By Wanda Bedard
Wonderful words to hear or dreaded ones – depending on if you’re a parent, a student or a teacher!!
Back to school should be the words that every child hears every new school season. To help ensure that this happens, 60 million girls continues to work hard to understand how our every dollar can have the greatest impact in making Education for All a reality.
This year, with your continued support and with your past investments, 60 million girls will undertake a total of 14 projects, supported over 6 years in 12 countries, reaching well over 12,000 children for a total investment of $1.4 million. From a small dream, the foundation has flourished in its capacity to finance projects with our amazing partners, ensuring that girls have access to the quality education that is their right. You have been there every step of the way.
We know the long lasting and wide ranging impact that educating girls has around the world. One more year in primary school decreases maternal and infant mortality rates by 10-15%. One more year in high school increases potential revenues for women by up to 25%. Educational attainment is directly linked to a country’s economic growth as well. It is estimated that 1 extra year of high school for girls will increase a country’s GDP by 0.3%.
That’s why research into the impact of girls’ education calls it the most effective community investment in the world.
Please join us for our annual conference on November 8th to hear our two guest speakers discuss just how girls’ education programs can be sustainable and community-changing. Roxanne Joyal, co-founding member of Free the Children, and Jackson Kaguri, founder of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in Uganda, will share their experience in developing the most sustainable and comprehensive programs to ensure that education for all children, and girls in particular, becomes a long term commitment in the communities they support. For more information about the conference, please click here.
Through our strategic planning work last fall, the foundation can spend more energy and time to research the very best practices in girls’ education in the developing world. We are always trying to ensure that each dollar invested has the greatest possible long term and sustainable impact. Through in-depth discussions with our partners and other NGOs, by participating in conferences and keeping up with the latest trends, research and innovative programs in girls’ education, we continue to develop an ever stronger voice advocating for girls’ education.
Two of our executive committee members visited a number of our projects this year, at their own expense, in India and in the Masai Mara and the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. We think you’ll enjoy reading their perspectives in the articles below.
We continue to appreciate the creativity and enthusiasm of the many people who support 60 million girls with fundraising initiatives of their own. And they are happening across the country, from our Chapter in BC to locally-based community projects everywhere. Their stories are inspiring and just plain fun, too!
And, 60 million girls has led to new initiatives developed by 2G2, such as their upcoming Speed Networking event for young adults to provide a forum supporting socially responsible ideas and projects.
We hope you enjoy the newsletter and truly look forward to seeing you on November 8th to share more with you on how your investment is making a true difference in thousands of young lives.
Now… back to school!
By Vida Fereydoonzad
Are you a young professional or a soon-to-be graduate? Someone looking to incorporate social responsibility in his or her career or simply in life?
The 60 million girls Foundation and 2GENERATION2 are hosting a Speed Networking event! We are looking for 20 to 35 year olds who want to join this unique network.
The benefit for those attending? You will meet a whole new network of people who share one thing in common: the desire to participate in making our world a better place. We don’t easily have access to a wide range of contacts, so this is a great chance to meet people from many different backgrounds. We all can appreciate the value of a diverse network. The foundation can be a facilitator for young professionals to get exposure to the non-profit world.
Date: Thursday, September 27, 2012 – 6:30 to 9 p.m.
Location: YWCA, 1355 René-Lévesque Boul. W., Montreal, QC H3G 1T3 (map)
A $20 ticket, available at the door, includes access to the event, wine, appetizers and the chance to meet many new contacts!
By Paula Gallagher
There is something about fall that is energizing…like a new year beginning!
The BC Chapter is putting that energy to use! Our team will now be meeting monthly. We have two goals: hold a significant fundraising event and build awareness in the schools. The event is in the formative stages, but the second, awareness in the schools, will be kick-started by our workshop presentation to the BC Social Studies Teachers Association on October 19th. This conference is held annually, and is well attended by elementary and secondary teachers from around the province. This year’s theme, Rights and Responsibilities – Thinking and Acting Locally and Globally, will be highlighted by keynote speaker, Romeo Dallaire.
Our workshop is titled “Girls’ Education – Their Right, Our Responsibility”. We are planning an interactive hour in which teachers will learn of the difficulties of getting girls into school but also, once these challenges are overcome, the tremendous benefits to the girls, their families and communities, and their collective futures because of education.
60 million girls Foundation, BC Chapter, now has a banner! Our thanks to Xibita for their outstanding generosity in donating the materials and labour in making the banner!! Many thanks as well to BC team member, Lynn Warburton and her husband, Matthew Warburton for their design expertise and time.
If you have any questions or suggestions for the BC Chapter, please don’t hesitate to contact Paula Gallagher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Lesley Stewart
60 million girls is very fortunate to have so many supporters who donate their time and energy to help finance our projects to further girls’ education. Among them is the Montreal chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority that presented a cheque for $250 to the foundation. Jennifer Boire and Jacques Nolin, strong supporters of 60 million girls, organized a golf tournament at Le Griffon des Sources in Mirabel on May 27th and raised $1,000. Julie Wilson, a grade five teacher at Sherwood Forest Elementary School, has been a supporter of the foundation since its inception. On her retirement this year, she was presented with a cheque for $277.60 made out to 60 million girls, the result of the students’ penny and bottle drives.
