Princess Matters.

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Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.

Here are some facts that shed light on the context our girls live in:

AllAfrica.com recently wrote an article about the FIRST person convicted of human trafficking in Liberia. Our founder, Katie, wanted YOU to hear her response:

Dear More Than Me Family,

I just read the “All Africa” story about child slavery in Liberia. I’m angry. It’s just not okay the way these young children are being treated. I don’t need to read about it in the news because I know these children. Many of them were our girls’ stories before they came to the Academy. Princess, who at 8, lived with her Grandma, but had a full-time job selling water in the pouring rain or under the beating hot sun. She had never gone to school, but now she’s enrolled in the MTM Academy.  Or Musu, who at age 6 sold peanuts from the top of her head in the slums wearing her broken flip flops. She followed me and hid every time I’d look back at her. Now Musu is also enrolled in the Academy. For our 120 girls, it’s not just school. The Academy is the only safe place they have and they don’t ever want to go home.

Every single day other children walk past and stare through our gates. They have buckets or wheelbarrows of used clothes and it breaks everything in me, I wonder what they think. I wonder how they feel. Sometimes I go out and talk to them and kiss them and play with them. Other times, I try as hard as I can to ignore them. The needs inside our gates are already overwhelming. I think of Mother Teresa. She couldn’t physically help all the time, but she loved. I try to too; I want to be that. 

No young child, Liberian, American, Pink, Green or Yellow should be hungry on the street working. I’m the first to admit I don’t have all the answers, but I would give my life for these children a million times over. I don’t get it.  I want to scream, but since that doesn’t really do anything, may our work with MTM scream to the world. There is something so much bigger than just ourselves, and may its impact echo throughout the world.

Princess Matters,

Katie

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#GetStreet with us.

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We are in awe of your support. Thank you for spreading the word and helping girls get off the street. Tomorrow is Match Day! Where will you be at noon ET, 9am PT? (Hint: https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/morethanme-girls-academy/)

Your #getstreet photos are taking Facebook by storm! (click on an image to make it larger):

How to #getstreet:

Invite your friends to join this event: https://www.facebook.com/events/547026155384944/

Tomorrow, Tuesday December 3rd, at noon ET (9am PT) give to get girls off the street – https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/morethanme-girls-academy/

Don’t see your photo up there? Post it to our Facebook page and we’ll add it!
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TIME TO GET STREET

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We have a challenge for you.

Tuesday, December 3rd is #GivingTuesday, a day to give back to charity after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. This year, Microsoft is matching donations up to $1000 at 100%. They have $250K to give away in matching funds! Matching starts at exactly 12pmEST, and we need your help to invite people to take a stand against girls living and working on the street.

Here’s the deal: What would happen if you and 5 friends changed your profile pictures to something like this:Except it’s you holding the sign. What if you invited 20 friends to pledge to donate to More Than Me so that girls in West Point won’t have to sell their bodies for clean water anymore?

What if taking action was as easy as snapping a selfie? Here’s what you can do:

  1. Download and print this sign (or make your own): 
  2. Take a photo of yourself holding the sign in your neighborhood, outside your school, or at your local shopping center.
  3. Change your profile picture to this new photo!
  4. Caption the photo with this: “For the holidays, I’m taking a stand against girls living on the street! Join me: https://www.facebook.com/events/547026155384944/
  5. Invite your friends to the facebook event.
  6. On December 3rd, at 12pm EST, 9am PST – Donate! (We’ll send you the link through Facebook) Or spread the word!
  7. And remember, it’s not about you.
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Meet the More Than Me Marathon Team!

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Choosing to run a marathon is no small “feet.” All puns aside, each of our six runners has an amazing story to tell. Discover how they decided to run 26.2 miles for our girls and help them reach their fundraising goal of $15,000 as a group!

Matt Gallo says…“It’s always been a dream of mine to run in the New York City Marathon. I have run 26.2 miles before, but never anything like this. More Than Me is giving me this awesome opportunity. What’s great about this race is the millions of dollars raised for big charitable and non-profit organizations. However, it’s easy to overlook the little guys. I’ve decided to work with More than Me because I believe that working this group would allow me to contribute more directly and see how I’m helping. I’ll be running a short 26.2 miles across the 5 boroughs or New York City. Every step, every cramp, every bead of sweat and blister and smile will be making something happen. 100% of the funds raised will help give these girls the education and quality of life they deserve. I am proud to be serving as a role model and inspiration to people in need.” Help Matt make something BIG happen.

