an elementary school teacher, employed in both the public and private sectors during the ’70s and ’80s, a self-employed woman in business in the ’90s, a Rotarian sharing their great service values, and have volunteered several times for a literacy project in a poor community in Mexico. I have seen how women in some cultures are the ones who tend the families and want to make life better for their children. Studies show that, when women (and girls) are educated, their health improves and, in turn, their families and their communities thrive.

How did you find 60 million girls Foundation?
A few years ago, I read an article in, I think, The Globe & Mail, about significant Canadians who have individually set up charitable helping organizations to make a difference in the poorer parts of our world. Wanda and 60 million girls were featured. I sent a donation in to help at the time, and have continued to receive the newsletter to stay connected. Last year, I read about the pilot project in Sierra Leone and was able to send a donation to help with the purchase of the tablets.

Going forward, are you satisfied with the impact of your donation?
I am very happy that my donation helped the start-up of this project, and that it has been a big success. The challenge, as with all projects, is to keep the fire burning strong with energy, funding and support, as the project evolves and faces challenges on its path to meet its goals.

What are you hoping to see in the future of 60 million girls Foundation?
60 million girls carefully reviews the thousands of ways they can assist girls and women to make a better world, and I believe they will always pick the projects that do the most good most effectively and efficiently with the funds at hand. I believe that it’s wiser to do a great job on a smaller scale, than attempt bigger projects and spread yourself too thinly. This seems to be the approach of 60 million girls and, with its collaboration with other charitable organizations, I believe its future will be as successful and impactful as its past.

Thank you to Linda, and to all the donors like her. You are educating women and girls and creating a better world.

Defining success

How do we define success?

This past December, the first cohort of students graduated from Oleleshwa’s All Girls Secondary School in Kenya. Two members of our executive committee travelled to Kenya, at their own expense, to witness firsthand the pride and joy of this event. In 2007, through our partner, WE (formerly Free The Children), we supported the Oloosiyoi Primary School project in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya. Recognizing the importance of secondary education, it was a natural extension to support the girls graduating from the elementary school, in both 2013 and 2014, by funding the Oleleshwa secondary school. And, now, the girls have graduated!

This is our definition of success!

Jambo from Kenya!

By Negin Atashband and Kassandra Berardelli

With elementary graduation rates increasing in the Maasai Mara region of Kenya, 60 million girls was one of the partners to help WE build a new school for girls, Oleleshwa Girls Secondary School, in 2013. We were beyond excited and grateful at the opportunity to celebrate the graduation of the inaugural class, on the last day of 2016, and to witness first-hand the impact of 60 million girls’ support.

Visit to Massi’s home

Visit to Massi’s homeThe day before the Oleleshwa girls’ graduation, we were fortunate to have a private visit of the school grounds, guided by two lovely graduates, Massi and Faith. In this video, Faith talks about life at school. Later, we were welcomed at Massi’s home, where she shared her aspiration of becoming a doctor with us. Her family expressed great pride in their daughter’s accomplishments, and said how this would positively affect their lives. They expressed gratitude towards the school supporters, who made dreams like Massi’s come true.

As we arrived to celebrate the graduation of both the Oleleshwa and Milimani secondary schools, we were immersed in a joyful sea of schoolgirls and community members, singing and welcoming us. The crowd was immense and joyous. Some had walked for several hours to participate in the celebrations. They understood full well the positive ripple effect that this group of girls would have on their communities. As the girls walked into the spotlight, a huge storm cloud appeared. However, this was such a wonderful omen as rain is considered a blessing in the Maasai culture and this was a blessed event. As the girls received their diplomas, their personal goals and aspirations were announced. Their goals included becoming teachers, doctors, journalists, engineers, and even president of the country! They all aspired to use their education to support and improve their community.

The celebration continued with speeches, musical performances, and releasing doves. The graduates, families and supporters joined in singing, taking pictures, and sharing the joy and the emotions of this special day. (Video) Congratulations to the graduates, from all of us at 60 million girls and all our supporters!

Our stay in the Mara did not end with the marvellous event. We were delighted to also learn about other impactful and sustainable WE projects, connect with so many amazing people, and celebrate the opening of Ngulot All Boys Secondary School. Our heartfelt gratitude to WE for enabling us to participate in this unforgettable, meaningful and inspiring experience!

Wanda’s upcoming speaking engagements

March 14th: Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW), Sherbrooke
April 28th: The 2nd World Conference on Blended Learning 2017 (IABL2017), hosted by George Brown College, Toronto. For more information or tickets, contact www.iabl2017.org.
May 9th: Conference for Advanced Life Underwriting (CALU) – 26th Annual General Meeting, Ottawa

BC Chapter news

We are continuing to keep busy on the wet West Coast, spreading the word about educating girls and the work that 60 million girls Foundation is doing. In November, Paula Gallagher gave a presentation to 50 members of the University Women’s Club of White Rock. They were a very attentive and appreciative audience. In February, Paula will be speaking to a larger audience at the University Women’s Club of Richmond.

On International Women’s Day, March 8th, Paula will be part of a panel at Hycroft, the University Women’s Club of Vancouver. This event, Educating Women and Girls – Changing our Communities and the World, is open to the public. Further information regarding tickets can be found at uwcv@uwcvancouver.ca or by contacting Paula Gallagher at gallagherpaula4@gmail.com.

December 2016

Double your IMPACT! $1 = $2gift

For the second time this year, a long-time supporter of 60 million girls has generously offered to match all donations up to a total value of $10,000 for a period of 10 days.

