I apologize if this report is a little heavy, but it's important to know how strong our girls are. And to know that, you first need to know about the struggles they faced. If you are on our newsletter list or follow us on social media, we released a statement in June about one of our staff members, Macintosh. Numerous students reported that Macintosh had been sexually abusing them. The news shocked and saddened us, and we heard your shock, sadness and support echo ours. As Katie stated,
"Our girls are an example of raw boldness and we are prepared to do whatever we need to stand along side of them. Your support, prayers and love are the reason our girls were able to have the courage to speak out, and they need you now more than ever."
Currently, Macintosh is in jail until the trail; the date for which has not yet been set. The girls who came forward are in a safe home and strong as ever. They understand that what they are doing matters. For themselves, for their fellow students, for all women in Liberia; these girls are incredibly brave. Women in Liberia don’t normally speak out, and to see this kind of courage at such a young age inspires us every day.
A month later, in late July, the Ebola outbreak suddenly made it to the forefront of the news. On July 30th, President Sirleaf recommended that schools close. We felt that we needed to close the MTM Academy for the safety of our girls, our staff, and our community.
On July 31st, we gave care packages to the girls that included workbook pages to keep them busy and learning, medicine for fever and bacterial illnesses, Ebola awareness posters, health care referral forms, oral rehydration solutions, chlorine, soap, and rice. All students and staff also attended an awareness class led by doctors and staff from UNICEF, the IRC, and Ministry of Health. While the school is closed, all expat staff members have been relocated to the US. To date, we've had no reported cases of Ebola related illness in students or staff.
On Friday August 22nd, our founder Katie Meyler arrived in Liberia to help the West Point community, where the majority of our girls live. You can follow her journey at http://racingheartblog.tumblr.com/.
Thank you for your continued support. We hope to reopen school as soon as it's safe for our girls. Until then, we will keep fighting for a better, faster, more organized response to the outbreak, both in West Point and across Liberia. Please direct any questions, comments, or words of support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this together,
Emily & the MTM Team
Thank you for your continued support of our girls and our programs. We have had some amazing volunteers in the past few months and we wanted to share one of their stories with you. Here is Ashley's story:
I spent the last couple of weeks teaching the young women and girls of the More Than Me Academy in Liberia a practice known as intenSati. intenSati is an exhilarating workout that builds physical, mental and spiritual muscle. intenSati combines high-energy, total body training with positive affirmations that you either think or speak. I am possibly the first person to bring the practice of intenSati to Liberia and quite possibly Africa as a whole.
During the time I had with these beautiful girls, bursting with potential, whose eagerness you could practically feel gyrating on the surface of their skin, we spent a lot of time talking about how to make our dreams come true-- how to make our dreams a reality.
So here I was on my first day of teaching, standing in front of a dozen or so students in dusty uniforms with their big attentive eyes staring into mine when I realized my very dream, one in which I dreamed up two years ago, was coming true. I was living it.
In order for us to create our dreams, to make our dreams a reality we must put in alignment our thoughts, our words and our actions. Thus is the idea I explored with the MTM girls through meditation (thought), verbal affirmations (word) and physical movement (action). I may never know the impact of my teachings nor the enormity of my efforts. For that, you should ask each and every girl I got the pleasure of teaching. What I can say for certain is that we had fun! We smiled, we danced, we shouted and we celebrated! Together with all our power we were able to slow down time and truly live in the NOW with no concern with what was coming next.
Thank you Ashley for your amazing work with our girls! They had so much fun shouting things like "I am powerful!" and "I am strong!" while learning how to meditate and exercise in a healthy way.
Thank YOU, our amazing supporters, for believing in these girls. We couldn’t do our work without you! We have one month left of school, and the last day of school, June 25th, is also a Microsoft Bonus Day, with donations matched at 100%! Stay tuned for how you can get involved.
For the girls,
In June 2013, we wrote a report called Beatrice's Story. We wanted to update you on that story.
At the end of November 2013, Beatrice became very ill. She had been sick for a while, but when she went to the hospital in September, the doctor said it was an enlarged heart and told her not to eat Liberian pepper or salt. In November, her whole body became swollen and when our Director of Programs, Michelle, was made aware of the situation, she took B to the hospital immediately.
B was in the hospital for 10 days. On Monday, December 2nd, she was diagnosed with an enlarged heart, ascariasis worms in her stomach and lungs, and severely infected ulcerations on her legs. B passed away on Tuesday, December 3rd. Here is part of her story from Michelle:
The process was not miraculous or beautiful- it was full of pain, frustration, confusion and struggle. It was a lot of waiting...waiting for a diagnosis, waiting for a nurse to come, waiting to know what her chances of surviving were.
