Monday, October 24, 2011

From Miranda's Diary


‘GREIGHT does not only empower participants. It has empowered me in
many ways that you cannot imagine. It has brought out of me this drive
to take initiatives I never thought I had. And this I will carry with
me throughout my life-TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE WHEREVER I GO so thank
you!'


Miranda’s story- Accra-Ghana: 'I have not really been the shy type but I have always enjoyed my shell. It was my comfort zone. Working with Greight Foundation was completely out of the comfort zone of a girl who just wanted to stay indoors, mind her own business and hope and pray that there are people in the world who will make a difference in other people’s lives.
It meant that I had to step out of myself and grow up, ready or not for the sake of others. This has been one of my most enriching life experiences.

I felt some how challenged to be the Project Coordinator for Greight Foundation -Ghana because I felt I was not ready for such a task but I soon realized that in empowering others I was unconsciously empowering myself while learning on the job too.

My most memorable and profound experience with Greight so far is my experience at the Akropong School of The Blind. This was when I realized that all the disabled girls and boys needed was a kind gesture, motivation and encouragement. They needed to hear that someone believed in them and that they had a future. I was proud and honored to be part of that experience Greight’s ‘How They Made It!’ forum.

Greight Foundation has given me the rare opportunity for someone my age to step out, stand out and take a step to make a difference. With the support I got from a seasoned and passionate Greight team I have an opportunity to empower young girls in Ghana.

It has inspired in me the drive to take initiatives that I never thought I had. Now, I feel responsible to take certain initiatives to reach out to others as well. I have been inspired to live a life outside myself. In May 2011, I launched a project called ‘PASS-A-BOOK-ON’ which is helping to spread literacy by providing books to kids who cannot afford to get them. I have become very sensitive to the needs of less fortunate in the society especially kids.

In a place like Ghana many young girls and women especially those from difficult backgrounds are still trying hard to find their feet. It is important that we invest in the lives of girls and young women as they contribute in many valuable ways to the development of any community, nation and generation. It is for this reason that Greight Foundation’s maiden empowerment project seeks to train, coach and mentor girls and young women from difficult backgrounds for which I am proud and honored to be part of such a worthy course.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

'My mentor visited my country'


‘The 17th September 2011 is the day I will never forget in my entire life’ says Milimo Mukombwe beaming with smiles and hands in the air. Milimo is a 13 year old grade 7 girl in Lusaka, Zambia. A participant of ‘Train-Coach-Mentor’ Girls Project by Greight Foundation in her community.

Milimo's story is similar to that of Martha-both from Zambia, participated in Greight Foundation’s Self-Development and Leadership Training, paired with mentors in different countries and started exchanging letters and emails with their mentors. Milimo’s mentor, Liesl Harewood is from Guyana but based in Barbados.

Unlike Martha, Milimo had some challenges at the beginning.Communicating with her mentor was quite challenging. Some of her letters got lost. As if that was not enough, she had no access to the internet nor email address. But why is this particular day the most important day for the 7th grade girl? Just at the point where Milimo almost gave up her mentor showed up in her country-Zambia!

Her Mentor-Liesl was in Zambia as an international election monitor representing the Commonwealth. Liesl invited Milimo to a dinner with diginitaries. The young girl could not believe it was real as she dined with prominent figures around the world who had gathered to monitor the election in her country. At her age she knew if she would have a better life there has to be a peaceful democratic election which will help everyone live in peace. 'When there is peace, I can go to school-I am dreaming of going to the university some day' says Milimo in an exciting tone

As Milimo sat on the dining table with other dignitaries from other Commonwealth countries she confessed ‘I still cannot believe it. Meeting all these people and listening to them is enough encouragement for me to study hard in school and become someone very important to the world some day when I grow up’.