So, your gift of $50, $100 or $500 is now worth twice as much. With your help, we will have more to invest in education for vulnerable children.

60 million girls is dedicated to investing in innovative educational initiatives for children in developing countries. Barriers to education, like poverty, disability and conflict, can be high, and girls are often disproportionately affected.

Did you know that there are 263 million children and youth out of school? And, many children who are in school are not getting a quality education due to overcrowded classes and poorly trained teachers. We are working toward changing that.

We are small organization making a big impact!

Funds raised this year will help finance our project in Sierra Leone where have set up a Mobile Learning Lab that uses innovative educational technologies to improve learning outcomes and to give children an extra educational boost.

This holiday season, don’t underestimate the gift of supporting education. Please help us reach our 2016 target of $200,000. It takes only a click to make a donation and to make the world a better place.

Are you searching for the perfect gift for that special person in your life? Make a donation and ask us to send a card in your name with the message of your choice. And, if you give before December 18th, you can DOUBLE the impact of your gift.

All donations are 100% tax deductible. An income tax receipt will be mailed to you in February 2017.

We wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

Notes from Sierra Leone: The first test

By Wanda Bedard,
November 25th

I’m overwhelmed…. If I had to script the results of our test today, I couldn’t have imagined a better scenario. And, if I hadn’t been there to see it myself, I probably wouldn’t have believed it.

Each child received the turned off tablet on their desk without instructions. Samuel and Matthew then went to the front of the class talking to each other with their backs to the children.

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The students seemed surprised and intrigued to have this device given to them.

The children figured out how to use the tablet and how to access information. All with no adult instruction or interaction.

Within 30 seconds, one student figured out how to turn on the tablet. Within a minute, every tablet was on. In another minute, kids were taking photos and videos. They took photos of everything, including each other taking photos! Some figured out how to modify the pictures and put them together in a collage. They experimented with portrait and landscape and learned that, if they rotated the tablet, the image would change. This activity was so intense. The kids were posing and laughing so much and we all thought that’s all they would do the whole session. Click here to read more.

10th anniversary conference

 60 million girls has come of age. Since our inception 10 years ago, we have invested $2.4 million in 20 projects, helping over 20,000 children in 14 countries in Asia, Central America and Africa. We have funded projects that range from school construction to teacher training to providing supplies, fees or equipment.

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On November 7th, we celebrated this milestone with many friends and supporters, as well as partners from CAUSE Canada, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, the World University Services of Canada, the WE Charity (Free The Children) and Handicap International. Click here to read more.

Do you want to learn more about girls’ education and what we do? You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest information.

September 2016

Mark November 7th on your calendar

balloon_PNG4954We are pleased to invite you to our annual conference – a big celebration of our 10 years as 60 million girls!

Without you, we couldn’t have achieved any of our milestones: $2.4 million invested in 20 projects in 14 countries helping over 20,000 children! From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from South America to East Asia, we have touched the lives of the most vulnerable and marginalized girls and boys: children in aboriginal communities, HIV/AIDS orphans, handicapped children, those living in isolated rural villages and areas dealing with the far-reaching consequences of climate change, girls facing discrimination because of caste or ethnicity, children in war-torn countries, and, of course, those living daily in extreme poverty.

Join us to celebrate what we have been able to accomplish together. It takes an amazing team of volunteers, many generous donors and wonderful partners in the field to ensure that our transformative girls’ education projects become a reality. It takes YOU!

Join us to learn more about our innovative orientation that uses self-directed computer-based learning. Try out the RACHEL Raspberry Pi and enjoy the fun, informative, interesting and interactive content that students will enjoy. Its 400 GB capacity – the equivalent of 80,000 books or over 3,000 hours of video – all fits in an amazingly tiny, inexpensive package.

And, please, bring a friend! 60 million girls is one of the best-kept secrets in Montreal. Though small and completely volunteer-run, we partner with many world-class organizations and institutions around the world to re-think girls’ education. We need the skills, talents and support of so many people to make this happen on an ever-increasing scale. We need you and your friends!

We look forward to seeing you on Monday, November 7th, at 6 pm!

Click here to purchase your ticket today.

Can you help us?

As part of our research project in Sierra Leone, we must track the thousands of students who will use the Learning Centres over the yearlong intervention period. To do this, we must be able to accurately identify the children who will participate in the study.

In order to accomplish this, we feel that fingerprint tracking would work best. If you know of such software or hardware, or if you know of someone who might be able to help us out, please let us know at info@60milliongirls.org.

We also need a developer-programmer who can help us download our household surveys, as well as the literacy and math tests using Open Data Kit (ODK) on notebook computers or tablets. Please contact Wanda at info@60milliongirls.org if you are able to help us.

Thank you!

JUNE 2016

Summer – school is out but our work continues!

As the school year winds down for children here and in Sierra Leone, the Foundation’s work is just beginning to ramp up as we move ahead with our research project on self-directed learning in Sierra Leone.

With the help of our many partners worldwide, we are putting learning resources for basic literacy and numeracy skills directly into the hands of the students. The impact can be transformative.

We recognize that, while improving academic outcomes is important, learning is a much broader issue and requires the interest and engagement of the child at many levels. Children in Sierra Leone live in a context where there are few qualified teachers, parents are often illiterate, poverty is a major roadblock, and schools are straining to provide even the basics for learning. With this in mind, we want to introduce children to new sources of information to help them to get ahead.

static1.squarespaceOur two-year project this year has two streams: a Peer Literacy program and a research component intended to evaluate the impact of self-directed learning. CAUSE Canada will implement both parts. The Peer Literacy Program supports high school girls, allowing them to continue their education while, at the same time, they work as literacy tutors to primary school children in their communities. Following a 3-week training course, 80 peer literacy facilitators will work with almost 5,000 students each year from September to June, in 2016 and 2017, in the district of Koinadugu of northern Sierra Leone.