But those are not the moments that stick out in my mind. What sticks out in my mind is that Beatrice fought. This 13-year-old girl looked death and pain in the eyes and she never flinched. She let it sit there, but didn’t allow it to make her desperate. She had every right to feel like a victim and give up, but she NEVER, not for one moment, acted that way.
My favorite moment with B is that we had this campaign at the time for Giving Tuesday- "I'm on the street so that she doesn't have to be." I used to sit with B during the day and work from her hospital room. One day I was showing her our staff's profile pictures on Facebook holding the sign. She was so intrigued by the different locations people chose and the concept behind the campaign. When I walked away with my laptop, she told me that she wanted to take a picture with the sign. I laughed and said that we were in the hospital not on the street.
And then she said something that I will never forget, she said something so wise. This 13-year-old girl said, "I'm also fighting Michelle. I'm fighting so that no other student, no other girl in Liberia has to be in this hospital, has to be in my condition." She's so young but she GETS IT. She gets the whole point of More Than Me. That our lives are so much bigger than ourselves. B was staring death in the face and yet still fighting for every other girl in our program and in Liberia. I thought it was too much for her to even just fight for herself, for most people I think that would have been too much. But B is remarkable, B is extraordinary, B is an inspiration to us all. She didn't want her pain, her suffering to go to waste. She got that the most powerful thing she could do in that moment was to fight for something bigger than herself.
Her death shook our community, but we refuse to let her strength and spirit pass along with her.
This February we opened the “Be Your Best Self” Library in honor of Beatrice with support from the British Ambassador. And two weeks ago, we dewormed 124 students. It wasn’t beautiful watching our students struggling to pass the worms, but with every worm-free stomach comes the possibility of a healthier, longer life. We felt Beatrice’s spirit smiling down on us seeing that we are doing everything in our power to continue her fight that no student will have to lie in that hospital bed.
To keep our programs growing deeper, we're asking you to make a recurring donation to More Than Me. Right now, Microsoft is matching new recurring donations for the first 3 months, up to $500 per donor! Please consider sustaining our programs and improving our girls' lives in this way. How? When you click the donate button, select "monthly" under Frequency.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We think of B often and strive to honor her life every day.
For a brighter future,
We are excited to tell you that Population Services International (PSI) offered to teach our students reproductive and sexual health courses free of charge! This news couldn't come at a better time.
We recently found out that two of our girls are pregnant. Similar to what often happens in the US, our pregnant students feel ostracized at school and are starting to skip classes regularly. We are working with their families to figure out the best way forward to ensure that they continue to receive an education both during their pregnancy and afterward.
Without knowing it, these two students have the power to change the trajectory of not just their own lives, but the lives of pregnant teens and young mothers all over Liberia. How? By defying the odds. By staying in school. By becoming advocates for safe sex, gender equality, and their fellow teen mothers. Liberia is ripe for change and MTM's highest hope for our students is that they will be a part of Liberia's positive transformation.
As a matter of fact, Liberia's President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who also happens to be the first female head of state in Africa, got married at 17 and had four children right after high school. After seeing her friends move on to higher education and better jobs, Sirleaf set goals to join them and far outdid herself to get to where she is today.
Right now, you can do something to ensure that these girls have the support network they need to become the next powerful female Liberian leaders. Today, Microsoft is matching donations up to $1000 at 100%. That means that $100 = $200 - from now until matching funds run out! Will you join us in our determination to keep girls off the street and in school? Please help by spreading the word or giving what you can. Thank you for your continued suport - we couldn't do this work without you!
For a better world,
Emily and the More Than Me Team
Dear Amazing Supporters,
We are excited to announce that the More Than Me Academy opens this week! We have an Opening Celebration planned for September 7th, which will include speeches from the president of Liberia, one of our girls Regina, and our founder Katie Meyler. Our girls will also be performing a rap, a traditional dance, and a drama about what More Than Me means to them. We can't wait to tell you more.
More than 15% of our students have reported exploitative sexual encounters. After the school opening, our next project will be focusing on training teachers on reproductive and sexual health. We will be training the girls so that they can teach others in their community.
In honor of the opening, a generous supporter has given $5,000 and challenged us to match it before September 7th by donating to the More Than Me Girls Academy. Help us make sure that our girls have the amazing school they deserve.
Thank you for caring about the girls of More Than Me. We're in this together!
The More Than Me Team
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