By Wanda BedardNo, this is not about flying south to avoid the snow!The Canadian Winter is actually a term coined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson which I heard during a recent Free the Children event I was invited to. The Rev Jackson was referring to the events of the Arab Spring and musing on whether the impact would continue in making positive changes to Egyptian society as was the original intent of the citizens who had engaged in the demonstrations. He talked about passion and the desire for change as being greatly needed to realize a more just world but… passion and momentum without direction can also be a dangerous thing leading to unforeseen and sometimes negative outcomes. The Canadian Winter he was referring to was the recent Free the Children We Day in Montreal (in February!!) that brought together thousands of students actively committed to improving society locally and internationally in whatever area they felt needed change. The Rev. Jackson keenly felt the passion, determination and energy of the young crowd during We Day and paused long enough to realize that this activism was very much goal oriented, structured and directed to a particular target: positive social change. The underlying thread being school curriculum, parent and teacher support as well as skills training by Free the Children through the year long process. The passion of the students is supported with the tools they need to achieve their goals. The passion is directed.And so, Rev. Jackson asked that we export this ‘’Canadian Winter’’ to help engage youth, and I believe to help engage citizens of every age, around the world to use their passion, energy, concern, frustration and yes, even their anger at injustices or problems they see, to make a difference. And clearly, each one of us can have an impact and when all the individual actions are combined, any change is possible in time.
And 60 million girls is one ‘’tool’’ to gather the passion, determination and energy of committed citizens – you – to ensure that the change we work for is well researched, effective and sustainable. We export your concern for the state of the world to thousands of children through well thought out projects that have real impact in their communities. 60 million girlsconstantly strives to find the best practices, most creative and innovative ways to translate your goals for a more just world into the most effective investments in education and social change that is possible.
How do we ensure that our investments in girls’ education are the best that they can be? We listen, carefully, attentively, to a great number of actors: our partners, the organizations they work with, their communities, UN agencies, development organizations around the world, universities, researchers, other foundations and philanthropists, government aid agencies, social entrepreneurs, activists and through our own observations when we visit the field and through project reports. We constantly ask ourselves: Is this investment going to have the greatest impact it possibly can in ensuring a quality education for girls?
With you, we have grown into an organization that is well recognized and respected in the field. By reaching our goal of raising another $300,000 this year for our projects in Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Uganda, we will reach over $1.4 million invested in girls education and have directly touched the lives of well over 10,000 children in 6 years. All of this on a completely volunteer basis with less than 1% administration costs.
The foundation has been fortunate to have had its work recognized with a number of awards this year and in past years. I am always so proud of this and dearly wish that each one of you who has helped 60 million girls grow could be with me to receive each accolade. And I also hope that our work can inspire others to take a stand where they feel it is most urgently needed. It clearly just takes that first step to action by any one individual, and then joined by another and another to be able to support the change for a more just world that we hope for.
Thank you for being there together!
By Paula GallagherWe have just confirmed a date of May 7, 2012 for Dr. Samantha Nutt, Founder and Executive Director of War Child Canada, to speak at a 60 million girls Foundation fundraising event in Vancouver! Additional details will be forthcoming shortly. Please firstname.lastname@example.org with any inquiries.
By Lesley StewartMany individuals or groups of people have found creative ways to support60 million girls to improve access to quality education for girls in developing countries. Three such examples are illustrated below:On November 19, 2011, the Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company (SBDC) presented Ensemble for the benefit of 60 million girls. This full-length production illustrated the struggles and joys of women around the world. Ensemble also featured performances by dancers from Collège Sainte-Anne and Macdonald High School, as well as original music by composer/producer David Hodges and singer/songwriter Jeanette Arsenault. Because of this marvellous effort, the non-profit SBDC and its dedicated dancers and volunteers raised $7,000 for the foundation.Melanie Miller, a Beaconsfield mother of three, became involved with 60 million girls through Chantal Carrier, a member of our Executive, and was immediately struck by the integrity of our foundation. She has read widely on the subject of girls’ education and has been inspired by people such as Marc Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children and Me To We. She believes strongly in the value of education and would like to ensure that, like her own children, girls and boys in other parts of the world have the opportunity to go to school.
She believes, as we do, that supporting education for girls brings positive change to families, communities and nations. Her support of 60 million girls took an innovative turn four years ago. She suggested that Chantal hold parties at which she would sell her Tupperware products. Her commission, 25% of her sales, would then be donated to the foundation. Ever since, Chantal has hosted an annual get-together for a dozen friends or more and Melanie has sold Tupperware. To date, she has generously donated the proceeds—$2,500—to 60 million girls.
Queen of Angels Academy in Dorval (QAA) had already demonstrated its commitment to girls’ education when they raised over $10,000 for 60 million girls in 2009. This year, as part of their Lenten project, the students have chosen to support our project in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). To kick off the two-month fundraising effort, our president, Wanda Bedard, described the many obstacles facing girls in the DRC with respect to access to education. QAA’s enthusiastic students have organized a host of different fundraising activities that include bake sales, a dress-down Friday, a movie morning, a “cake-off” competition and a spaghetti supper. These amazing fundraisers know no bounds!
We greatly appreciate the initiative and creativity of all those who have supported the foundation. Their generous humanitarian vision means another step forward for girls’ education.
By Lesley StewartAn article, entitled “Barefoot—The other side of life”, appeared recently in India’s newspaper The Hindu. It tells the story of two well-educated young men who, on their return to India, wanted to be of use to their country. Matt and Tushar decided that, to understand their people better, they would live like the average Indian. This meant living on an average wage of 150 rupees or $3 a day. Since a third of this had to be put aside for rent, they were left with $2 a day. 75% of Indians subsist on less than this income.To begin their experiment, they moved into the apartment belonging to their bemused domestic. What did they find out? They found that they could no longer afford to eat out. They couldn’t eat processed food, meat was unaffordable and milk products were expensive and could only be eaten sparingly. Living on $2 a day not only restricted their diet but also their activities. They couldn’t afford to travel far or see movies, they could use electricity for only 5 to 6 hours a day and they looked longingly at the contents of store windows. They hoped they would not fall ill.However, they decided to embrace the bigger challenge: to live at the poverty line. They moved to a village to live on a daily budget of 37¢. They ate a diet of parboiled rice, tuber, banana and black tea. They thought of food throughout the day. They walked long distances and could no longer afford either a cell phone or the Internet. More than ever, they hoped they would not fall ill.
After a month, their experiment came to an end and the two men celebrated with a sumptuous meal. However, they confessed to their friends that “each bite was a sad reminder of the harsh reality that there are 400 million people in our country for whom such a meal will remain a dream for quite some time”. They felt guilty. They knew that only luck had allowed them to be born to a life of comfort. This luck had given them material possessions, a good education and healthcare. They learned that hunger and poverty do not allow you to realize even the most modest dreams so constant are the threat and concern with just being able to survive, one day at a time.
60 million girls recently in the news!!March 20th, 2012 – Wanda Bedard receives the Woman of Achievement 2012 Award from the Business and Professional Women’s Association (BPW) of Montreal in recognition of the work of 60 million girls.International Women’s Day, March 8th, 2012 – an interview on Global TV (Click here to see video).
February 6th, 2012 – Wanda Bedard is awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her dedicated support for girls’ education around the world, through the 60 million girlsFoundation (Click here to see the video).