For Liesl, when she first volunteered to mentor a girl she never had the slightest idea she could meet her in less than a year and most importantly be dinning and encouraging her in person. In a mixed feeling tone of excitement, surprise and pride she expressed “I am very happy I met my mentee in person, I never expected to meet my mentee in Person”. The Caribbean woman mentor Liesl gave a gift of a book, scarf, some money to buy school books and school shoes.For Milimo, it is still a dream. In a happy tone she confesses ‘I am grateful for the smiles, the time, the gifts she gave me, they really meant something to me-I will forever remember this.

Meeting successful people mean lot to girls from difficult backgrounds as they challenge and inspire them to think big and aim high. A clear case in point is Milimo ’Someday I wish to be like Liesl my mentor- a woman of character, visionary and kind’.
As a long term support her mentor Liesl introduced Milimo to a Zambian member of the Commonwealth who promised to connect Milimo to and involve her in the Commonwealth youth programmes and activities when she turns 15 years old.

Milimo Mukombwe is a participant of ‘Train-Coach-Mentor’ Girls Project in Zambia. Girls in Ghana, Kenya, Nepal and Zambia are currently participating and benefitting from this project. If you would like to be a mentor or support this project in any way please email us- greightfoundation@gmail.com

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mentor Touches A Girl's Life

Martha Mweetwa , a Zambian girl Grade Seven girl will forever be proud of herself the day she took a little step to bring change in her life, family and community. The first step and a very important choice she made was to participate in a Self-Discovery and Leadership training organized by Greight Foundation at the beginning of this year in her community in Lusaka, Zambia. Just a seventh grade student using her time wisely and being proactive is very important to her.

After the training which Martha describes to be ‘eye-opening and one that will leave an indelible mark in her life’ she was paired with a mentor named Roz Siegel in the USA.
Martha and Roz mentoring journey was simple! Through exchange of hand written letters and emails which her big sister helps her to use the computer, the young girl and the visionary woman mentor connected and started communicating. Martha read with delight each letter and waited impatiently for her mentor’s emails. They were filled with words of encouragement, motivation and inspiration challenging her to be different, to be be the best in her community and to learn hard to be a prominent figure in future. For Martha ‘I am moved to tears because I have not met this woman in person but she is interested in my life and future which I am grateful for’.

As she read and responded to the emails and letters her heart bulged with pride and excitement she cannot aptly describe. Just as when Martha was waiting to write her grade Seven examination at the end of October she received a parcel of books from Roz her mentor all the way from the USA to Zambia just to help support the education of Martha. In an excited tone Martha says “I am so happy to receive the books, she says, One of the books has science, mathematics and social and development studies, which is helping me in studying for the exams”, she says excitedly. The other books are helping Martha improving her spellings and vocabulary. Martha shares her books with some of the girls in her community.

Martha Mweeta is a participant in ‘Train-Coach-Mentor’ Girls Project in Zambia. Girls in Ghana,Kenya, Nepal and Zambia are currently participating and benefiting from this project. If you would like to mentor a girl or support this project in any way please email us- greightfoundation@gmail.com

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Girls Talk!

Our Girls in Mitumba slums talk again! This time the girls discuss in groups the concept of self-development and brainstorm on how they can bring change to their lives, families, community and country.
Nairobi-Kenya-In six groups of four, 24 girls between the ages of 11-15 years in grades 4, 5 and 6 meet after school to discuss knowing themselves, developing their strengths and talents, discovering their potential, achieving their aspirations and taking concrete actions to bring change to first of their lives, their families, community and country.
These are girls from difficult backgrounds- from low income families, live in a deprived community (Mitumba slums) and are either living with one parent or both parents.
Since the introduction of ‘Train-Coach-Mentor’ Project in the community, the girls have taken delight in meeting after school and discussing issues that are important to their development, challenges facing them in their community and how they can achieve their goals and how they can give back to their community some day.

Just before the girls go on vacation they met again-this time they deliberately excitedly and confidently about self-development. The girls believe that before one can bring any change at all they first of all have to be the change they want to see. This begins first of with self-development: knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, exploring one’s talents, setting goals and targets for themselves and influencing others positively.
The session started with ‘knowing me-knowing’ to warm them up after which the girls were divided into four groups-each group was made up of 6 girls. With a leader to coordinate the discussion and a secretary to capture their thoughts, points and ideas the conversation started.
‘It is important that we know who we are-what makes us happy or sad, what we enjoy doing or what we want to in future’ says Susan Akinyi.