An evening of dining and donating
On May 17th, the Summerlea Golf and Country Club hosted a benefit evening for 60 million girls. The evening, organized by Chantal Haywood, included a delicious dinner, a silent auction, which included a myriad of different gift certificates and items, and a beautiful presentation by the Sonia Balazovjech Dance Company. Wanda Bedard, the foundation’s president, spoke of the ever-present need for the investment in girls’ education in developing nations around the world. The evening’s activities raised over $7,400 to help support our three projects in Africa this year.
Girls giving to girls
This spring, Queen of Angels Academy in Dorval chose to support our project with War Child Canada in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The girls, ably supervised by their pastoral animator, Lauren Percival, enthusiastically organized different activities and worked tirelessly for two months to collect funds. At the end of the school year, they were able to present a generous cheque for $7,015.64 to the foundation, proving again that generosity knows no age.
By Hélène Denis
I would like to share with you a moment in time that happened a few years ago, one that deeply touched my heart. Upon retirement from my career as a professor at the École Polytechnique, I decided that, although I wanted to begin to write, I needed to do more. I wanted to volunteer in some capacity but didn’t know exactly what form it would take. Nothing really tempted me until…
One Saturday morning, I was half listening to my favourite radio show. I heard a woman speaking about how 60 million girls, in developing countries, couldn’t attend school. This caught my attention and I listened in disbelief, even though official estimates confirmed this number. The woman who was being interviewed was Wanda Bedard. She spoke of the barriers to education that these girls encounter, which include helping their families with household chores, taking care of their younger siblings or fetching water for the family’s needs.
Suddenly, I had a feeling of recognition. That was me: the young girl who was forced to stay at home to help her parents – a mother who was paralyzed – just because I was born a girl. I felt very moved and so listened carefully, because I knew that I had to do something to help. The program was about an organization called 60 million girls. I found the foundation’s overall vision particularly compelling. Not only do the funded projects include building schools, but also daycare centres are often a component so that girls can bring their younger brothers and sisters whom they must look after. In addition, a well is dug nearby to enable them to bring water home after school. I liked that there was no attempt to change a community’s way of life, which would be unrealistic. Instead, the foundation works with the community to achieve the objective of educating young girls.
However, it is not enough just to build facilities. It is necessary to constantly motivate parents, who may be tempted to return to the status quo. Also, It is important to educate the girls in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies or early marriages. If girls graduate from primary school, they face new obstacles in high school, where the girls must deal with issues including long distances to travel and a lack of basic facilities such as toilets for women. Therefore, it is sometimes preferable for the girls to live in special residences where they can learn in a safe environment and where mentors can help them with their studies. In fact, the girls need both motivation and courage to leave the life they know for this new and often scary experience.
Refugee camps pose another problem in some African countries. How can girls resume courses they have missed because of wars and unfathomable violence? Trauma must be overcome before thinking about learning to read and write.
And, thus, little by little, with everyone’s help, a new generation of teachers, nurses, lawyers or doctors will be trained. And, especially, new mothers will be convinced of the importance of school for their daughters. 60 million girls, in partnership with other organizations, works to ensure that there will be fewer and fewer girls in the world left to reach. Of course, we don’t count them one by one. It has been shown that an educated woman is a source of wealth, not only for her immediate family, but also for the entire community.
This was and still is an experience that touches my heart and that has pushed me to become an active volunteer. In this way, I feel able to give back to other girls so that they may have the enormous opportunity that I had, later on, to study what I loved, to go as far as I wanted and to pursue an exciting career that gives me the feeling of fulfilment that I enjoy today.
By Joanne Trudeau
Last April, my husband and I had the pleasure of visiting our project in Rajasthan. It was one of the highlights of our month-long trip to India.
60 million girls, in partnership with Free the Children, is helping to support the small community of Kamoda. Its population is approximately 800 people: 130 families with about 135 children, aged 6 to 14 years. The village, perched on the arid and desolate mountains, consists of huts of earth and mud. The extreme poverty is omnipresent.
Thanks to the project that we support, the village now has a well and a one-room school with separate latrines for the girls and boys. A nurse also visits the village twice a month in order to give vaccinations and follow pregnancies. With our financial support, Free the Children can continue its five-year Adopt a Village program there.
Kamoda is at the beginning of this process so the project has not yet reached its full potential. However, our support for a period of two years is already showing tangible results.
The 54 children who attend the school greeted us joyfully. With the help of the translator, we also managed to communicate with the women – the real heart and soul of the community. The men are away working and the women stay with the children. They do everything!
For the first time since joining the Foundation, I could see firsthand the benefits of our $100,000 donation and how it is making a difference in the lives of these children. The volunteers’ work is respectful and progressive. The women and children whom we met showed us their desire to grow and move forward with pride. The school provides them not only a basic education and nutrition, but most importantly, hope for a better life.