Pre-testing will begin this fall in preparation for the research intervention the following year. At that point, we will introduce the Digital Learning Centres that will be offered to approximately 5,000 primary school students in an extra-curricular setting. These centres will include interactive academic content in the hope of increasing the knowledge acquired at school.

RACHEL_Pi_4_largeEach Learning Centre will consist of a learning area (classroom) that will be equipped with 15-20 tablets, earphones and a RACHEL (Remote Areas Community Hotspots for Education and Learning) Plus Wi-Fi server. The cost to fully equip a Learning Centre is approximately $3,500. The equipment will be powered by solar panels that we will procure from a supplier in Sierra Leone.

The RACHEL Plus Raspberry Pi (from our partner, World Possible, in California) has a capacity of 400 GB of content. Up to 50 devices can connect wirelessly to it so that students can work on any of the thousands of interactive videos and exercises in literacy (from our partner, Fantastic Phonics, in Australia, with the help of eXplorance in Montreal) and math, science and health (KA Lite, Khan Academy’s offline version). Other available content will include MIT Scratch (coding), Wikipedia Academic and thousands of e-books, including material developed by our partner CODE Canada in Ottawa. The content on the RACHEL Plus can be modified remotely to ensure that content is always up to date and in line with student needs and interests.

Professor Sonia Laszlo, the newly appointed director of the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University, will lead the research team along with Professors Franque Grimard and Jim Engle-Warnick. Our research will focus on evaluating the cognitive or academic outcomes and non-cognitive outcomes from participation at the Learning Centres. We will be able to evaluate qualities such as the students’ intrinsic motivation and self-confidence. We will also be able to evaluate life aspiration changes that may develop as a result of children having access to interesting, interactive and entertaining content developed to support their natural curiosity and their innate talents, interests and skills.

We know that this multi-partner, multi-country effort will dramatically improve our understanding of what works effectively to improve learning outcomes and help us have a greater impact on our support of girls’ education. Everything we do will remain “open source”. Organizations and individuals around the globe will be able to share the lessons we have learned and the published results of the research study. It is through worldwide collaboration that we can truly ensure that we are offering the most effective and most innovative opportunities for all children to reach their potential.

Thank you for being there with us!!

Wanda Bedard
President, 60 million girls

Meeting Shirah
By Paula Gallagher

On February 12th, I had a lunch date in Nanaimo, BC. Those two hours were a wonderful reminder, not only of why I volunteer for the 60 million girls Foundation and the important work we do, but also of the amazing girls we have helped, and those we have yet to help. That is what having lunch with Shirah can do for you!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShirah Owomugisha is a lovely, brave, twenty-year-old from Kanungu District, Uganda, and a graduate of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, a foundation with which we partnered in 2012 and 2015. In October 2015, Shirah arrived in Nanaimo to attend the University of Vancouver Island (UVI) on a full scholarship. From her remote village, Shirah first travelled to Kampala then flew alone from Kampala to Amsterdam, and then on to Vancouver. It was her first airplane flight and she didn’t get lost at Schiphol, Amsterdam’s busy airport!

Shirah’s ‘first-time’ experiences since then have been innumerable. One that stood out was a trip to the food market. In Uganda, people eat what they grow in their own gardens. But there are numerous other things to which Shirah has had to adapt: the weather, the number of people, the food. Everything is different. And, of course, there’s the technology. However, she easily gave me directions to her homestay using her cell phone…

Shirah is currently upgrading her English at UVI, and plans to start a degree program in September, perhaps in accounting or marketing. She has been amazed at the continuing kindness of Canadians, and is so appreciative of the opportunities to further her education. She realizes that she is paving the way for other Nyaka students and has a responsibility to take advantage of every opportunity.

Shirah wants to do well. After meeting her, I am convinced she will succeed. Just look at what she has done so far!

 

 

 

 

 

February 2016

Ten years of experience supporting girls’ education

A new direction in partnership with CAUSE Canada & McGill University

We have chosen to invest $300,000 over two years with CAUSE Canada to fund a peer literacy program and self-directed computer-based learning in rural Sierra Leone. This project will reach 5,000 students, half of whom are girls. An evaluation by McGill researchers will deepen our understanding of the project’s impact on learning outcomes.

Educational materials mean better quality learning

60 million girls feels strongly that new strategies are needed to ensure that disadvantaged children get a quality education. The objective of this project is to introduce additional educational materials to children, encourage their natural love and enthusiasm for learning and, ultimately, to improve learning outcomes.

The components of the project are as follows:

  • 100 peer literacy facilitators – local secondary school girls – will work with younger children on their literacy skills over a two-year period and encourage them to stay in school.
  • We will introduce 5,000 primary school children to after-school, self-directed computer-based learning using tablets in a local learning centre – a program that will be run by the schools’ Mothers’ Clubs. The children will be able to access interactive videos and exercises on basic literacy, math and science, including Wikipedia Academic, textbooks, agriculture and health information, music programs, African created e-books and more.
  • A research team from McGill University, led by Professor Sonia Laszlo, Associate Professor of Economics and Associate Director of the Institute for the Study of International Development (ISID), will analyse the impact of the project on learning outcomes.

