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.
It is an honor to share news from our work on the ground with you, our generous and engaged community of supporters. Together we are on a journey that will launch 5 new Girls LitClubs: 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.
The LitClub model is designed to be nimble and flexible according to the girls’ needs and locations. Using a strength-based model of social emotional learning, our curriculum cultivates core strengths that inherently exist within each girl. The LitWorld 7 Strengths – Belonging, Curiosity, Kindness, Friendship, Confidence, Courage, and Hope – are ideas that are key to resilience-building.
As they journey through the LitClub curriculum, girls will see their stories as being impactful, as being helpful to them in learning to read and write, and as the most effective means of shaping and directing their future. The narrative framing strategies we use help girls set goals for their lives, dream big and contextualize their dreams into strategies to help them become economically independent, raise children who can read and write, and make choices for themselves that will improve their personal well-being.
We incorporate reading, writing, discussion, art, music, performance, and technology-based activities into our LitClubs to show girls how the arts, literacy, and technology are intimately connected. The new LitClubs that are launched through this Global Giving project will become part of a larger network of LitClubs that expands across 5 continents and 12 countries. Our global reach allows us to create authentic audiences for our girls, providing them with ample opportunities to share their writing and their stories. Exposure to stories of people they are reading about and learning about gives them a much wider sense of their own possibility for a college and career-ready future.
We are excited to announce that last month we celebrated the grand opening of our new space in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with our cherished local partner, Foundation TOYA. The young women LitClub Leaders that we have been training for the past several months will make this an inspirational gathering place for our newest Girls LitClubs. Thank you for your commitment to creating a safe and joyful world where childhood thrives, and where stories are valued as the most innovative tool we have to shape lives and give flight to dreams.
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New York City,