The session then preceded with the description of the word Self – Discipline which elicited responses such as “Teacher it is being self-controlled, well-behaved, kind, faithful, patience “just to mention but a few.
Self-actualization, building self-confidence and cultivating self-discipline is just one of the first steps to be the change we want to bring in our community. The meeting was closed on this summary as the girls packed, interacted and planned for their next meeting when School resumes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How They Made It!

A blind female lawyer, a blind Journalist,a TV newscaster and University graduates share their real life stories with 300 visually impaired students of how they made it to the top in spite of all the odds that were against them.The visually impaired mentors testified that disability is not inability
Akropong- Ghana- The 9th of July 2011 was a turning point in the lives of the visually impaired students on our project at the Akropong School For the Blind when a group stormed their campus.The team were a blind female lawyer-Evelyn Appiah, a blind Journalist –Paul Anomakodea, a TV newscaster-Abdu Moomin and University students/graduates. Their mission was simple and sacred- to share their real life stories with the blind students on how they made it to the top in spite of all the odds that were against them. Their real life stories and experiences were meant to inspire the youngsters to break their own boundaries and to aspire for greater achievements in life.
What were their stories?
Among other real life testimonies of the senior visually impaired folks was the common fact many people look down on them just because they are blind. Many would not give them the opportunity to work even when they are highly qualified. ‘Despite the negative perceptions and how people treated me I was not discouraged in pursuing my goal’ shared Evelyn Appiah, the female lawyer. From orientation challenges to negative attitudes from some sighted persons she has remained focused, worked hard and persevere to attain the height she is today.Despite the challenges she persevered and climbed the ladder. She advised students to stay away from pre-marital sexual relationships and focus on working hard at school and passing she answered several questions raised by students about Law.
Using his own life story as an example Paul Anomakodea a TV news reader, challenged the students to envision beyond their their blindness, to aim high, work hard and persevere at all times. ‘Where I am today many sighted people may never be there’ says Paul. ‘Learn every time’ he encouraged the students. He also encouraged students to 'keep on learning all the time' and be abreast with time, and that, they should be more than ready to exploit opportunities that may come their way. According to him, programmes like this should be valued more than material gifts.

The speakers outlined their major challenges to be social stigmatization, neglects, low-self esteem at the initial stages but they had to come out of their comfort zones to make it to where are now.
The story behind the program
Research findings by Greight Foundation (A registered non-Profit organisation dedicated to Research, Advocacy and Empowerment) suggest that girls and boys from difficult backgrounds including youth who are physically challenged, come from low income-families, live with single parents and those living in rural communities often have poor self-image and lack the self-confidence to pursue their dreams in life and most of the time unable to realize their full potential in life.

In response to this the Foundation works to inspire, motivate and challenge girls and boys in this category through its empowerment program– ‘Train- Coach-Mentor’ Project. The project seeks to train youth in Leadership and Social Change Initiatives and provide mentoring mentoring and life coaching support for people engaging in Social Change Initiatives in their communities around the world. Girls and boys from difficult backgrounds in Ghana, Nepal, Kenya and Zambia are currently participating and benefitting from this project.

In October, 2010 the Foundation organized an Empowerment and Leadership training for 20 girls and 10 boys at the Akropong School for The Blind challenging the students to engage actively in Social Change Initiatives to bring change in their communities.
This recent programme was a follow up and another way of supporting the boys and girls as they dream, create and take action to bring change to their lives, families, communities, country and generation.

What was the outcome?
I had quite an experience today… I was inspired. It was great and inspiring’ says Agness who participated in the program.

Deborah who participated in the program last year had this to say ‘When I became blind, I thought the world had come to an end but from I have learnt today I can make it with determination’.