For more information and a detailed outline of how this will work, please go to our website.

Focusing on technology is crucial

UNESCO statistics clearly show that, if we continue supporting education at the same rate as we have done in the past, it will take over 100 years for all girls to have access to a lower secondary school education.

60 million girls’ R&D team is dedicated to finding the best way to deliver quality education to marginalized children around the world. We believe that self-directed computer-based learning can enhance academic outcomes and help children develop a deep interest and motivation in learning. The cost of delivering high quality interactive academic content to an area without electricity or Internet access is a fraction of what it would cost to provide equivalent textbooks and encyclopedias. The RACHEL (Remote Area Community Hotspots for Education and Learning) -Pi (RPi) can be easily upgraded at any time and more content can be added and customized by using additional memory chips.

Furthermore, the Learning Centres will provide a base for self-directed learning for all ages and for different, practical day-to-day information for adults: literacy, agriculture information, prenatal and postnatal information for women, nutrition, health guidance, teacher training and so much more.

A small investment can have a big impact

Since our founding in 2006, 60 million girls has invested $2.1 million in 19 projects in 14 countries, directly impacting the lives of more than 15,000 girls and boys. Our $100,000 investments in Kenya and Indonesia led directly to larger investments from government agencies.

We couldn’t do it without our partners

Over the years, our partners, including the Stephen Lewis Foundation, Free The Children, CAUSE Canada, Handicap International, WUSC and War Child Canada, have given us tremendous insight into what works in girls’ education.

Our close relationship with the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, McGill’s ISID and other members of the development community has helped us see what could be done more effectively to ensure a quality education for all children around the world.

On the technology side, we have worked with partners such as World Possible in California, Fantastic Phonics in Australia, and the developers from eXplorance, based here in Montreal, to create and add an off-line version of the Fantastic Phonics digital literacy program to the RPi.

How you can help

We are always looking for specific expertise and supplies to help get these educational initiatives off the ground. If you can help, please get in touch by email, phone or through our social media platforms. Our current needs are:

    • Tablets (300)
    • RACHEL-Pi (20)
    • Portable solar panels (20)
    • Help in reviewing potential new tech solutions
    • Digitizing printed books

Thank you for your support and your belief in the power of girls’ education.

December 2015

Goodwill towards all everywhere: Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Quebec, Toronto, Sherbrooke...

I am so very deeply touched by the great generosity pouring out from every city, town and village across the country as Canadians gear up to receive refugees in great numbers. This is us at our best: sharing the great fortune so many of us have by the simple fact of having been born in the right country at the right time.

Your generous support to 60 million girls, which helps to nourish the dreams of vulnerable children around the world, is a part of that same deep-seated kindness. Every child has the right to an education, and your contribution helps to expand lives, develop talents and strengthen communities, which ultimately bring equality, democracy and peace for everyone a step closer.

None of us ever chooses where we are born: into peace and democracy or into war and tyranny. It is the lottery of life. Yet, as we hear the refugees’ stories, we realize that most fundamental fact that we are all the same. We are mothers, fathers, daughters, sons wanting to fulfill ourselves, use our talents in ways that make us feel good, enjoy life, be safe and, above all, protect those we love.

Tie-Dye-Knit-ScarfEach gesture – a coat given, a scarf knitted, each offer of volunteer support, pro-bono services, being a friend, opening up a room, a home, sharing a meal – transforms our gratitude into something very tangible: to give what we hope we would be given if ever the roles were reversed.

My pride and absolute conviction that we, as a Foundation and as a country, are doing the right thing are unshakeable. Thank you for your support, for being the amazing person you are. The world needs you.

Wanda Bedard
President, 60 million girls Foundation

Why give to the 60 million girls Foundation?
By Tanya Guyatt

giftWe know that there are many worthy causes and many options open for you when considering which charities to support. We know what a tough choice it can be. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of what the 60 million girls Foundation has to offer.

Education creates change

First of all, we know that investing in education, especially for girls, has an important impact on all development initiatives. From economics, to health to social progress and political leadership, girls’ education is one of the most effective tools to work toward real, lasting, change. To read more…

Our 10th annual conference
By Lesley Stewart

WhatKBC 2 a brilliant way to celebrate our 10th annual conference! It began with a stunning and moving performance by the Kenyan Boys Choir. This was followed by our president’s address. Wanda Bedard described the Foundation’s many activities and achievements over the past nine years and this year in particular.

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Then, we listened to our keynote speaker, Craig Kielburger. A passionate and motivating child rights activist, Craig traced the transformation of Free The Children over the last two decades. To read more…

July 2015

8 years later… By Wanda Bedard It was like a moment frozen in time. We were standing on the same spot where we had stood eight years ago in the Maasai Mara in Kenya. I was transfixed! I had used that image in so many presentations since 2007 – a sweeping view that looked out over the community, up towards the hills in the distance. Eight years ago, it was a photo of a few dozen mud-brick, grass-thatched houses, standing apart from one another and spread around the schools of Enelerai and Emorijoi. Today, with my travel companions, my daughter, Vida Fereydoonzad who was with me in 2007, and 60 million girls‘ friend and professional photographer, Martine Michaud, we saw that the mud-walled homes were still there. However, now, beside most of them, stand sturdy brick houses with metal roofs. There are gardens, clotheslines and drying racks, and hand-washing stations next to latrines. Water kiosks along the road provide fresh, clean water to the community, and chimneys vent the smoke from the kitchens.

