Greetings GlobalGiving & LitWorld Community!
As 2014 comes to an end we are reflecting on some of our favorite stories from the LitWorld movement. We have achieved these milestones thanks to the support of our wonderful community of advocates, partners, local leaders, interns and volunteers. We hope you enjoy these select stories and press pieces and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for helping our LitClub movement soar.
1. The LitClub members of our first-ever Harlem club graduate high school.
This September, we sent the girls who joined our inaugural New York City LitClub off to college, all of them the first in their families to make such a daring leap into the future. As the girls prepared to say goodbye to their families, one of the mothers whispered to her daughter, “You come from a poor family. Remember that you are going to college to receive an education and return home with something strong in you.”
These girls were born into the harshest conditions in New York City and yet they have been able to overcome life’s obstacles with the crucial support of LitWorld: a circle of LitClub peers, LitWorld mentors who have nurtured their aspirations, and access to resources that have strengthened the power of their own stories and voices. LitWorld's core belief is that where you are born does not determine your success in life. Our teen LitClub graduates own their stories and have used everything they learned in LitClub to shape their futures, to set big goals and to go after their big dreams.
2. The unstoppable Power Women of Kibera
LitWorld's LitClub program serves girls of all ages, from young children to teens to mothers. The Power Women Moms LitClub is a group of HIV positive women who live in the Kibera community of Nairobi. When we met the power women, we started our work together with this question: "What do you want literacy to do for you?" They told us they wanted to be able to teach their children to read, and they wanted to create a website to sell all of their handmade products to become economically independent. Their dreams became a reality. The women manage multiple businesses in Kibera including a daycare, a sewing shop and a hair studio.
3. The launch of story summits on the Day of the Girl.
Our Girls LitClub community mobilized for Stand Up for Girls, LitWorld's day of action in honor of the International Day of the Girl. On October 11th, LitWorld LitClub leaders in 15 countries held Story Summits, local events that bring girls and trained mentors together to share their stories and learn from one another's experiences. The day was full of strength (the LitWorld 7 Strengths to be exact!), much joy, and the power of girls and mentors speaking their true stories confidently and without fear.
Today, tomorrow and every day we must continue to champion every girl's right to live out her story and belong to a safe learning community. LitWorld will continue to create these safe spaces where girls can empower themselves with their own literacy and receive the mentorship and support they need to grow strong as readers, writers and world-changers. Be sure to check out photo highlights from worldwide Stand Up for Girls celebrations on the LitWorld Facebook page.
Together we can make it certain that many more young people will become high school, college and life ready in 2015, so they can “return home with something strong” in them. Thank you for your support. You are an important part of the LitWorld story.
Hello Global Giving and LitWorld Community!
I am so excited to update you on the spread of our Girls LitClub program around the world. Since our last report we have launched Girls LitClubs with new partners in Kampala, Uganda and Lusaka, Zambia. Although it’s only been a few short months our local LitClub leaders are already seeing a transformation in their communities.
In an email update to the LitWorld team our LitClub leader Susan wrote: "The children look forward to our read alouds and get excited each time their leader says 'it’s time for us to read a book!' It’s always good to see children enjoy themselves in the sessions and one of the girls said the one place she feels she belongs is the LitClub."
To support the tremendous growth of the LitWorld movement and provide ongoing virtual training to our worldwide LitClub leaders, we are building an online portal called the LitPower Platform. Our platform will network LitWorld's leaders with one another and support them with interactive online curriculum and professional development. We are investing in the growth of our local leaders who will expand and deepen our programs in the regions where they live. We will also be using the online platform to allow cross-country and cross-continental story-sharing between LitClub members themselves so that every girl can share her voice widely and learn from the stories of others.
As we develop the LitPower platform, we are also experimenting with the wonderful apps and online tools available worldwide. Last month we connected our on-the-ground leaders through the mobile app "WhatsApp" and this has quickly become an avenue for question-asking and knowledge-sharing.
