If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls.” – Greg Mortenson-
It has been shown that an educated girl will invest 90% of her future income in her family, compared to 35% for a boy. Yet 250 million adolescent girls live in poverty and are more likely than boys to be uneducated, married at a young age, and exposed to HIV/AIDS. (The Girl Effect)
Here at ZIon Project we believe that if you change a girl's life, you can change a nation. One of the most powerful ways to do that is to make sure that girls who would normally not have access to education receive a quality education and the support to do well in school. This year all 16 of our beautiful girls rescued from lives of child prostitution, forced labor, and slavery, have started attending new schools which are the best in Gulu, Uganda. Not only that, but because they live in a loving home they get help with their homework, and mentoring for their futures.
Amazingly enough, many adolescent girls stop attending school when they reach puberty because they cannot afford sanitary pads. Our girls never have to worry about that because they receive all they need for a healthy life. One of our girls says, "I am happy to be at Zion because I am now safe. I love my school and someday I want to be on the radio."
Last week we also had the privilege to attend a Sports Day at our children's new school and it was so much fun to watch them glowing with excitement as their self-esteem expands with the knowledge that they actually can succeed!
In February, we also ensured through our Imani economic empowerment program for women, that their children would now be able to attend school because of the income they earn. That's another 30 children receiving an education through our programs.
Because we have relationships with all our women in Imani, we care about all the issues in their life. Last month we had a mother with a very sick baby who we took to the doctor and was hospitalized for over a week due to a bacterial infection turned septic. The doctor told us if the mother had waited a few more days, the baby would have died. Thankfully, through our medical care, the baby is now doing fine and smiling again. The mother testifies, "I thank God for Zion Project because without them my baby would not be alive."
All our Imani women are now receiving medical benefits which allow them to take care of their sick children. In Uganda the number 1 and 2 killers of children is malaria and pneumonia. Through our medical care we can now be sure these children will not die from preventable diseases.
There is still so much more to do and so many more girls and women's lives to impact. Just last week I spoke to a little girl who has been orphaned and was strangled by a step-mother. There are so many more like her who need our help.
Thank you for supporting us to reach out and change lives to transform a nation.
The year of 2011 was a great one for our rescue home. We grew from 11 to 16 girls and watched as our original 11 girls welcomed 5 new sisters into their lives and hearts. They all adjusted quickly, and have settled well into their new home and life together. Christmas was a joyful time and the girls were so happy to receive new dresses and shoes. They spent December resting from school and sharing their contagious joy with others by singing at church. Now the next couple of weeks will be spent reviewing lessons and preparing to return to school. They are eager to learn and excited to begin attending a new and better school beginning in February. There, they will receive a higher quality education as well as more individual attention thanks to smaller class sizes. This is only a possibility thanks to your interest in their lives and your generous gifts! Thank you!
Our Imani Program has also expanded and grown this year, just like the skills of the women employed there. They have become capable seamstresses, and are now taking time to focus on creating beautiful jewelry once again. On a daily basis they are gaining new skills, new English, and new confidence and dignity which can be seen on their faces. Their children continue to attend our nursery school and learn important basic foundational skills for their future educations. More exciting news is that in the past few months we've welcomed two new women into the Imani program and we are so excited to see the differences taking place in their lives already. When you empower a mother, you also empower her children and make a difference for her entire family.
We are so thankful for the success stories that make every difficult day totally worth it. I want to share two quick stories... one about a young girl, the other a grown woman....but both were expecting and both were alone in the world and at risk of complications with their pregnancies.
Nancy came to us after her uncle tried to force her into a child marriage at 14. She had been raped just before coming to Zion Project. When she learned that she was pregnant, she was devastated and afraid. But with the love, concern, and care of our staff and access to medical care, she successfully delivered a healthy baby boy in early November. Nancy is now a part of our rescue home family, and is looking forward to returning to school in a couple of weeks. She no longer has to live in fear or feel abandoned.
Bijou was alone in the slum when our women learned about her situation during community outreach. She is HIV+ and was four days past her due date. Thanks to people like you who have taken this opportunity to invest in the lives of women, we were able to get her the medical help and support that she needed. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl and is now employed in our Imani program so that she can provide for herself and her family with dignity.
The things that Zion Project has accomplished over the past year are only possible because of our supporters and donors. Thank you! Know that every penny you give truly makes a difference in the life of someone here. When we welcome a new girl into the rescue home, or hire a new mother into Imani, it is because someone cared enough to send us the resources we needed. Girls are being rescued and protected, and women are being empowered and healed. We are ready for 2012 and can't wait to see what opportunities come our way! Thanks for walking with us.
