Esther's Echo

Billions of dollars in aid go overseas each year. I was a part of that aid industry. My name is Matthew Cimone. I am the founder of Esther's Echo. In 2004, I spent one year in Africa, working in Sierra Leone. 30,000 US dollars was spent by the organization I was working for to to put me, one aid worker, in the field for a year. That 30,000 covered my allowances, insurance, travel costs, food, fuel, housing and the local staff we hired in country. During that year, I met Esther Kanu. Esther, a local of Sierra Leone, had founded her own school in the midst of poverty and a civil war to provide new opportunities to young women. Esther's school trains young women in vocational skills such as braiding, tailoring, fabric dyeing, and has expanded to include training in computer usage and electrical wiring. All the classes are designed to maximize employment post graduation. Each year, the school had an enrolment of approximately 50 girls. The cost of operating her school? About 50,000 dollars.

I began to ask myself two questions. First, if there was so much aid money coming into Sierra Leone, why hadn't any of it found its way to individuals like Esther? Secondly, why should such a large portion of donor dollars be spent putting me in the field over supporting somebody like Esther who has lived in this country her whole life. After returning to Canada, and running a series of informal fundraisers for a number of years, we founded Esther's Echo in 2012 to support Esther's school - the Women in Action Development Project

We believe that putting funds directly in the hands of local leaders like Esther is a far more effective. Our goal is to connect Esther with donors like you by promoting her story and her work so she can take one dollar and make it worth a hundred times more in Sierra Leone. We know that funding is going directly where it needs to go and can share the new chapters of Esther's story with you as your support helps her to continue and expand her work in partnership with us.

Since we officially partnered with Women in Action in 2012, the school has graduated over 250 students. The graduates are linked to an alumni network, the "Old Girls Club" where Esther maintains a connection with them. Several alumni have returned as instructors to the school. Graduates have also started their own businesses, most notably several clothing stores and Internet cafes. Others are now working for international NGOs.

Our partnership with Women in Action has also facilitated several major milestones. In 2012, Esther came to speak in Canada. In 2014, the school was forced to close as a result of an Ebola outbreak. The school draws additional funding from the community through catering and tailoring contracts. To prevent the spread of the virus, public gathering was forbidden resulting in the school being unable to operate for several months. Our funding ameliorated the shortfall in budget so Women in Action could still make rent on the school building. Thankfully, no members of the staff or students were infected. In 2015, we assisted Women in Action to relocate to a larger building. The new location is eight stories and Women in Action sublets several of them to offset expenses. In 2016, we helped Women in Action purchase a new plot of farmland the school can use to grow and sell crops. In 2017, we ran an emergency fundraiser when Sierra Leone was hit by flash floods which destroyed one of the crop rotations. Our current fundraising goal is to help Women in Action meet the 2019 rent costs (approximately 7,000 USD) and our long-term goal is to build Women in Action their own school building so they would no longer need to be paying rent to landlords (approximately 30,000USD)

Please consider Esther Kanu and the Women in Action Development Project this Giving Tuesday!

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