Phoebe from Kisumu, Kenya sent pictures of the girls in her LitClubs hugging and singing, sharing that they were feeling a strong sense of belonging that day. Peachy from Manila, Philippines shared a photo of a founding LitClub member who has grown to become a junior LitClub mentor. This sparked a reply from Prisca and Maureen in Kibera, Kenya, where their own founding LitClub members have also become junior LitClub mentors. This tool is helping our on-the-ground leaders unite around their LitWorld work and have meaningful conversations about what literacy can mean for the children in their communities.
We are full of gratitude for your interest in LitWorld. Together we can make sure more girls around the world have access to strong mentors, quality reading and writing resources and a network of fellow LitClub friends to accompany them on their educational and emotional journeys.
Hello Global Giving and LitWorld Community!
I am so excited to share an update about our LitClubs around the world. Thanks to your generosity, kindness and belief in the power of girls' stories to change our world, the LitWorld movement is experiencing tremendous momentum.
Our LitClubs are safe sanctuaries for girls to learn and to read and write, and to share their stories as a tool for becoming literate while building resilience. We specifically support "high risk/high potential" girls aged 10-14 because this is a crucial time of transition in their lives. This age is a time when many girls are forced to leave school to help with household chores and income generation or to be married and begin their own family. Once they are pulled from school the stories that they would have told are lost. However, with the support of a caring mentor, trusted group of friends and the chance to read and write powerful stories, this age can become a time of transformation, growth and empowerment.
We are pleased to announce that in early 2014, LitClubs launched in Ahmedabad, India. Our partnership with an extraordinary local organization, the Center for Development (CfD), began last year and LitClubs currently serve two communities in Ahmedabad: Bombay Hotel and Piplaj. Bombay Hotel is made up of Muslim communities that settled there after 2002 when a large portion of the local Islamic population was killed. It is located by the gigantic municipal garbage dump, at least 15 stories high and 4 square kilometers in area. Piplaj is made up of Hindi communities that were displaced after a large riverfront beautification project commenced, sending residents of the permanent slum community there searching for a new home.
These communities also face historical and ongoing tension between the Hindu and Muslim groups, and our LitClub mentors (called Bal Dosts) consciously incorporate religious co-existence into their work and create safe opportunities for girls and families to interact with peers from a different religious group.
Bombay Hotel and Piplaj are also very dangerous places to be a girl. There are strict rules for women and girls and because of this, joining a LitClub has offered the girls their first chance to play safely outside. Our Bal Dosts also say that the reading and writing activities, group discussions and community-building games that happen during LitClub sessions give girls a new avenue to express themselves through story, song and dance. More than that, it is the first time they are celebrated for having the courage to do so.
We are now focusing on starting LitClubs in Zambia, Uganda, Cambodia and Egypt. We have been cultivating partnerships with local grassroots organizations in each of these countries and are training a new group of LitClub mentors who will soon start programs in their communities.
We know that girls everywhere are brilliant, and brimming with untapped potential. Often circumstances beyond their control limit their ability to become their best selves. Together we are intervening to make sure every girl has the right to be the author her own hopeful future. Because of this work we are seeing girls graduate from middle school, move on to secondary school and now attend college. The teen girls of our longest running LitClub in Harlem, New York City will graduate high school this year and many have already been accepted into their first choice colleges, including Wheaton and Brown. In Kibera and Kisumu, Kenya, our LitClub girls ranked at the top of their class in their KCPE exams, the standardized test that all students take to get into secondary school.
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your generosity and for your belief in our work. Together we can make our fierce determination to expand our LitClub program around the world a reality.
Greetings Global Giving and LitWorld Community!
We are so grateful to have you with us as we build the LitWorld story together. Your support has made 2013 a year of developing, implementing, and sharing LitWorld’s big ideas that are transforming the landscape of universal education. LitWorld is a leader in the field of global literacy, creating immediate, practical, on-the-ground solutions to the hard-to-tackle issue of illiteracy, while disseminating our mobile, human-centered models for literacy empowerment for all to use. We operate locally, but think globally.