A father-daughter kind of story. Katelyn and Richard Ducote came all the way from Georgia to run the ING NYC Marathon. They ran the marathon because it was an opportunity to spend time together doing something they both enjoy.  Richard’s niece, Katie Borghese (one of our amazing board members), introduced them to More Than Me and how the foundation helps young women avoid a life of misery through education. “Running for MTM is a blessing,” Richard said. Katelyn and Richard finished the race together at 4:32:34. Now’s your chance to congratulate them! Help Katelyn and Richard make their race count even more.

This is Katherine Galloway. “I live in Bernardsville, NJ.  I am married and have two children, Mikey(8) and Gracie(4).  My family has been wonderfully supportive as I trained for this race.  I have not run a full marathon in 10 years!  I am super excited about running in NYC and so happy to be doing it for More Than Me.  I was a high school math teacher before I had Gracie and I miss being in the classroom.  Seeing the pictures of the girls in class at the More Than Me Academy makes me so happy.   I am proud to be helping this amazing organization!” Get Katherine to her fundraising finish line today!

When Allie Hoffman saw Katie post a call for runners on her Facebook page, Allie, a friend of Katie’s, knew she had to do it. “I thought this would be a really good motivation for pushing me over the edge and finally surpassing everything I thought was possible,” Allie said.  Allie also just turned 30 and is using her birthday as a way to fundraise for the marathon. Allie finished at 4:22:11 – way to go! Help Allie make her 30th birthday count.

Stefanie is a long-time supporter of MTM and was invited by MTM to run!  She is also an avid athlete. Just one week earlier, she ran the Marine Corps Marathon.  Stephanie’s passion goes deeper than the physical training she endures.  Her passion is centered on spreading awareness about girls like Agnes and Beatrice to as many people as possible. Stephanie dreams of coming to Liberia one day to teach the girls photography and make a book out of their photos.  The book’s proceeds would go back to More Than Me, the girls would have a new skill, and their photos would be seen around the world. Make Stephanie’s dreams a reality today!

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Hope Dies Last

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By: Rachel Mattovich

In a world where we are inundated with global headlines, it is hard to remember that what we do in our own lives really does make a difference.  After listening to an hour-long program of global news, I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by the chaos of the world, and I found myself thinking deeper about the human quality of hopefulness, what it is and why it is really important to us.  It was at that moment when my eyes caught the text on the spine of a book on my roommate’s bookshelf ironically titled: Hope Dies Last. The first line began, “Hope has never trickled down.  It has always sprung up,” and feeling perplexed, I decided to look up the definition of hope.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, hope is the state which promotes the desire of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s own life or in the world at large.  After reading this definition, I realized that for hope to exist, it requires individual action—the desire to engage, contribute and initiate change in our environment. To feel that what we do counts, and that as individuals, we count. The truth is, we all have the potential to cultivate hope. We just have to act.

Hope is at the heart of More Than Me (MTM).  In fact, without it MTM would cease to exist. In the spirit of hope, we wanted to take time to honor the recent efforts of some of our most dedicated and dynamic supporters.

Gwyneth (left) with her friend on the day of the race.

Meet Gwyneth:  A 13 year-old 8th grader from Califon, New Jersey.  Gwyneth met Katie, our founder, two years ago at a friend’s Promise Party.  Upon meeting Katie, Gwyneth says,

“Katie’s enthusiasm about MTM is contagious.  I heard about MTM and the girls, and it made me sad. I wanted to help them.  The girls are close to my age and I was saddened by the hardships that they face.”

It was then that Gwyneth decided to take action.  What began as an effort towards earning her Girl Scout Silver Award, morphed into greater efforts to spread awareness in her local community for women, girls and MTM, in the form of her favorite sport:  running.

When Gywneth heard about the MTM girls training to run in the 10K for our Meet Her At the Finish Line campaign, she decided to build a team in her hometown that would run at the same time, to show solidarity and support for the girls.  Through her efforts and passion, Gwyneth won our fundraising campaign, and truly touched the hearts of our girls in Liberia.

