POSTED BY a60millionsdefilles | Jun, 21, 2013 |
An impact greater than our size!
By Wanda Bedard
In 2008 and 2011, 60 million girls invested in the remedial classes for girls in primary school project in the refugee camps of Dadaab and Kakuma in Kenya and in Dzaleka in Malawi with our wonderful partner World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and, through them, with Windle Trust Kenya (WTK). Our total investment of $200,000 gave hundreds of young girls access to extra class hours to enable them to successfully complete 8 years of elementary school. Our funding also provided a number of high school bursaries for the girls.The program was very successful and enthusiastically welcomed by the girls. Despite being already burdened by a heavy domestic workload, the girls squeezed in extra hours in their long days and found the energy to study more for that life-changing opportunity to continue their education.Just this past month, WUSC shared the best news imaginable. Because of the success of these projects we funded, WUSC and WTK were able to secure £12 million (close to $20 million CAD) of new funding from UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) to continue this work on a much larger scale for 3 years!! This new program, Kenya Equity in Education Program (KEEP), will improve girls’ participation and achievement in Dadaab and Kakuma and the surrounding communities. Our contribution and deep belief in WUSC’s program and partnership have resulted in a hundredfold leveraging effect – a financial impact so many times greater than what we could have achieved ourselves!

60 million girls is constantly looking at ways to continue to leverage our experience and fundraising capabilities. In the past year, we have created an R&D team within the foundation. The objective of this team is to discover, research and understand those practices that are the most effective, the most innovative and the most sustainable to ensure girls’ success in education in the developing world. We feel that 60 million girls’ greatest impact will come from the flexibility and creativity of our model: an “entrepreneurial’’ approach to development from our ever-growing volunteer network of education specialists, academics, researchers, social entrepreneurs and philanthropists, in conjunction with our program partners.

A $200,000 investment resulting in a $20 million donation says a tremendous amount about the impact of choosing great partners with innovative approaches in support of girls’ education.

Save these dates
By Vida Fereydoonzad
Our annual conference on October 23rd at 6 pm at l’Ermitage, Collège de Montréal: An in-depth look at our project in Ethiopia using sport and play as a basis for increased academic attainment for girls, self-confidence, leadership and improved peer relationships.The 4th annual 2G2 soccer event on June 16th at Dorset Park, in Baie D’Urfé: Get your soccer shoes shined and your game face on! Our soccer event is right around the corner and competition is fiercer than ever this year. We have returning teams that want to claim 1st place but also new teams joining that want to add to that challenge. Just want to have fun in the sun? Everyone is welcome to participate. Teams will be mixed!How it works: We ask that teams of about 10 players register to play 6 vs 6 outdoor soccer. By registering for $20 per player, you are guaranteed a minimum of 3 games and a day of exercise and fun. For more information, please contact me at Spread the word and come play for a good cause!

Thank you to Lakeshore Soccer that continues to support this event.

Lunch with Marc Kielburger
By Paula Gallagher
On April 8th, the BC Chapter hosted an intimate lunch and conversation with Marc Kielburger, co-founder of Free The Children, Me to We, author, activist and Canadian icon. The event was held at the Canadian Centre for Peace on a beautiful spring day – the perfect setting for an inspiring afternoon. Marc’s presentation introduced the audience to Free The Children’s philosophy, as well as to their very forward thinking activities of social enterprise and community involvement, not only in their international projects but also here in Canada, and especially among youth.This year, we are partnering with Free The Children on a project in Kenya. We were, of course, very interested to hear all about the Oleleshwa Girls’ High School in the Maasai Mara region. Marc was able to give us a firsthand account, in addition to many pictures and personal anecdotes. His presentation reconfirmed for all of us why girls’ education is so important. The audience was totally engaged!Everyone present who wished to converse with Marc had the opportunity to do so. In fact, I’m not sure he had much time to eat! He is a most gracious and inspiring young man, a terrific role model, and one of the busiest people I have ever met! It was gratifying for all present to realize how much he and Free The Children value the support of 60 million girls Foundation and share the goal of girls’ access to education worldwide.

It was a wonderful day!