And then we saw Monica’s house. We couldn’t believe it! Monica! Eight years ago, we had visited Monica’s small home where she had proudly set up a very small store – no more than a wood hut about a metre square to sell beading work done by herself and the women’s group she helped head. At the time, she was clearly a leader of the local mamas and fiercely determined to help provide for her family and ensure her children, including her daughter, went to school. Today, her home stands out in the Mara with its bright orange roof. You can’t possibly miss it as you make your way along to Free The Children’s Bogani guesthouses! What had happened? The answer, of course, is progress and the evidence of a community that has taken hold of new ideas and implemented them. The resulting impact on the families and community was visible everywhere. We learned that Monica now travels to many countries to talk about women’s empowerment and women’s issues in Africa. She is a strong leader and a sought-after speaker who shares how the women have been able to build a sustainable and supportive community. It was such a stark contrast. This positive transformation was reinforced during the next week as we had a chance to speak with the women, girls and families in the areas where Free The Children works with the Maasai, Kipsigi and Kisi communities. When we visited Enelerai Primary School in 2007, it was in the process of being completed. It is now bigger with new additions – a water station, a women’s empowerment building and well-used classrooms filled with children. We also saw the Baraka Health Clinic with its emergency services, pharmacy, laboratory, birthing centre and, soon, radiology and surgery rooms. It’s a clean, simple yet well-stocked and well-equipped series of buildings that would meet our standards in Canada! We also visited Oleleshwa Secondary School, the project in which we have invested $300,000 over the last two years and the main reason for our visit to Kenya. We were overcome as we were welcomed by a group of 30 girls who showed us around this innovative school. There are no students and teachers at Oleleshwa but, rather, learners and educators. Strong community and cultural values are evident in the many beautiful hand-painted murals and quotations throughout the school. But, these were also clear from our discussions with the girls. These young women are determined and hard-working, and they realize the immense potential of education. They have a daily schedule that runs from 4:30 am to 10 pm. They have a strong desire to succeed and dream of becoming engineers, doctors, teachers, writers, scientists and journalists. There is no doubt in our minds that the girls will achieve it all. The visit to Free The Children was just as inspiring as our visit the previous week in Uganda where we spent four days at the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. Two years ago, 60 million girls supported the primary schools of Nyaka and Kutamba and, this year, we are raising $100,000 to fund the ongoing construction of the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School through our partner, the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

 

We were fortunate to spend our time in the company of Jennifer Nantale, Nyaka’s country director. Jennifer has a deep understanding of development issues, vast experience and a great passion and caring for the hundreds of children under her wing. We were left with the certainty that these children and their communities would be able to cope with a difficult reality: grieving grandmothers who must now care for up to eight young children orphaned by AIDS, finding sources of revenue to keep fragile families together, providing a safe home, getting the kids to school… The list is endless.

Farms provide fresh and nutritious food for the students and staff every day. The health clinic is open, not only to the students, but to the whole community. There are two full-time nurses and a doctor who works two days a week. We saw beautiful libraries complete with computer rooms and solar panels – the ideal spot for us to leave two Raspberry Pi Rachel devices (as we did with Free The Children). Jennifer and her staff immediately saw the impact of the content: Khan Academy Lite, Khan Academy health, hundreds and hundreds of e-books and textbooks, agricultural and health encyclopedias and Wikipedia offline. When you realize how long and how difficult it is to travel to these remote areas and the cost of books and textbooks, along with the lack of Internet access, the Rachel with its academic content and thousands of educational videos and tutorials is truly a small miracle. 

We were impressed and yet, at the same time, not surprised by the quality of the programs and the holistic approach that support these children. Free The Children and the Stephen Lewis Foundation are long-time partners of 60 million girls. Over the years, the thought and experience that go into the design of their community interventions have been clearly evident. However, it is amazing to be able to witness the impact first-hand, especially many years later. Of course, during our self-financed three-week trip, we saw so much more: gorilla trekking in the breath-taking Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the drive through the Mara safari-style with our Maasai guides, Wilson and Jackson, and visits to other local projects. We learned about new approaches and gained a better understanding and a different perspective on what works best to support a community. We had a wonderful visit at UNICEF Uganda’s global innovation centre in Kampala. There we traded notes and learned more about UNICEF’s research and pilot projects involving technology in education and self-directed learning.  Thank you for following us on Facebook during our trip and adding your many comments and likes. We felt closer to home and only needed to have each one of you with us to make the visit perfect! Take a look!!! We are proud to invite you to take a look at our new website at www.60milliongirls.org. In order to better support viewing on a tablet or smartphone, to ensure you can easily find information and to better highlight our projects, we have decided to make this exciting change.

Our deepest thanks go to Lesley Stewart, head of our communications team, for spearheading this project along with the technical help of Louise Sa, Patrice Belair and our wonderful graphic artist, Negin Atashband. A special word of thanks also to Martine Michaud for her generous pro bono support in providing such compelling photographs of 60 million girls’ projects from our recent trip to Uganda and Kenya.

Please let us know what you think. Is there information you’d like to see that isn’t there? Do you have any questions? Can you find everything you’re looking for? Contact us at info@60milliongirls.org. And, please don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter and sign up for our blogs to receive the very latest news and articles on girls’ education and women’s empowerment. Save the date: Tuesday, November 24th – our 10th annual conference!

This year marks our 10th annual conference and we are excited to announce that Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children, will be our keynote speaker. Craig inspired us when he spoke at our second annual conference in 2007 and those who heard him will remember a committed and passionate activist. We are delighted to have him return, accompanied by the Kenyan Boys Choir. 60 million girls has partnered with Free The Children several times, in Kenya and India, to support education at both the primary and secondary levels. Craig will bring us up to date with these amazing projects!