For 20 years old Blessing Henebeng who participated in the programme, ‘listening to the stories of the mentors gave me hope that I can still achieve my dream of becoming a Journalist.’

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Girls Talk about Building Self-Confidence

Our Girls in Mitumba Primary school- a small community school in Mitumba slums, Nairobi-Kenya discuss building self-confidence and how they can inititate change in their communities.
Courage they say is the absence of fear, which is one of the words the girls at Mitumba use to describe Self-confidence. Many Girls and even much older women as well as elders have low self-esteem on a daily basis. The thought of having to face the crowd, speak in public whiles eyes glued to you the speaker and every ear attentive to listen was the topic of discussions on the 22nd Of June,2011 at Mitumba Community Primary School at 3.00 pm.
The session just as the preceding one was delayed due the waits occasioned by “African timing.”The day was extremely cold as the month of July was slowly beckoning. I took this time to marvel at the beauty endowed in this vast environment, the potential that the students retain was another encouraging factor.

Soon the time came, Thirty (30) minutes later the girls had all assembled in one of the classes which has now become a standard meeting point. As a recap we all had to reintroduce each other but this time the platform and approach would be different. The introduction would be in front of the class while facing the rest of the class. The reception was baffling most of the girls were resistant to the idea. To break the ice we had to do the Knowing me Knowing you session but as a familiarization concept for the topic – Self confidence.



“Can someone describe the meaning of the word Self – Confidence?”

Teacher (referring to our coordinator) - It is being bold, courageous, strong, sure, being forward or being strong”These were just but afew of the responses derived from the question asked. The next was to discuss the importance of being self – confident.
This was a prelude to the main menu of discussion and interaction for the day. The menu included self-introduction and why they liked being in school.

Some of the girls were shy and many could not keep eye-contact. The voices of some also shook as they spoke. It was emphasized that self-confidence was an important part of life and girls should endeavor to stand up, be bold,speak up and take action to bring change to their lives, families and communities.
As a facilitator many thoughts poured as I left the girls-how different will it be today would it be if we had all of this inculcated in our school curriculum…..it remains just that a thought especially after having to learn everything the hard way!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

'Train-Coach-Mentor' Girls in Kenya

Girls in Mitumba Primary school (a small community school in Mitumba slums) in Nairobi-Kenya participate and benefit from 'Train-Coach-Mentor' Project.


Our teammate Lynda Banja in Kneya shares her experience hosting and facilitating the Empowerment training for the girls in Kenya.
I had announced that I would we would be facilitating Greight Fundation’s Empowerment and Social Change Initiatives debut training on this particular day. How to begin was the tricky part. I have never dealt with children before so this was just a ball game of its own. With the assistance of some family members we had volunteered to provide some second hand clothes that were in our wardrobes.

At around 1.30 pm Kenyan time we made our entrance, all were busy with their lunch as everyone’s eyes were fixed on their plates. Some of the boys had assisted us in carrying some of the items to the school.

We were a tad bit too early, my heart was pacing I was wondered and asked myself ‘ok how do we start with this young audience that is before me’? Thankfully I had to wait till the end of their classes at 3pm to proceed. This gave me the opportunity to go round the school. I asked a few questions and the first graders were more than eager to usher in this new teacher – “Teacher Banja” into their fraternity. I enjoyed their companionship- they showed me round and now I just like one of them.
The trumpet finally sounded, girls slightly taller than me were more than eager to usher me in just to discover what I had in store for them. I briefly introduced myself and requested that each of them (20 girls) do the same. Most were extremely shy and I realized we had a heavy task ahead. After the ‘Knowing me- Knowing –you’ session I requested them to identify issues that they felt I could discuss with them in our various sessions. They highlighted a number which made me realize that they were fully aware of their environment.


In closure and just to call it a day we gave the various clothes ,the joy and gratitude was clearly written in their faces and what other form of fulfillment would one request than this I bid them farewell looking forward to our next encounter after all 'I am because you are'