By Manuela Clément-Frencia
I have been a volunteer of the 60 million girls Foundation since its inception in 2006. Recently, I felt that I needed to give more meaning to this commitment. I decided to embark on a journey to better understand the impact of girls’ education on their development and also on the collective transformation their education brings to the communities in which they live.
Along with photojournalists, Dominique, Maria and Arvind, I travelled to a very different world from ours, both socially and economically. There I met the men, women and children for whom a better future has been made possible because of our Foundation’s commitment.
Whether in the communities of Kamoda and Lai in India, the Kakuma refugee camp on the border of South Sudan or the Masai and Kipsigi communities in Kenya, we witnessed the positive impact of the educational projects supported by the Foundation. These projects include schools, latrines, water pumps, and health and early childhood centres. As well, there is the distribution of snacks and solar lamps, remedial classes for elementary school children, scholarships for high school students, awareness sessions for families and leadership courses for girls.
In addition to the expertise of our partners in the field, Free the Children, Windle Trust Kenya and WUSC (World University Service of Canada), the success of these projects is largely due to the motivated teachers who share their knowledge and become role models for the children, the involved parents who break cultural barriers and traditions, and the chiefs and elders who mobilize their communities to improve their children’s futures. But, the real activists are the children and especially the girls who, grateful for the opportunity they have been offered, are fully committed to the process.
One of the most significant impacts of our help is the confidence that the girls develop in both themselves and in their ability to change the course of their lives, destinies that already seem predetermined. Through our interviews with the teachers, principals, parents and staff of the local organizations, it became clear that, when opportunities presented themselves, education played a pivotal role in their successful outcome.
We were struck, not only by our visits to the Foundation’s projects, but also by our amazing and enriching personal encounters. We met individuals who inspire and galvanize you into action to create a more just world where each child can grow and realize his potential.
Our first memorable meeting was with Leyla, a young 18-year old girl who fled war-torn Somalia with her mother and two younger brothers. Leyla is taking remedial courses at one of the primary schools in the Kakuma refugee camp. She described her daily schedule of waking at 4:30 am and going to bed at 11:30 pm. It is a daily ritual of classes, household chores and caring for her younger siblings. Her goal is to obtain a KCPE, the Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education, and secure a place in the camp’s high school. Her dream is to return to her homeland to help her people. Leyla epitomized the meaning of the word “empowerment”.
Lucy, on the other hand, is a young student at the Kisaruni Secondary Boarding School who wishes to become a doctor so that she can care for her community. With her wide smile and sparkling eyes, she exudes self-confidence and determination. She told us about her family, her education, her Masai culture and her dreams. She held our hands throughout the school tour and the welcoming ceremony. We didn’t want to let go!
We had an amazing encounter with Mike, a young boy of about 10. We met him in the bush while we were learning about the basics of the Masai culture. He had just returned from school – a 2-hour walk barefoot there and back. Mike sat down with us, drank chai, did his rungu exercises and joked around. However, just before nightfall, he abruptly left. He had to run home quickly because of the danger of predatory animals along his path. We understood, through this fleeting encounter, that children must take advantage of every opportunity and that they need to be able to study and grow in a healthy, safe environment.
When we met Panda, a young student in the elementary school of the Kakuma camp, we also met Flora, her older sister. Flora had to quit school because of her fear of being kidnapped, on the way to school, by her uncle who planned to sell her in his home country of South Sudan. Tearfully, Flora explained that she lives a reclusive and fearful life at home and that her daily preoccupation is for her future safety.
We also met Janet, a young refugee, who was first a student and then a teacher at the primary school in the camp. Janet is a true role model for all the young girls who are in her class. She showed us what is possible to accomplish through education, despite difficult conditions and an environment entirely unconducive to academic success. Janet has won a scholarship to pursue her graduate studies in Canada!
Equally important was our meeting with a grandmother from a women’s self-help group in the community of Lai. She explained how promoting empowerment was helping the other women in the village to improve their living conditions. The women decided to buy a goat to provide for their babies and then sell the excess milk to other families. With this income, they purchased a second goat, and then a third. After a while, they decided to sell two of the goats, based on market prices. This process, which lasted about a year and a half, has allowed these women to see their income triple from 50 rupees a day (about $1 CAD or 0.70 euros) to 150 rupees (about $3 CAD or 2 euros).
There was a host of other people who made our trip so special: Douglas, Arok, Aguet, Robin Stanley, Jamilo, Dt Anthony, Shelley, Sarah, Marion, Cameron, Jonathan, Ellen, Dorkas, Stellah, Laura, Mike, Joseph, Simon, Mama Agnes Selesine, Jeremiah Joyce , Manish, Mohammed, Pushpa, Lila, Asha, Indra, Shobha, Brittnei, Mr Nain Singh and all the children, women and men whom we met. Each made us feel that we shared something special in common.
Whether in our visits to these communities, or to Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in Agra and to the Dharavi slum in Mumbai, we were struck by the dignity of each individual whom we met. This dignity was demonstrated at every turn. It was seen in the effort made by vulnerable people to take control of their lives and to make decisions that would positively impact not only their own lives, but also those of future generations. It was seen in the exercising of fundamental human rights. This includes the right to education, without which other rights cannot be exercised, and for which we must be advocates.