LitWorld creates robust literacy cultures in the most marginalized communities in the world. Rather than an outcome or end goal, we view literacy as an everlasting tool that is mobile, nimble and flexible, so that it can strengthen people everywhere no matter what their dreams or circumstances. In this way literacy is a life raft to hope, resilience, joy and independence.
In the last half of 2013 we brought Girls LitClubs to new communities in Faisalabad, Pakistan and Ahmedabad, India. In these two communities we are working side by side with local grassroots organizations to create safe environments for girls to gather and cultivate strong community bonds and lifelong friendships and mentorships. LitClubs deeply value children’s own stories, and use these stories and life experiences as a catalyst for growth and learning.
This fall we had hours long training sessions over video chat with the new LitClub leaders who will run and manage our programs on the ground (pictured below). They trained on our 48 week LitClub 7 Strengths curriculum. LitWorld’s strength-based model of social emotional learning fills a critical gap in education that other literacy organizations often overlook. Our curriculum cultivates core strengths that inherently exist within each child. The LitWorld 7 Strengths – Belonging, Curiosity, Kindness, Friendship, Confidence, Courage, and Hope – are ideas that are key to resilience-building. The process of narrative framing we employ in our LitClubs and LitCamps not only cultivates children’s literacy skills – reading, writing, speaking, and listening – it gives them the lifelong skills they need to face the challenges of their everyday lives.
After completing their training, our LitClub leaders of the Seeds of Hope Foundation in Faisalabad, and of Kadam Education Initiative in Ahmedabad launched LitClubs in their communities. Shortly after launching, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines. Our LitClubs in Ulingan, Philippines are in an area that was safe from the destruction. However, our partner organization in Ulingan, Project Pearls, rallied our global LitClub community to create letters of hope and love to send to the children and families that lost everything in the tyhphoon. Our LitClub girls responded immediately. This act of giving our words is the foundation of our work. This exercise showed our girls and their communities that regardless of challenging living situations, we all have something to give: our stories and our words.
In this way, LitClubs are a vehicle for dignity and hope. The girls in our LitClubs around the world know that they are part of a global community, a worldwide LitWorld that is lit from within, lit from each other, lit from their own stories. The power of this work comes from the children, and they are leading the way. It is our job now to work together to make is safe for girls to learn and to receive an education. In the 21st century this is the human rights issue of our time.
It is with profound gratitude that we are sharing the growth of the LitClub program in Haiti. This summer we travelled to Port-au-Prince to conduct LitClub sessions and LitClub training sessions with the young women leaders of our partner organization, Foundation TOYA. These women lead our programs on the ground. We were greeted by 20 young women who were all confident and relaxed. They welcomed us with hugs and "bonjour!"
It is wonderful to see how much the LitWorld culture has passed on to these women as they have spent more and more time together. As we gathered for our community building portion of the day, they led us in song, singing "Hey There Ladies" and the "Hello Song" with beautiful harmonies and energy. The LitClub training was a great success. We ran a model LitClub session, and afterwards they asked insightful questions, from working with kids with low literacy to classroom management skills.
Following our training we ran a LitClub session with approximately 35 students aged six to nine. Besides being unbelievably adorable, they were all incredibly well behaved, engaged, and ready to participate. We left them a copy of Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes because they didn't want to stop looking at the pictures.
We also had a chance to run a LitClub session with a group of older girls. They are a deeply complex group, each one struggling with her own life challenges, past, present, future. They have grown so much since we last saw them in March. It was thrilling and moving to be with them again. The young women leaders did a read aloud of a Haitian Creole book about a grandfather and his relationship with his grandchildren, and we talked about kind things that people have done for us to express their love, or things that we would do for someone to express our love. Everyone gradually opened up, first to a partner, and then to the group, in beautiful, emotional ways. We made heart maps, and everyone thought deeply about what to put in them, and wanted them to look just so.
This work is urgently important. It is so important for women and girls to have LitClubs. It is so important for them to have each other. It is so important for them to have their mentors. It is so important for them to have us, and to have the structures of support we are working to create for them every day. Thank you for investing in the power of story and for making this work possible.
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New York City,