The project creates a safe space for learning.
This time last year, I wouldn't have expected to be able to deliver an update like this one. But here it is:
Not only did Samia get excellent grades, but her Big Sisters improved the literacy rates in her hometown!
You may remember Samia from my letter last November. She's the kid who entered the Valuable Girl Project with a chip on her shoulder — cursing, stealing, and hitting the other girls.
The project's Big Sister-Little Sister model, which creates one-to-one mentoring relationships, seemed to do Samia a world of good. She stopped hitting people, learned social skills, and started making friends.
Samia's transformation, which I mentioned last fall, reached another milestone this summer. During my visit, one of the project coordinators handed me Samia's report card, which she'd proudly shared with her role models.
"EXCELLENT" grades in Arabic, math, and science!
When I saw those grades, I wondered if Samia's father knew about this huge achievement. Her dad is behind bars for life, more or less. Would he be proud that Samia is making progress toward escaping his generation's cycle of violence and poverty?
Seeing Samia's grades confirmed for me, once again, that kids from the poorest households (even those where they're more likely to be hit than hugged) can be transformed by education, love, and respect.
But girls can't flourish in a community that's crumbling. That's why the Valuable Girl Project also aims to be a resource to the cities and villages where it operates.
It's a good start to provide, as the project does, a safe space for the Big Sisters and Little Sisters to learn together, particularly when the pairs are Christians and Muslims.
But to really have an impact, other effects have to ripple outward from the project's five sites in Upper and Lower Egypt. This summer, I found out about an exciting way that this aspiration became a reality.
Here's what happened: The community development association that hosts Samia's site discovered that many students in the area couldn't read or write, despite being enrolled in school. In response, they organized a special training program in literacy tutoring skills.
The association approached the project's Big Sisters, and 18 of them participated in the training. Next, the girls volunteered in a local literacy initiative. Together, they taught reading and writing to 200 kids! A pre- and post- evaluation of the children’s reading skills showed an average improvement of 60%.
It felt good to hear this, knowing that literacy has a huge positive impact on a child's life chances. Not only that, but the Valuable Girl Project had benefited not just one girl, Samia, but an entire community.
I love that the Valuable Girl Project's effects are beginning to radiate outward, from individual lives to communities. That's the power of education and respect. When we give them to girls, they shine!