More Than Me

The More Than Me Academy is on a mission to make sure education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, define the lives of the most vulnerable girls from the West Point Slum of Liberia. When she graduates, she will decide what comes next for her life.
Apr 26, 2011

Strong Enough

We have our first promo video! An organizational friend offered to make us a free promotional video using some of the footage we had as well as an interview with Katie, MTM's founder.

Hear More than Me's story straight from the source, as well as see the energy of the kids in West Point that you have sent to school this year and some of the girls on our waitlist who will be in school in the fall. Your investment is making a dream come true.

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Mar 8, 2011

Why Girls?

March 8th,  International Women's Day, a day dedicated to the history, challenges, progress, and achievements of women everywhere. As an organization dedicated to sending girls to school, we thought we'd ask the question, "why girls?"

How can we help the most people, make sure scholarships are being served to the children most in need, and lay the foundation for a more stable future for all Liberians?

Girls.

In Liberia, and around the world, girls are often victims to domestic and sexual violence, women are the least likely to have access to power, and girls are more likely to be left behind their male peers. For example, two thirds of illiterate adults are women. This is incredible for a world-wide statistic. More incredible, this statistic has not changed in 20 years.

graphic by Elizabeth Erickson
graphic by More than Me volunteer Elizabeth Erickson

The challenges are clear. Women have to deal with being ignored by education systems, with potentially dangerous child births, and with disease. These are huge problems to overcome and many of them result from systemic inequities that are themselves due to large issues that can not be easily solved. There is one way to help improve the lives of girls and women and their communities. It is proven, effective, and, as mentioned before, somewhat cost effective: education.

Women reinvest 90 percent of their income in their families versus 30 to 40 percent for men. In fact, the World Bank has stated that, "Low investment in female education also reduces a country's overall output." Educating women is an efficient use of charitable dollars. While working for the World Bank, Harvard professor Larry Summers, wrote, "Investment in girls’ education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world."

Of course, educating girls is good for the girls themselves. The Council on Foreign Relations, found that, "An extra year of a woman’s education has been shown to reduce the risk that her children will die in infancy by 5 – 10 percent." UNESCO reports that in Liberia, women with secondary school education are more than 20 percent more likely to give their children vaccinations.

Why girls? More than Me focuses on giving scholarships to the girls of West Point, one of the worst slums in Liberia, because it means more than just learning how to read and write. For girls like Abigail and Esther, Grace and Elizabeth, an education is not just a way to get off the street and avoid the dangers this presents. Education is a way to help their families, their futures, and their country.

Spread the word on International Women's Day. Post the above infographic to your Twitter and Facebook pages. Post links in the comments of this blog about events and stories you find. Education is not just about sending girls to school, but also learning something along the way.

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Feb 3, 2011

Love for Abigail

This is Abigail. She’s 14 years old. I met her one day while I was taking photos around West Point, one of Liberia’s worst slums. She liked posing and wanted me to take her picture.

Abigail West Point Liberia More than Me

We formed a friendship, and I made it a habit of seeking her every time I visited West Point, Liberia. Eventually, I found out she was not in school. Because she was always happy and had a big smile on her face, it was hard to tell that there were any major problems in her life. In reality, girls like Abigail are at high risk for prostitution. In West Point, there are few opportunities for anyone, but girls are particularly vulnerable.

One rainy day, I saw her selling goods with another young girl and went to take her picture. Suddenly, an older woman came over and smacked Abigail in the face. Abigail didn’t flinch; it was like she was expecting it, like it was normal. The older woman was the mother of the girl with Abigail. She was angry because I was taking a picture with her daughter in it, and she took her anger out on Abigail. I calmed the tense mother by assuring her that her daughter was not in any of my pictures.

After the tension lifted, Abigail and I talked about her life in West Point. She asked us to send her and her friends to school, telling us how much she wants to learn and how much she loves to play and dance. Eventually, excited by the prospect of the future, we walked towards some music coming from a radio on the street and danced with her neighbors and friends on the dirt road. Eventually, Abigail had to return to work. I hugged her and promised that she would be one of the next girls we put in school.

Abigail 2 West Point Liberia More Than Me

Since leaving Liberia, I talk to Macintosh, our field volunteer, a couple of times a week to check up on the kids. I told him about Abigail and her living situation, and he expressed his concern for her. I don’t know why, but she had really made an impression on me. In that moment, I knew that we needed to do whatever necessary to get her in school. I told Macintosh to get her in school, get her everything she needs, to buy her a treat, and tell her we love her.

Nothing in the entire world feels more important to me than Abigail. It is incomprehensible to me that at age 14, I was dancing around in church, while Abigail, at the same age, is struggling. It makes me sick. All I can do is work harder, tell more people, and do everything in my power to make sure it gets better. Abigail is only one girl who I feel strongly about, but I know that West Point is flooded with girls just like her. There is no higher privilege than devoting my life to help more of these girls achieve their full potential.

More than Me is not perfect, but it’s something. Once these girls are in school, they are no longer on the street being raped or bought for four dollars a night. It’s a start, and I believe that it will only get better from here.

February is a month commonly associated with love. This month, More than Me is kicking off a “Love for Abigail” campaign. Throughout the month of February, all individual donations up to $1000 will go directly into an account for Abigail’s education. This means we can guarantee Abigail four years of education, an opportunity that so many children in this world are still denied. Instead of buying chocolates that will be forgotten tomorrow or flowers that will wilt within a week, pledge this February to reach out and love someone in a way that will change their life.

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