As the ING New York City Marathon approaches this weekend, running has become a vehicle for resonating hope, once again.  This year we have six amazing people participating and fundraising for MTM in the marathon. They’ve decided their role in creating change will be as athletes – as people who are active and striving to push their bodies to be as healthy as possible and be a role model for what they believe in.

The race is this Sunday, and the runners hope to inspire all of the MTM girls to keep working and pushing themselves to be the best they can be. So if you find yourself searching for hope in this vast world, here’s your chance:  you can support our marathon runners today by donating to their fundraising pages, here.

All it takes is a desire to participate in your surroundings to foster hope; so I encourage you to take this inspiration and run with it (literally and figuratively)!

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Believing in education with all of my being

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Where do I begin­? Being the principal of the More Than Me Academy has been extremely challenging, but the good kind of challenging. The kind that reminds you why you’re alive. The kind that reminds you that you’re human and not infallible.

Today is the International Day of the Girl Child and this year’s theme is “Innovating for Girls Education.” The More Than Me Academy has been innovating since Day 1. We have a co-teaching system, a state-of-the-art computer lab, and amazing after-school programs. When the odds are stacked against you, every accomplishment, no matter its size, feels HUGE. And I’m grateful for that.I have spent the past four weeks working with some of the most energetic, passionate, determined, and bright young girls in the world. They have a fire inside of them, but they have been deprived of the basic education needed to open the kinds of doors that should be opened to them. And that is why I am here, why the other fellows are here, why the six Liberian co-teachers are here, and why there are countless volunteers working around the clock who are willing to do anything that is asked of them. It blows my mind.

I loved my job in the South Bronx. It, too, was challenging. The students there were also disadvantaged and amazing, and I also had some fantastic co-workers. But at More Than Me, every single person working on that campus is there because they believe in the mission of More Than Me. They believe that the beautiful and talented girls of that school can be the leaders of the country. You won’t find another organization like it in the world. I promise you.There are also harsh realities. I teach the oldest group of girls. There is a 15-year-old girl in my class who has a child and cannot read words other than the ones she knows through the rote memorization practiced here in Liberia. When I read stories to her in class, she is so quick. Her answers are the most thoughtful, insightful. But still, she cannot read. How am I supposed to help her become a leader of her country? The first step is believing in her, and when I realize that I’m not the only person working hard to ensure her success, the load becomes lighter.

Perhaps I am sugarcoating everything. This organization is not perfect and my job is really hard. I work between 10 and 12 hours each day. I am teaching for four of the hours and acting as principal for the rest of the time. The teaching part consists of lesson planning, grading and more lesson planning. The principal part consists of meeting with students, staff, visitors to the campus, parents who want us to take their children in, making sure my staff has what they need, and finding out where to get things when my staff doesn’t have what they need. A walk in the park, right?!

What else makes this job hard?  I have never taught a 16-year-old how to read.  I have never taught anyone how to read. I have never been a principal before. I have never really been anyone’s boss before. All of it can get frustrating, and sometimes when I’m in it, I don’t know if I will make it. At the end of the day though, when a parent comes to pick up her child and promises to send some plantains for me next week (she’s waiting for them to ripen so that I can enjoy them), I regain the passion and energy to do it all again the next day. Not because I love plantains, although I do, but because this parent, who can hardly care for herself and her children, will not take no for an answer. She will give me the plantains and she will thank me a hundred times each time she sees me. She too believes in this school’s mission with all of her being.

I leave you with some lyrics to the song our girls sing every morning at devotion:

“Girls of Liberia, we need to be educated…we can do what men can do, just give us the opportunity. Give us a chance to learn. Give us a chance to learn. We are important. We are the songs of Liberia.”

With love,

Miss M

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15-YEAR-OLD CANCER SURVIVOR SENDS SIX AT-RISK LIBERIAN GIRLS TO SCHOOL THROUGH MAKE-A-WISH® NEW JERSEY

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Chester, NJ – Sarah Stover isn’t your typical 15-year-old. When she was 12, she helped raise $10,000 to build a well and cistern in Haiti. She’s currently in her fifth year of studying Mandarin and recently decided to teach herself German. She loves to draw and ride horses.