We will be sending further details later. We are looking forward to seeing you soon!

February 2015

Our projects for 2015

Every fall, the 60 million girls team goes through the very difficult but fascinating process of choosing the projects we will fund for the upcoming year. In fact, the process is actually one that we work on year-round: meeting with new organizations specializing in girls’ education to gauge how we might work together as partners, attending conferences, talking with education and development specialists, following the latest statistics, trends and innovations related to education, keeping in touch with our past partners, and following up on the latest reports from projects about to be completed.

Throughout this process, we are continually learning. Learning about what works best in different contexts and in different communities. Learning how to mitigate risks in particularly difficult regions. We are continually looking at ways that our investments can have the greatest and most sustainable impact possible.

Since it was founded in 2006, 60 million girls will have supported 19 projects, including those for 2015, in 14 countries, for a total investment of $2.1 million – and always with administration costs of less than 1% of our donations. Over 15,000 children have been directly supported through these projects – girls (at least 50%) and boys– ensuring gender parity where it is often a very difficult target to attain.

And this year, we are very proud to announce the projects we will be supporting with your generous help.

Nicaragua with Change for Children

With first-time partner Change for Children, we will be investing $100,000 in education for indigenous girls in the Bosawas Biosphere Reserve in Nicaragua. Known as the “lungs of Central America”, Bosawas is the largest tropical rainforest north of the Amazon basin, covering 7% of Nicaragua’s land surface. And, it is home to the Miskito indigenous communities.
     
Our funding will enable the construction of two high schools for 200 students – of whom 52% will be girls – in the villages of Tuburus and Aniwas. There are presently no high schools in these villages. Girls, in particular, have had no access to secondary education as parents deem it too dangerous for them to leave their villages to study far away. Following the school construction, the Ministry of Education and the local municipality of Wiwili will cover the costs of teachers’ salaries. The indigenous government of Western Bosawas will provide the translation of curriculum materials and will cover the cost of the maintenance and repair of the schools. The project will also include an awareness campaign on the importance of girls’ education with a reach of 10,000 people over a two-year period.

Uganda with the Steven Lewis Foundation

Our second project is our fourth partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation, and our second time supporting the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in Uganda. We are very pleased to be able to support the success of Nyaka’s two primary schools by investing in the construction of a high school developed specifically with the needs of girls and orphaned children in mind. A comprehensive and holistic approach will enable these children to be safe, surrounded by a supportive community. They will receive general and reproductive health information so important in adolescent years and, as well, they will be able to participate in vocational training.
     

Most importantly, girls will never be turned away if they become pregnant, as is the case at other high schools in the country – a policy that leaves a girl extremely vulnerable and marginalized with very limited ability to look after herself and her child. Giving her support and access to education will help ensure a much better outcome for both her and her child.

Your generosity goes a long way to making these projects become reality. Thank you for making the transformative investment in girls’ education.

Wanda Bedard
President, 60 million girls Foundation

Education, technology and Ebola
By Bev Carrick, co-founder of CAUSE Canada

The current Ebola crisis in West Africa has claimed thousands of lives and has caused significant economic and social disruption to communities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of January 12, 2015, there has been a total of 10,150 reported cases in Sierra Leone where the rates of infection have doubled over the past two months.

Fortunately, there have been a few positive outcomes as a consequence of this epidemic. Difficult-to-reach communities are embracing life-saving, preventative healthcare messages. The importance of hand washing and safe burial practices, as well as the truth about infectious diseases, is being taught to a broad and attentive audience.

Girl in classroom

The Sierra Leone government closed schools in June 2014 because of the Ebola epidemic. However, CAUSE Canada has continued to offer computer classes, library access and electric lights for nighttime reading in its Integrated Learning and Resource Centre in Kabala. There is a tremendous thirst to continue formal education on the part of young people in this remote, northern part of the country and the Integrated Learning and Resource Centre is operating at full capacity!

The 60 million girls Foundation has contributed funding to equip the Centre with laptop computers for these eager learners. Since there is no Internet service, Raspberry Pi technology is used as a server to provide access to Khan Academy’s math and science tutorials, in addition to e-books. Primary and secondary school students, as well as interested teachers, take advantage of these self-directed, e-learning opportunities, which are unique and greatly valued. In 2011, 60 million girls partnered with CAUSE Canada to introduce a Peer Literacy program in Sierra Leone where high school girls are trained in phonics each summer. Throughout the year, these girls tutor primary students every afternoon in basic literacy using games, flash cards and storytelling. In return, these young women receive support to continue their education.

Because of the Ebola epidemic, the government has made gatherings of more than 10 people illegal. However, the Peer Literacy Tutors have teamed up with local teachers to continue offering teaching clusters in homes for 4-6 students at a time. They are also using educational radio broadcasts to reach a broader audience of keen students! In this way, technology has helped offset some of the enormous difficulties caused by the Ebola crisis and continue the education process in Sierra Leone.

A pause to reflect…
By Lesley Stewart

Anita Chénier runs a yoga studio in Laval. She knows that research has shown that meditation and relaxation techniques have therapeutic effects on disease and pain. Anita also knows that research has demonstrated that education is one of the most effective community investments in the developing world. Her understanding of the importance of education was deepened by visits to India in 2012 and 2014. Anita travelled to Ladakh, a remote region in the northern part of the country. There, she visited three schools and witnessed, first-hand, the transformative effect that education can have on the children, their families and the whole community.
Last fall, Anita’s yoga studio held meditation evenings for a seven-week period and donated 30% of the revenues – just over $500 – to 60 million girls. Her generosity will help us continue to support education projects that will have a positive impact on both the girls and their communities.

