I never set out to start a nonprofit. I didn’t manifest it with all those late nights of journal writing. However, two years ago I was working in Kenya and met 20 young girls, all victims of gender violence and orphaned, living in largest slums in East Africa. My aha-moment came when I invited them over to cook butterfly pasta together. They grew silent and asked me with shaking voices if we are eating butterflies. I encouraged them to take a closer look in the pot and asked them if these look like butterflies. They said “yes, but somehow you drained the color out of them”. This really stuck with me, particularly because I regularly went hiking in a forest just 10 minutes from their slum where there are thousands of butterflies. The next morning I rented a van for $50 and we drove to see real butterflies, smell the forest air and experience the silence, which to my surprise they feared. This illuminated for me that poverty is more then not having enough money. Poverty severely limits one’s ability to have experiences that will lead them out of a survival mindset, where their thinking broadens, heart’s curiosity emerges and belief in their own ability to fulfill their dreams are formed.
Girls On Fire Leaders is a camp that provides girls from the slum a different kind of education, traveling all around Kenya not as tourist but little change-makers. We focus on heart-aligned leadership through immersive travel, community service-learning, authentic self-expression and global connectivity. We believe that every girl, regardless of culture, religious or socio-economic status has something of value to offer another human being, that it’s her basic human right to find her voice and become a leader in her own life. Through this project, girls are BEING THE CHANGE by collaborating with others from ethnic tribes with a long history of conflict. We are building a global collection of social solutions that will not only inspire and uplift, but encourage and empower others to be Girls On Fire, too, passing on the legacy of leadership from one generation of women to the next.
In just 2 weeks, we’re hitting the African road to do:
• Literacy and advocacy program with runaway girls from FGM and child marriage.
• Work with an all women’s tribe formed from domestic violence survivors.
• A “day in her shoes” with tribal women elders to learn traditions, share stories and create a podcast.
• Work with Muslim girls to build confidence through yoga and soccer.
These service initiatives will directly impact over 280 children and 60 women.
Girls On Fire Leaders are learning lead by showing up for themselves and other girls to say “You matter. I believe in you. How can I help?”
Photo Credit: Jennifer Graham Photography