Here at Zion Project, our approach to ending this tragedy is rescue and prevention. By bringing our young girls into a loving home, we are ending the cycle of prostitution in their families and we are keeping them safe from further abuse. Here in Uganda, we are not just an organization, we are a family. And as part of our commitment to our kids, we think they should have the best childhood possible.
Just this month, we moved our 16 girls, and a ton of bunk beds into our new home which provides more space for them to run around in, a bigger yard for playing, and opens up spots for 4 more girls to join us. They are pretty stoked about their new home. We also hired a new Rescue Home Manager named Carol, who is just the perfect person to love on and encourage our girls' self esteem.
Our newest girls finished their first term in school. It is unbelievable that at age 10 and 11 some of these precious ones had never been to school or learned the joy of education. But now they do thanks to you! All our girls passed well and we have high hopes for their future, and continue to do daily tutoring to ensure that they have access to the best opportunities in Uganda. We are excited to see little ones like Mercy be able to write sentences and read out loud to her peers.
Our Imani women who have come out of prostitution, have been honing their skills daily and have now moved onto making school uniforms which will provide them with the income they need to feed and care for their children. We now have the pleasure of listening to over 30 little voices singing each morning in our Nursery School and feel overjoyed that we are able to educate them at their most pivotal point of development.
We can't thank you enough for all the contributions you have made which make this work possible.
Please continue to share with others about the difference you are making in the lives of women and children in Uganda.
Together we can change the world. One life at a time.
With much hope, Sarita
At Zion Project, we feel blessed to be part of the solution to the ever growing problem of sexual exploitation.
Over the last few months we have been in the process of identifying and bringing in 5 new little girls into our Rescue Home which provides them with safety and love they have never known. One of our girls Nancy, is an orphan who was going to be forced into an early marriage by relatives, at the age of 13, but she showed up at our doorstep, afraid and alone and we were able to take her in.
Since then, we have discovered that Nancy was raped by her intended and she is now 3 months pregnant. We are glad that we have been able to help her through this devastating process, with love, counseling, and medical help. We now have 16 girls we care for daily who are receiving an education which will ultimately change the course of their lives. Most of our girls finished exams last month and we were delighted that so many were at the top of their class.
There are so many little girls like Nancy. In reading Half the Sky, this month, I discovered that over 3 million women and girls are forced into the sex industry. We currently have more modern day slavery today in the world than when Abraham Lincoln was alive.
We have also made great strides these past 3 months in our Imani Employment program for women who desire to escape a life of forced prostitution. We are expanding our program to include the designing and sewing of handbags as well as our beautiful jewelry. We continue to make connections in America and Europe to try and market our products so that this program can grow to hire more women.
Thank you for your continued support in reaching out to these girls and women and giving them hope for their future.
The Zion Project Team
Since December, we've had lots of exciting things happen in Gulu, Uganda! We hosted an amazing Christmas party for all our girls at the Rescue Home and each of our 11 girls received a new dress, a nightgown, pretty panties, a beanie baby, a little purse, her own wash cloth, and a coloring book. There was lots of screaming and squeals of glee. The girls are now entering their second year of school and were blessed to have plenty of tutoring over the holiday break by our volunteers to prepare them for this new year. All of our girls passed their exams with flying colors, with some of them being at the top of their class. We have spent the month of January identifying new little girls who are being sexually exploited to enter the home and have interviewed over 11 children and guardians already. We have 9 new spots to fill this year which will make our total up to 20.
Our women escaping forced prostitution at the Counseling Center have been busy making jewelry through our Imani Employment Program. We now have 10 women employed making above average fair trade wages and have just started a savings program this month to help them put their children into school. They are also receiving English classes twice a week to give them more opportunities in the future. The women have made over 800 necklaces since December and are able to provide for themselves and their children. As one of our women says,
"I thank God for my job with Imani because I was crying out to God because I did not want to go back to prostitution for money. I don't sleep cold anymore."
Our most exciting news is that we are finally starting our Nursery School for our babies, toddlers, and children up to the age of 5 years old. We have between 20-30 little ones who we take care of while their mothers are working because most of our mothers cannot afford nursery school fees. We just purchased a large tent for them to meet in and are building tables and miniature chairs for them. We also bought a bunch of toys, blocks, posters and fun things for them to play with. They are learning English, their alphabet, counting, and writing and receive meals. Most of these children would be at home by themselves or not receiving an education, so we are excited to see them grow and develop in positive ways.
We also hosted a HIV/AIDS (Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission) for 40 women in the community and gave gave formula to needy babies, and a 3 day Marriage & Relationships Conference which 80-100 people attended each day to learn about how to have healthy, non-violent relationships. We saw this greatly transform the mindset in our local community about how to relate in love to one another.
Thank you for your continued support in helping us change lives one person at at time.
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