From Sexually Exploited to Confident Young Women

by More Than Me

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,

Emily & the MTM Team

The "Be Your Best Self" Library!
The "Be Your Best Self" Library!

Links:

Today - help girls stay off the street.
Today - help girls stay off the street.

Greetings!

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

President Sirleaf listens at MTM Academy opening
President Sirleaf listens at MTM Academy opening
President Sirleaf speaking to our girls!
President Sirleaf speaking to our girls!

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!

For the girls,

The More Than Me Team

Meet Beatrice. She's very playful and shy, and doesn’t smile a lot.

Beatrice lives with her biological parents. Her family's income is approximately $20/US/month and they pay $10/month for rent. She has two sisters and a brother. They are no longer in school due to financial problems. Her oldest sister has three children. She’s 17. They all live together and sleep in the same room – one bed with a little mattress.

Our Program Coordinator, Macintosh, met Beatrice when she was on the beach. He asked her if she’d been in school before. She said she used to be in school, but she dropped out because her father couldn’t pay the school fees anymore because he was spending all his money on alcohol. Beatrice and her siblings were sitting at home doing nothing. She told Macintosh that her oldest sister started disappearing during the day and coming back at night, but they didn’t know where she went. After she got pregnant the first time, she stopped leaving the house and started staying at home. 

After hearing her story, Macintosh decided to visit Beatrice's home. He met her mom and dad and decided to befriend the family. One he got to know them, Macintosh made a recommendation to Katie to enroll Beatrice in the More Than Me program.

Because of the pattern of her sister’s life and her family’s inability to support her to go to school, Macintosh decided that Beatrice was vulnerable to a similar lifestyle as the one her sister led and wanted to enroll her in the More Than Me program to prevent her from ending up like her sister.

Now Beatrice is enrolled in school and will start school at the new More Than Me Academy when it opens its doors on September 7, 2013! Over 50% of Liberian girls ages 10-14 have never gone to school. With the More Than Me Academy, we are hoping to change this statistic and open the door to opportunity for girls like Beatrice.

We ask you to partner with us in preparing for the Academy's opening by donating on Match Day - Wednesday, June 12th. On that day, your donation will be matched by 50% and will go toward giving these girls the ability to make choices for themselves. Thank you for your continued support! We look forward to updating you again soon.

- The More Than Me Team

The girls have been taking computer, crocheting, and art classes after school. It’s because of you that they are able to have these extracurricular activities and a place to go after the school day ends.

We're happy to report that construction on the More Than Me Academy is almost complete! We are excited to open the doors to the MTM Academy in September.

We also just released our application for our 2013 Fellowship Program. In the next couple months, we will be recruiting eight passionate, entrepreneurial fellows to help run the MTM Academy for the 2013-2014 school year. In addition to teaching at the Academy alongside a Liberian teacher, each fellow will take on a supplementary role to ensure that the Academy and MTM’s projects on the ground run smoothly. Those positions include:

  1. Grant Partners Fellow
  2. Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Fellow
  3. Communications/ Digital Media Fellow
  4. Business Development Fellow
  5. IT/Technology Fellow
  6. Pedagogical Fellow
  7. Creative Development Fellow
  8. Finance/Procurement Fellow

This is an exciting time for More Than Me. Fellows will play a crucial role in guiding the vision of MTM and giving the girls the best education possible. We plan to double the number of girls we support by the end of 2013! Thank you for your continued support, we couldn't do our work without you. Here are some recent photos of the Academy’s construction progress and what our girls have been up to.

 

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Organization Information

More Than Me

Location: Bernardsville, NJ - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.morethanme.org
More Than Me
Project Leader:
Jennifer Korman
Intern
Bernardsville, NJ United States

Funded Project!

Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
   

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