60 million girls at Google
By Lesley Stewart

Thanks to the generosity of Google in Montreal, 60 million girls had the opportunity to host an event at their offices on February 5th. A sold-out crowd of close to 100 people joined us for this 5 à 7 cocktail on the theme of education and technology. Guests were able to see for themselves how we can use Raspberry Pi/Rachel educational software in self-directed computer-based learning. This technology greatly improves access to information and tutoring in a wide variety of subjects for students and teachers alike in the most remote areas of the world. There was also a fun demonstration of Google Glasses and how this technology could be useful to us. Our deeply felt thanks to Marie-Claude Élie for coordinating the event for us and for her enthusiastic support of the Foundation!

December 2014

Are we still 60 million girls?

Today, we’re confronted with too much bad news, too many negative stories about hurtful, harmful things going on in the world. It seems that’s all we ever hear.

2015 is the end date of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were first established in the year 2000. Over a period of 15 years, the world community made a commitment to eight goals, which included eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health.

When 60 million girls was established as a foundation in 2006, we took our name from the statistic at the time: over 110 million children, of primary school age, were not in school – every single year – and, of those children, two-thirds or 60 million were girls.

Where are we today?

The good news: The number of primary school-aged children who don’t attend school has gone from 110 million to 58 million since 2006. The number of out-of-school girls has dropped from 60 million to 32 million.

The great news: The drive to get girls into school has helped in the struggle to reach other MDG goals such as reducing poverty and decreasing maternal and infant mortality.

Educating girls is one of the most positive social forces to create change in a community. Statistics and research show it and we see it through our projects.

But simply attending primary school is not enough: children have to learn. Parents make enormous sacrifices to get their kids into school. They need to know that their children, girls and boys, will receive a quality education, so that their sacrifice will help their children lead better lives. This is why our R&D team is actively looking into the latest and most innovative practices in education around the world. Our self-directed computer-based learning pilot projects in Sierra Leone were a first practical trial for gauging the potential impact of technology in education. We know there is so much more we can do!

With your help, over the past eight years, we have invested $1.9 million in 17 projects in 13 countries, including our two projects this year – $100,000 to Care Canada for a project in Afghanistan and the second half of our two-year commitment of $300,000 to Free The Children for an all girls’ high school in Kenya. Since the beginning, we have maintained administration costs of less than 1%.

Together, we will continue to work towards discovering more effective and innovative approaches that will help lower the number of out-of-school children around the world and increase learning – the ultimate goal of education.

gift

This holiday season, as you search for the perfect gift for that special person in your life, don’t underestimate the gift of supporting girls’ education and its impact on our future. It takes only a click… to make a donation and ask us to send a card in your name with the message of your choice.

We are part of a global network of activists making positive change – that’s good news for the whole world!

Wanda Bedard
President, 60 million girls Foundation


Our 9th annual conference
By Lesley Stewart

Our 9th annual conference was another unqualified success! Approximately 200 guests listened to our two keynote speakers, Bev Carrick of CAUSE Canada, and Sheena Bell, of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).

Bev Carrick

Bev spoke about her organization’s efforts to improve access to education in Sierra Leone and the need for trained teachers to provide quality education. With the Ebola epidemic, all schools have been closed in Sierra Leone. However, our self-directed pilot project has allowed children to continue their education, using educational software provided by 60 million girls.

The UIS, the statistical branch of UNESCO, is in the business of gathering reliable and policy-relevant data on education, science and technology from every country in the world. Sheena explained the importance of this data in allowing organizations – governmental and non-governmental – to better construct appropriate programs for children. Both Bev and Sheena discussed the importance of using data and technology to improve literacy and provide vulnerable children with access to a quality education.

The silent auction amassed $10,925, which will help support our projects this year! At the end of the evening, Wanda presented a cheque of $280,000 to our partner in Kenya, Free The Children, and another of $80,000 to CARE Canada, our partner in Afghanistan.

The 60 million girls team

Our thanks to our many friends and supporters who made the evening such a success!


An inspiring afternoon in Vancouver
By Paula Gallagher

On Sunday, November 9th, the Vancouver chapter of 60 million girls Foundation hosted a group of 75 guests at Hycroft, the lovely heritage home of the University Women’s Club of Vancouver, to hear Stephanie Nolen, the acclaimed journalist, writer, activist and humanitarian.

Stephanie Nolen and Paula Gallagher

It was indeed an inspiring afternoon! Ms Nolen spoke of her experiences with the Prerna School in Bihar Province, India. This school is home to 125 Dalit girls who, without the founding of this school, would never have had access to education or the opportunities that an education can bring. Ms Nolen pointed out a simple truth as well: school is where these girls should be.

The stark reality is that, if they are not in school, then they are likely working, or married, and often without any options for their future. They would not have the pleasure of learning, the happiness of small successes or the possibility of learning an unlikely subject (for Dalit girls) such as self-defence. They would not experience the first exquisite taste of ice cream, or the enduring anticipation of comradeship and play.

Education for girls goes beyond the interpretation of statistics to the core of what makes life exceptional. All in the room were moved by Ms Nolen’s stories and pictures!

For many of the guests, this event was also an introduction to 60 million girls Foundation. We had many questions, many very positive remarks, and many people looking forward to the next event. Altogether, the afternoon was a great success!


