Help us meet our goal of raising $50,000

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Girls Ed Gets Press in Boulder Daily Camera

Writer Chris Weidner wrote an excellent article about Girls Ed last week. To read the article in full, go to the Boulder Daily Camera website.

Weidner: Climbers find cause in Pakistani village

Chris Weidner
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heidi Wirtz, of Boulder, and Lizzy Scully, of Lyons, traveled halfway around the world seeking adventure on unclimbed rock faces.

They didn't know that fate would instead deliver them to a remote village, where one look at a girls' schoolhouse would change the direction of their lives.

It was the summer of 2006, and their destination was Pakistan's rugged Karakoram Range, famous for such unforgiving mountains as K2, the world's second highest.

After months of planning and 10 days of travel, Wirtz and Scully finally established a base camp near the Biafo Glacier, a splinter off the massive Baltoro Glacier.

Their initial goal was to complete a new route on a seldom-climbed 2,500-foot rock spire called the Ogre's Thumb, whose lofty, snow-capped summit exceeds 18,500 feet. The excited pair got started immediately -- they schlepped 70-pound loads of gear toward its base.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Moving Right Along & the Liberian Girls Scholarship Program

Heidi and I are excited to announce that we've decided to take on the Liberian scholarship project. Although we still need to put it to a vote at our February 20th meeting, we're confident all the Board members will OK the project. I've summarized the project below this note.

We also have decided to move forward with two school projects in Pakistan, and hopefully with the help of The CARE Foundation, Pakistan, we'll be able to start implementing these programs later this year. I've been communicating regularly with The CARE Foundation, and I'm currently waiting to hear back from them in regards to how much our projects will cost and how we will implement them through CARE.

Once we get the approval vote from GEI's Board of Directors for our projects I'll be sending off Letters of Intent to various grantors. The Mountain Fund grant writers, Tammy Wetzel and Christine Egger, are guiding me through this process and also doing research on available grants for projects such as ours. Hopefully we'll get a few dozen letters of intent out by the end of February.

In other news, Heidi and I are having a meeting this week to brainstorm different fund raising possibilities. We are considering doing a couple major fund raisers. One will feature Pete Takeda and possibly include two days worth of events, such as races, film fests, etc, and will likely be held in Crested Butte, CO. We are also excited to organize a music event in the Boulder area, perhaps in Boulder or nearby Lyons.

Here is a summary of the Liberian Scholarship Program:

Girls Education International would like to partner with Common Ground Society (CGS), which is located in Congo Town, Monrovia, Liberia, to start a scholarship program for 50 to 100 girls throughout Liberia.

I’ve first included a summary of Common Ground Society (CGS), Liberia. Then I’ve included an outline of the scholarship plan as determined by Sherman-Davis and Girls Education International (GEI) founder, Lizzy Scully.

Organizational History/Background of CGS

Mrs. Emily Sherman-Davis established Common Ground Society, Liberia along with two refugee women in 2002 in Banjul, The Gambia. She was then studying for her graduate diploma in Gender and Development at the Management Development Institute in Banjul, The Gambia.

The idea to start an organization to work with young Liberian refugees stemmed from two factors: Sherman-Davis’ school had wanted her to do a practicum before her graduation. As a foreigner it was difficult for her to get absorbed in any organization in Gambia so she thought that she could do something on her own. Secondly, tensions between Liberians and Sierra Leonean refugees had heightened in the refugee community. Sierra Leoneans blamed Liberians for the war in their country particularly the former Liberian president Charles Taylor. On the other hand Liberians also blamed Sierra Leonean for allowing Liberian dissidents to use their soil to launch attacks on innocent civilians in Liberia. So instead of holding together the refugee community, its youths grew apart just at a time when they needed to be pulling together. There were troubling signs everywhere and so Common Ground was founded as a way of offering young people an opportunity to engage in positive activities, develop close relationships and to find value in themselves – even in the face of personal disruption, poor schools, and a refugee community generally devoid of support.

CGS has worked with Liberian and Sierra Leonean youths in three programs: Youth Palaver Hut Conflict Education Project, the Reproductive Health Project and the Peace School Project. The Palaver Hut program brought together youths (young adults) from the both countries to discuss the underlying causes of the conflict within their community and finding ways to resolve these issues non-violently. They use story telling, dramas, songs, soccer, kickball (popular Liberian girls’ game) to create a cohesive refugee community. The Education for peace program (Peace School Project) brought young people from the ages of 8-14 together twice every week for one hour. The main goal of the program was to teach young people to understand the underlying of conflict. We also taught them skills that would help them deal with conflict without resorting to violence. The Reproductive Health program was directed at young refugee girls to understand their sexuality, be assertive, acquire communication skills, and learn about HIV etc

Upon graduation Sherman-Davis returned to Liberia in 2004 and registered the organization in Liberia. It was later accredited to operate as a non profit in Liberia. They started to operate in Liberia in March 2005 in Buchanan City, Grand Bassa County.