So on August 14, 2012, when she woke with a huge mass in her throat and neck that had literally appeared overnight, Sarah and her family prepared for the worst.

Overcoming Adversity
Sarah was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, pediatric follicular lymphoma, and needed immediate surgery. Her type of cancer is normally found in people ages 55-60; only 25 children worldwide are diagnosed with this cancer every year. Despite her diagnosis, Sarah responded well to the 6-month, weekly chemo treatment; so much so that her data will be shared with medical teams around the world to help others recover from follicular lymphoma.

When Sarah’s social worker approached her about the opportunity to be granted a wish through Make-A-Wish® New Jersey, an organization that grants the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions between the ages of 2 ½ and 18, Sarah took time to reflect on what she would want.

“I thought, instead of giving me something to look forward to, why don’t I give six girls something to look forward to instead?” Sarah explained.

Sarah chose to give six at-risk girls a chance at an education and hope for a brighter future by sponsoring them for a year at the More Than Me Academy in Liberia, West Africa. More Than Me (MTM) gets girls off the street and into school in one of the poorest slums in the world. The MTM Academy, a free, all-girls primary school, opened its doors on September 7th with the support of Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Katie Meyler, founder of MTM, grew up in New Jersey and overcame her own obstacles to get to where she is today. Her hope, and MTM’s vision, is to connect with vulnerable girls who are facing adversity and give them the power and knowledge to make choices about their future. Sarah met Katie at a local fundraising event and immediately felt connected to Katie and the girls MTM sponsors.

“I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Sarah’s renewed health than to pass this precious gift of hope onto others in the form of school scholarships to More Than Me,” said Sarah’s mother, Berit.

President and CEO of Make-A-Wish® New Jersey, Tom Weatherall said, “We will grant more than 400 wishes in New Jersey this year.  And like the other 7,500 wishes granted since 1983, every wish is unique and personal to each child and family.  These wishes motivate and inspire our volunteer base, carry deep fulfillment to our donors, and humble our board and staff on a daily basis.  Sarah’s wish surely captures all of these sentiments.”

A celebration of Sarah’s wish and her gift to More Than Me will take place at the Samuel & Josephine Plumeri Wishing Place, Make-A-Wish® New Jersey’s castle in Monroe Township, NJ on Friday, October 11th at 2pm ET.

For more information about More Than Me, contact [email protected] or visit www.morethanme.org.

 

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The School is Open, What’s Next?

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Dear More Than Me Family,

This is the happiest I’ve EVER been! We just opened the school on my birthday; best bday gift in the world! The president cut the ribbon! When asked, “What is the #1 way people outside of Liberia can help?” She replied, “Support Katie Meyler and this initiative!” #OMG

We have an awesome LA event run by an amazing community happening tonight to celebrate the girls. Come!

The other day I bawled my eyes out. The purse I got for my birthday was stolen. In it; my iPhone, wallet, etc. The woman who stole it was a sex-worker who planned to sell the stuff for $800, but her friend convinced her to give it back. She knew about the Academy and literally brought the purse, with all its contents, back to our office. When our team member asked, “Why did you bring this back?” the friend replied, “If there was an Academy like this for us when we were younger, we wouldn’t have to do what we do now.”

Obviously, we have to keep this going, and going strong. And I need your help. I want to make a statement. I want the world to know how important Susan is. A little girl who comes to our school during the day, but is in danger at night (we are working on that).

How? Well, Microsoft is giving away $100K – and we want to take it all. Here are the details:

THE BIGGEST THING we CANNOT miss is that these matching funds run out fast. We want to make sure that at noon EST, when the funds open, we take them ALL. So it’s like bang, money gone.

I’m so so so excited I feel like I’m going to explode out of my skin. Let’s do this.

A more beautiful world is happening,
It starts with us,

Katie

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NEW SCHOOL IN LIBERIA OPENING

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MONROVIA, LIBERIA: In a post-conflict Liberia, many institutions are still struggling to get on their feet, made clear by the recent news that 100% of students seeking entrance to the University of Liberia failed the exam.

Filling the gaps in Liberian education is often left to members of the community, local and global. On September 7th, the More Than Me Academy will be opening in Monrovia as one attempt to bridge this gap.