Salone, Sierra Leone – February 2013

By Wanda Bedard
For a country that went through a devastatingly brutal 10-year civil war that ended in 2002, what we saw was breathtakingly positive!This past February, four members of 60 million girls travelled, at our own expense, to Koinadugu District in northern Sierra Leone to visit projects we have funded with our partner, CAUSE Canada. Negin Atashband, our graphic artist par excellence, my daughters and 2G2 specialists, Vida and Liah Fereydoonzad, and myself suspended comfort (!!), distance and time to immerse ourselves for 10 days in the reality of life in the town of Kabala, population 15,000.With an average temperature of 35° C, no electricity (i.e. no fans, no air conditioning, no ice cold drinks), road potholes that would make Montrealers proud, we’d have to say that life was more “rustic’’ than we are used to. But the welcome by Bev and Paul Carrick, co-founders of CAUSE Canada, their staff and all the others whom we met – the hundreds of students, teachers, principals and mothers – greatly compensated for a little stickiness, heat and dust!

If you take a glance at education and health statistics for Sierra Leone, you quickly realize that access, gender parity, graduation rates and maternal mortality are among the worst in the world. And yet, what we witnessed in Kabala was surprising and much more positive than you would expect. In the elementary schools, there were at least as many girls as boys in the often overflowing classrooms. Sometimes, girls outnumbered the boys. Classes were full even up to grade 6 – the last year of primary school in Sierra Leone. In high schools, we saw close to even numbers of girls and boys.
june2013_01We met the group of Peer Literacy Facilitators we are supporting with our funding. This group of 15 to 20 high school girls spend 8 weeks during the summer training to learn how to teach reading and phonetics to elementary school classes for 4 hours per week from September to June – in return for access to computers for a full day on Saturdays and support with their high school fees. These girls are incredibly motivated and hardworking and also serve as role models for the young girls and boys they work with in the elementary schools.
june2013_02We also met groups of women who are part of the Mothers’ Clubs in the primary schools. With an initial grant of $125 for a school maintenance fund, these women have increased the grant to $500 in 1 year in one school and to over $4,000 in 3 years at another school. The money is used to buy equipment, desks, maintain the school, provide a daily meal through cooperative gardens, support new programs – whatever the school committee feels is most important for the school. Based very much on some of the most successful principles of micro-finance, the Mothers’ Clubs are an amazing, sustainable source of support for the schools.

If what we saw was in great contrast to what world statistics for the country would indicate, it isn’t hard to understand that it is in great part due to CAUSE Canada’s successful partnership with the communities in Koinadugu District. CAUSE Canada has been in the area for over 25 years – including during the civil war during which CAUSE Canada had a paid staff of 75. In fact, during our stay, this solidarity with the people of Sierra Leone was highlighted by the presentation of an Honorary Doctorate to Paul Carrick by Sierra Leone’s University of Makeni.

Bev and Paul were exceptional guides during our visit. Their openness, cultural sensitivity, deep belief in social justice and “entrepreneurial’’ spirit were in great evidence everywhere – not to mention the fact that we were able to take advantage of their combined 60+ years of development experience in Africa, Asia and Latin America by asking literally hundreds of questions and soaking up their amazing stories.

I personally learned so much – not only about the barriers, constraints and difficulty of delivering development programs – but perhaps more about the opportunities for great sustainable and beneficial change hand in hand with the local community.

Our very deepest thanks to CAUSE Canada for their outstanding work, their deep commitment to positive change and support, and for their warm welcome. Our investment could not be in better hands!

Education at a crossroads
By Tanya Guyatt
Teaching children to think creatively has never been more critical. In a world of fast-paced changes where what we know is becoming less important than how we are able to learn and to adapt, Sugata Mitra is being touted by many as a new visionary. He says that “schools as we know them are obsolete”. Instead, he wants to create a “School in the Cloud” for self-directed Internet-based learning. In February, he won the $1 million TedTalks award.

Mitra’s premise is that children are naturally curious and that, with minimal (if any) teacher supervision, they are capable of teaching themselves. He called this a Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE). A “granny mentor” via Skype need only give a group of children an issue to study and then provide encouragement. They will figure out the rest.