To form and educate rural youths, particularly girls and women, to play a vital role for a just and peaceful society

Common Ground Society is dedicated to helping young people, particularly girls/young women living in rural communities to grow into confident, self respecting responsible community members who can move positively to the future they can contemplate and claim through a range of educational outreach initiatives that engender the development of positive character, leadership skills, assertiveness, critical thinking, goal setting and peaceful coexistence in a secure and supportive environment.

A key component of the program is the commitment to make CGS beneficiaries as models in the communities they live by providing them with the means to academic success as well as teaching them life skills, wh ich will offer them a sense of personal worth, a positive assessment of the future, and the knowledge of how to plan for it. CGS emphasizes self confidence and a sense of efficacy which are critical if young people are to strive for success in school and society.

Enhancing these life skills, in addition to supporting more traditional academic outcomes, is at the center of our organization. From experience we have learned that our work in the community continue to benefit and also have a positive long term effect on the young people with whom we work.
CGS Aims and Objectives
CGS intends to empower young people to actively share current and future livelihoods in order to achieve the target of development by doing the following:
1. To raise the living standard of the youths by improving their physical and mental power through education and special know-how and skills.
2. To educate the youths to value diversity and develop a culture of tolerance; know their rights and responsibilities as future leaders.
3. To help today’s youth in becoming Democratic National Leaders.

GEI Scholarship Program Outline

CGS and GEI would like to increase access for girls to education. We would like to have the scholarship spread out, primary, junior high, and senior high, and run the program for three years, at which time we would know how many girls have completed high school, junior high and elementary school on the scholarship program. The scholarship would take on between 25 and 100 girls in four counties: Monrovia, Montserrado County, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Kakata, Margibi County and Gbarnga, Bong County.


Bong County:
St. Martin Catholic High School (Catholic and Private)
Methodist High School (Methodist and Private)
Gboveh High School (Government/Public)

*CGS suggests having more scholarships available for these schools because the fees are low and many girls that enrolled in this school are from poverty stricken homes.

Grand Bassa County:
St. Peter Claver Catholic High School (Catholic and Private)
Methodist High School (Methodist and Private)
Seventh Day Adventist High School (Seventh Day and private)
World Wide Mission School (Private)
Bassa High School (Government/Public)

Margibi County:
St. Christopher High School (Catholic and Private)
Booker Washington Institute
Methodist High School

Montserrado County:

Christ the King Catholic High School
Tubman High School
Monrovia Open Bible High School

CGS would like to target girls that really have need. It means CGS has to visit the communities and make some verification so that the scholarship really goes to the needy here in the city.

Scholarships for 100 girls would cost approximately $10,000.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Making Progress!

It may seem like it's been forever since we've made any progress (sometimes it seems that way to us anyway!). However, finally we're moving forward. With all the political chaos in Pakistan, including the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the recent bombings of schools and other terrorist activities, and because we've had trouble dealing with the local politics of the village of Khane, we haven't made much progress toward renovating the school in Khane. We finally realized that in order to get something accomplished, we'd have to find a NGO partner in Pakistan who could help us navigate local politics and government red tape. After much searching we've finally found The CARE Foundation, Pakistan. Though we haven't committed 100% to working with them, they have done some extraordinary things in Pakistan, and we are exploring a partnership with them.

According to The CARE Foundation, they are the largest NGO providing education in Pakistan. They currently manage 182 schools in which they are educating more than 118,000 underprivileged children. I plan on traveling to Pakistan sometime over the next few months to meet up with them and come up with a plan of action for the school in Khane.

In other news, Heidi and I (along with our esteemed board members, Elizabeth O'Neill, and Justin Voorhees) have decided to take on some additional projects. We are anxious to move forward with a project. We are currently considering: building a school for another village in Pakistan that already rents the basement of a restaurant to educate their girls; starting a scholarship program for Liberian girls; and building a school in Nepal (working directly with The Mountain Fund's Trek4Good program). We will have more details after our February 13th meeting.
-Lizzy Scully