The launch of the More Than Me Academy, which will serve up to 240 girls, comes after a long journey by founder Katie Meyler. Meyler, a native of Bernardsville, New Jersey, had first visited Liberia in 2006. She was shocked to learn that young girls in Monrovia, Liberia had virtually no opportunities to sustain themselves except to turn to prostitution. It was on the ground in the slum of West Point in Monrovia that Meyler, along with community leaders,  determined that West Point inhabitants wanted educational access for their girls, so Meyler identified which girls were the most vulnerable.

“The opening will be the proudest day of my life. Finally the children society forgot about will have the same opportunities as those that have privilege. In Africa we don’t just have our own children, all of the children belong to us. I can’t wait to see what they will do with what they are given,” said Johnson.

Back in the US, Meyler would find any way she could to sponsor her girls, including subbing in kindergarten classrooms, cleaning gutters for a roofing company, waitressing, and public speaking, all while living on friend’s couches and occasionally sleeping on park benches. Today, Meyler has no regrets. In December, More Than Me inspired enough people around the world to win $1 million, against organizations with 20 times their budget.

“I did it all for the girls. My hope for these girls is that they are no longer a slave to the poverty they’ve been born into. They will have a choice now — a choice to go to college if they want, a choice to start their own business, a choice to be a senator and create laws that change the way this society treats those who come from the slums,” Meyler said. The school will be opening on Meyler’s birthday.

The school building, donated by the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, was destroyed during the war. The building has since been entirely renovated. The opening also marks the introduction of Liberian teachers teaching alongside international teaching fellows, including a former teacher from the South Bronx and a Liberian repatriating after the war. The curriculum includes girls’ empowerment, technology, health, the arts, and academics.

“This whole thing feels like a crazy dream, but a really beautiful one,” said Meyler.

To arrange an interview with Meyler, and other supporters, please contact Fiona Weeks at:[email protected]

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0% Pass University Exam: What More Than Me is Doing About It

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Alveena the M&E fellow here! I wanted to give an update on our girls, our first full-fledged baseline survey, and our evaluation efforts so far. But first, I have to clear up some confusion. There’s a rumor going around that I’m the first Monitoring and Evaluation staffer More Than Me has had, but turns out that’s not the case.

More Than Me’s mission has always been to serve the most vulnerable girls of West Point in the most effective way possible. Katie Meyler started the endeavor being on the ground, talking to the individual beneficiaries, community leaders, and institutions in West Point, doing what I like to call a “grassroots” needs-assessment. It was out of these conversations that Katie determined that what the community wanted most was access to a quality education for their children.More Than Me started out paying school fees, but we were always concerned with evaluating the quality of the education our girls were receiving. During a visit from our staff to the school where our girls were being sponsored, we saw the reality of a typical school day: underfunded classrooms, unqualified teachers, and unchallenged students. This motivated us to pursue our own school and our own building, a dream that will become reality on September 7th!Of course, there is a lot of work going into the opening of our school. One of the most important tasks was doing a full baseline assessment of our girls, showing us strengths, needs, and grade levels. On August 17th, we gave the first assessment to our girls. This meant a lot of math and reading on a Saturday. Luckily, the girls love tests (weird, but true)!Because of our high standards, we were expecting to do some remediation. However, the results were more surprising than we expected: none of our girls are at grade level, and many do not have skills as basic as phonemic awareness and algebraic thinking. These results are in line with findings across Liberia. Recently, the BBC reported that out of 25,000 high school graduates taking the entrance exam to the University of Liberia, 100% failed. You read that right. 25,000 out of 25,000. You don’t need to be a statistics genius to know that something is desperately wrong with the education system here. And we’re ready to take on this challenge.We’re taking an innovative approach to bring the girls up to speed as much as possible, via an intensive math and literacy intervention. This curriculum will be accompanied by the beautiful new building, international and Liberian co-teachers in every classroom, a cutting-edge aquaponics garden (thanks, Sustainability without Borders!), health and nutrition classes, an extensive after-school program, access to a computer lab, and so much more!

School in Liberia is about to be back in session.

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124

mtm girls in school

464,112

Global Supporters

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countries represented