The impetus for SOLE occurred in 1999 when Mitra put a computer in a “hole in the wall” giving free access to the children of a New Delhi slum. After several months, he discovered that groups of children had taught themselves enough English to use the mouse and browse the web. He half-jokingly says that the children’s only complaint was that the processor was not fast enough! Mitra repeated his experiment across the country, sometimes equipping the computer with advanced chemistry lessons to see if the children were able to teach themselves the concepts. They were, and an idea was born.

Mitra’s research has interesting applications, particularly for regions where teachers are hard to find. If given the tools for learning, essentially a computer with a broadband connection and Skype to access a “granny mentor”, can children in developing countries and around the world learn independently?

SOLE is not a panacea for improving access and quality of education in all rural areas, but it is an interesting path to a new way of seeing education. And, many of these innovative ideas can be modified for areas that still don’t have access to broadband Internet. It is clear that it is exactly those areas that are the most isolated and poor that will see the greatest improvement in schooling results.

That said, the use of technology in educating children is here to stay and there are many ways – besides brick and mortar – to bring the lessons to the children. The Khan Academy’s online tutorials, for example, are extremely popular. Its YouTube channel has more than 256 million total views. The Khan Academy aims to overhaul the traditional classroom environment. It provides students with online testing software that grades assignments and even encourages those struggling with the concepts.

Other ideas and concepts abound. Yoza, a South African initiative, provides stories for children and youth that can be downloaded for free on their mobile phones. A recent report, called eTransformAfrica, looks at different ways information technology can be harnessed to improve people’s lives, including through education. UNESCO has promulgated a declaration on open learning, a related issue that would give people access to learning materials over the Internet for free.

Learning is at a crossroads. There are so many exciting opportunities for children, particularly for those in the most remote and disadvantaged corners of the planet.

The sky is the limit
By Lesley Stewart
On September 12, 2012, Dormez-vous held its third annual golf tournament, Sky is the Limit, in support of 60 million girls. Employees, sponsors and friends of Dormez-vous and Sleep Country Canada were invited to participate in the golf tournament, held at the Whitlock Golf and Country Club in Hudson, and they came from across Canada.Organizer Lynn Martel, Vice-President of Dormez-vous, ensured that everyone enjoyed the day. And, what a day they had! A beautiful golf course, brilliant sunshine, contests, prizes and surprises! That evening, Wanda Bedard, our president, spoke of the need for quality education for children in the developing world. She also spoke of the transformative effect that girls’ education has on the lives of the women, their families and their communities.Dormez-vous has a strong tradition of giving back to the communities in which it operates. Donating to an international cause represented a bit of a departure for the company. However, Lynn felt strongly that our mission of making education available to all was one that should be embraced. The generosity of the many golfers that day raised almost $13,000 and will allow us to support this year’s projects in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Creativity and generosity go hand in hand
By Lesley Stewart
Queen of Angels Academy, an all girls’ high school in Dorval, has a history of giving. Each year, QAA chooses a charitable foundation for its Lenten project and, once again, 60 million girls is the recipient of the students’ generosity. This is not the first time that QAA has chosen our foundation. In 2009, QAA raised over $9,000 to support our project in Honduras and, again last year, over $7,000 for our project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.This year, QAA has chosen to support our project in Kenya, the construction of a girls’ secondary school in Oleleshwa, in partnership with Free The Children. To launch the fundraiser, our president, Wanda Bedard, described the transformative effect that education can have on the girls, their families and their communities. The students enthusiastically embraced fundraising for the project and launched a myriad of creative and innovative activities. They sold ring pops, chocolate bars and smoothies, organized a pyjama day, a “cake-off” competition and a raffle and the Sec 5s held a sleepover – among dozens of other activities.What enthusiasm and generosity! QAA girls are making a real difference for the girls in Kenya.

Gens de cœur
By Wanda Bedard
Thank you for your votes that came in by the hundreds for the Radio-Canada/Manuvie contest – Gens de coeur. While it was very close, we were just short of the number of votes needed to win the $20,000 donation. The honour went to a wonderful and dedicated young woman, Véronique Bigras, for her work in palliative care.The contest provided 60 million girls with great visibility and, of course, with a much appreciated donation of $1,000 from Manuvie.Thank you for your enthusiastic support, for sharing the event with your networks and for your innumerable e-mails of best wishes and success. What a team we make – together!