60 million girls: Educate for a more just and balanced world
By Manuela Clément-Frencia

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts hosted our exhibition, 60 million girls: Education for a more just and balanced world, for one month. This exhibition reaffirmed education as a fundamental right for children and enabled the voices of some of the most vulnerable girls in the world to be heard.

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal

This awareness-raising event was widely covered by the media and was well received by visitors to the exhibition. We conducted a series of interviews and found that people were very favourably impressed by the Foundation’s mission, as well as by the artistic and educational quality of the exhibition. In particular, visitors appreciated the beautiful photographs and were touched by the stories of the young girls. Our call to action elicited over 200 ideas to support education. We would like to extend our deepest thanks to all those who made this project possible. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts generously offered a prestigious space in which to showcase our work. We also would like to thank our project partners, Free The Children, World University Service of Canada/Windle Trust Kenya and Right To Play – the organizations that allowed us to meet the girls, their families and community members in the projects that we financed with your support. Finally, and most importantly, we would like to thank the girls who agreed to share their stories with both the Museum visitors and ourselves.

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal

It should be noted that the photo-reportage was completed by Dominique and Maria Cabrelli, Arvind Eyunni, Jean-François Lemire and myself.

Strengthened by this unique experience, we will continue our commitment to support girls’ education, echoing the impassioned plea of Malala Yousafzai, winner of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize, in her speech to the UN on July 12, 2013: “I speak not for myself, but so those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights. Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated.”

September 2014

A busy fall!

While summer isn’t officially over yet, the feeling of fall is certainly in the air – especially with the start of another school year. This is always a poignant time for us as we think of the millions of children who have yet to take a step into a classroom. How can we best support access to school for all children, particularly girls? How can we ensure that the kids who do get to school are receiving a quality education?

We have four activities planned this fall to help share our answers to these questions!!

In mid-October, we will present the technical results of the two phases of our pilot project on self-directed learning in a rural community in Sierra Leone at Concordia University. Alumni and students of the Department of Education have been invited to attend. What an opportunity for us to discuss what we have accomplished and to exchange ideas with such knowledgeable individuals!

Starting on October 23rd, and running for one month, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts will present an exhibition of photos from 60 million girls’ projects! Manuela Clément-Frencia, of our executive committee, visited four of our projects in India, Kenya and Ethiopia with a team of talented professional photographers. This is a unique occasion to see portraits of some of the girls from the programs your donations have supported!Admission to the exhibition is free. Read more about the exhibition in this MBAM press release.

sept2014_bev_carrickAnd, of course, there is our annual conference on Tuesday November 4th. We hope that you will attend to hear what we’ve been up to!! Our guest speaker will be Bev Carrick, co-founder of CAUSE Canada, our partner in Sierra Leone. Bev will share her vast development experience and talk more specifically about our project on girls’ education and our new pilot project. We will also be joined by a representative of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) who will talk about education statistics in the developing world – and the impact of the vast research and compilation of data being done on projects such as ours and on our vision for the future..

sept2014_stephanie_nolenNot to be outdone, our BC Chapter is organizing an amazing conference on Sunday, November 9th, in Vancouver, with guest speaker Stephanie Nolen of The Globe and Mail. It would be difficult to find a more experienced and insightful journalist with such a deep interest in women’s issues and girls’ education.

So, the 60 million girls team has not been vacationing too much this summer as we prepare for all these events. We appreciate your support and hope to count on you to come to our annual conference and share information about our event with your network of contacts.

As you know, we spend less than 1% of revenues on administration. We don’t advertise or print brochures!! It is through word of mouth and your belief in these transformative projects that we can continue funding girls’ education! Bring a friend and watch us do even more!!

Wanda Bedard
President, 60 million girls Foundation

 


 

Collège Sainte-Anne – a truly international outlook!

Collège Sainte-Anne de Lachine has been a long-time supporter of 60 million girls. Together, we have worked on many activities, in particular, through its DéfiMonde (World Challenge) Program. Once again, this year, CSA has gone beyond just talking about making a difference to concretely putting their talents at our disposal. It has been instrumental in helping us further develop and test the technical support for our pilot project on self-directed learning in Sierra Leone. A big thank-you to Michel Twigg, Marc Gallucio and the whole CSA community for their enthusiasm and innovative ideas!

 


 

Fundraising with a flair

UniAction, founded by Thi Be Nguyen, one of our tireless volunteers, organized an elegant evening to support 60 million girls. The event took place on September 13th at the Chez Chine Restaurant at the Holiday Inn Select in downtown Montreal. 150 guests were regaled with a sumptuous 10-course Chinese dinner, a silent auction, an art exhibition, a fashion show featuring volunteers from the Foundation and, to culminate the evening, a raffle. In addition, two of our Olympic athletes, Joannie Rochette and Jennifer Jones were on hand to lend their support to the event. Guests who participated in the VIP cocktail party beforehand were able to have their photos taken with these star athletes.

At the end of the evening, a cheque for $25,000 was presented to Wanda Bedard. Our thanks to Thi Be and all those who participated in this amazing event. The proceeds will go a long way towards providing support for this year’s two projects in Kenya and Afghanistan.

sept2014_UniAction1sept2014_UniAction2

 


 

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60 million girls is committed to investing every dollar donated by you towards education projects that will have the greatest possible long-term and sustainable impact. However, we are always looking for ways to improve our visibility and to attract more followers. Please don’t hesitate to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn. We’ll look forward to you and your friends joining our ranks on all the social media at our fingertips!