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Charity of the Month | Gambia Rising

by Caitlin McGrother | Posted on March 31 2016

Education is a luxury often taken for granted in the United States. Unfortunately, there are many children in the world, particularly girls, that never get the chance to to go to school. Instead, they are often married off at a young age and become child brides. This life lacks opportunities for women in society, apart from child-rearing, and therefore women live their lives with a lack of confidence and self-security. 

Bead & Reel is passionate about equal rights and opportunities for women, and providing them with the necessary skills to be independent and self-resourceful. We are super excited to share our Charity of the Month, Gambia Rising, and its amazing mission to help educate girls in Gambia, West Africa. During the entire month of April, a portion of every sale will be donated to this incredible non-profit. Read below for our interview with Gambia Rising founder Mike McConnell about its mission, finding resources for children in West Africa, and ways to help. 

Charity of the Month | Gambia Rising

On Gambia Rising's Mission
"Gambia Rising is an all-volunteer effort of returned Peace Corps volunteers and staff and dedicated Gambian educators to provide support so that young Gambians can stay in (or go to) school. Our focus is where the need is greatest, which has meant that more than 75% of the students we support are girls. Currently we are supporting more than 400 students, from nursery through the University of The Gambia."

On the Importance of Educating Girls
"Study after study has shown that the single greatest contributor to a community and a nation's development is education, especially girls. For every additional year a girl stays in school, birth rates fall, childhood mortality decreases, incomes rise. And on a personal level, a girl with a high school diploma's life is incomparably different from one married off at puberty as a second or third wife to an older man who is able to pay the 'bride price.'"

Charity of the Month | Gambia Rising

On Acquiring Resources for Gambian children
"The logistics of getting things transported to West Africa is complicated and expensive, and frankly, we like to contribute to the local economy by buying things there. The one exception we have made is to ship good-quality used laptops and tablets, and are starting to experiment with wi-fi-capable cell phones as networkable study devices. 

The other thing that has gotten our attention is the number of students who live too far from school to attend. We have partnered with two up-country communities to build schools for grades 1 though 3 so the very young won't have to walk several miles to school. We are also building a high school for a community where most students were dropping out after 9th grade because the nearest high school was more than 15 miles away."  

Charity of the Month | Gambia Rising

On One of Gambia Rising's Fondest Memories
"Our Gambian team takes short videos of students with their cell phones and then when they go to the city, send them to us. When watching these videos and reading the stories of the students, rarely a week goes by that one doesn't bring tears to my eyes. Many of our students are orphans, and nearly all the teen-aged girls were facing being "given to" an older husband if they could not find support to stay in school.

An example is Isatou, who dropped out of school when her mother died and her father, who had abandoned the family, returned to find her a husband. She came to us for help, and we convinced her father to let her accept a scholarship so that she could return to school and at age 18, Isatou is now in 10th grade.

A bit different is Fatou Kineh, whose mother supported her all the way through 12th grade by selling cell phone credit from her wheelchair on the streets of Kanifing. When she was admitted the University four years ago, she turned to us, and this month graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Mathematics from the University of The Gambia.  She was also the valedictorian of her class."

Charity of the Month | Gambia Rising

On Ways to Support Gambia Rising
"Not surprisingly, the thing most needed is money. We hope to build a network of donors chipping in $5 to $50 per month, which, will be a sustainable and dependable source of funds so we can promise a 1st grader's family that if they let their daughter stay in school through 12th grade, we will support them all the way."

Bead & Reel is incredibly inspired by Gambia Rising's mission and dedication to educating girls in West Africa. Please be sure to check out their Facebook page for weekly updates and stories on their students. If you are interested in donating to this world-changing charity, their donation page offers many different amounts and how it will make an impact. Additionally, a portion of every purchase made on Bead & Reel in April will go to Gambia Rising. You can feel good knowing part of your money will go to such an important cause.

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