I am very proud to serve on the Board of Matawi. I have had many volunteer and work experiences with international non-profits and can say with confidence that Matawi is a model of how to merge a challenging mission with concrete programmatic achievements. The result is an organization that fosters education and leadership opportunities in the global refugee community. This year, the organization hosted an incredible function in NYC that generated conversation and a deeper awareness of the tremendous barrier that young women in refugee camps face in accessing higher education. It was an incredibly moving and effective event.
i have served as a board member and have watched the continued growth and success of matawi as a non profit. since the work on this non profit began, the dadaab refugee camp has almost doubled in size; thus remaining the largest refugee complex in the world. i am so gratified that there has been, during the past year, a growing awareness of matawi and continued progress and success in funding education scholarship. with refugee communities expanding all over the world, the growth and significance of matawi will also parallel this trend worldwide, establishing a framework of hope for refugee girls and women desperately in need of education and opportunity beyond the confines of camp life.
Matwi is an orgnization that is involved in a number of different projects all of which are aimed at improving the lives of refugee and immigrant communities especialy young women and girls. I first got to know about Matawi when Rachel and Pati- two of the founders- visited the refugee camp where i lived. Later when they invited me to join the board of directors and sent me a link to the website I was impressed by how much effort the founders made considering the fact that the orgnization is new and that they had very little resources. Matawi is dedicated to empowering young women whose edcuation and lives are suffering because of the economic and cultural hinderances
Matawi is an incredible organization established by three extremely thoughtful and strategic community activists, scholars, and feminists. While Matawi has only launched its programmatic work within the past few years, its mission and vision have been meticulously crafted and deliberated upon for over eight years. The leadership team’s diverse array of skills and experiences, coupled with their vast international network, leads me to believe that this organization will create lasting impact among the global refugee community. I am particularly impressed with Matawi’s Dadaab Young Women’s Scholarship Initiative (DYWSI). This element of Matawi’s work focuses on increasing young Somali refugee women’s access to higher education—both within East Africa and the United States. As a staff member of an international foundation myself, I have witnessed numerous organizations attempting to capitalize on the “hot-ticket” development item of girl’s education. Donors are notoriously eager to fund girl’s education as it appears to be an uncomplicated and uncontroversial method of achieving women’s empowerment (as opposed to reproductive health initiatives, economic empowerment projects etc.). Matawi makes the argument that, especially when working with refugee populations, assuring girls’ access to educational opportunities is anything but uncomplicated. In fact it takes exhaustive, multi-pronged strategies to ensure that one young woman is able to attend a tertiary institution. Matawi’s strategies involve partnering with its networks to provide an array of essential services within refugee camps such as SAT preparation courses and workshops on application essays. Its staff also researches and publishes scholarly articles on the range of cultural barriers restricting young women refugee students from academic enrollment and retention. Additionally, Matawi works with college admissions offices in the United States to advocate on behalf of the applicants—opening doors for both the recipients of Matawi’s scholarships as well as all refugee applicants. In short, this is an impressive initiative. Another exciting aspect of Matawi’s work is its Memoir Initiative, which collects personal narratives from diverse community members on issues ranging from educational opportunity, forced migration, globalization, security, hardship, and family. These stories have been published as an anthology and are also utilized for interactive lesson plans for K-12 students in Lewiston, ME. This project continues to develop and take on new and exciting forms, continually finding new audiences to engage and inform. It is obvious that I could continue to rave about Matawi. If I have not demonstrated why I have given this organization a 5 star ranking, I encourage you to explore their website (www.matawi.org) and find out for yourself. If you’re already sold, I encourage you to visit the donation page on their website.
Patti and I first traveled to the Dadaab Refugee Camps in 2007, returning again the following year in 2008. As a cluster of camps, Dadaab is remarkable in a number of ways--it has been in existence since 1991; its numbers continue to grow, now nearing 300,000 refugees. Poignantly, life in the camps offers no long term, durable solutions for refugees. In fact, a generation has been raised in Dadaab with little hope of repatriating to Somalia, integrating into Kenyan society, or resettling to a third country. Within the camps there exists a school system run by the UNHCR and its implementing partners--Care and Windletrust. Nearly 300 students complete high school each year but only around 35 are young women. From there, only the slightest percentage of graduates are able to access higher education. While in the camps, Patti and I heard over and over again stories of youth who wanted nothing more than to further their studies--to be able to apply the hard work that they had already put into their schooling to higher education and meaningful careers. Matawi was founded in part as a response to this articulated desire, with an emphasis on providing educational opportunities to girls and women. Matawi is a very young organization, having incorporated only in 2009, but is already sending one new student to college in East Africa and has laid the groundwork for many more to apply to US schools. I am deeply honored to be a part of Matawi.
matawi is completely devoted to women's empowerment. this non profit was born through the collaboration of american women listening to somali refugee women in the dadaab refugee camp. these refugee women shared the stories of their journeys into the camp and the limitations posed by the educational opportunities in the camps. through the publication of their stories, compiled as a meaningful book of memoirs, matawi launched its scholarship initiative efforts to bring girls out of the camp to be college educated in the united states and in kenya by selling the book and building a community of contributors who are now the foundation of the non-profit's donors. i have met many of the somali refugees in maine and am awed by their courage and creativity. working with matawi has increased their insight and capacity as well as empowered their future opportunities. additionally, matawi is actively involved in local progamming in the state of maine where many somali refugees have resettled. the research branch of the organization is actively studying the refugee communities in dadabb and lewiston maine with hopes to build future understanding and opportunity.
After visiting Dadaab Refugee Camps in Kenya, I helped to found the organization, which raises money for scholarships given to young women at the camps.
As a teacher in Lewiston, Maine, I have been involved in the Somali refugee community there. In 2007, Patti Buck, a professor at Bates College and one of the founders of Matawi, connected with me and we collaborated on a memoir writing project, "Memoirs for Change." My middle school students, including both native Maine youth and refugees from Somalia, worked together during the school day and in an after-school writing workshop to draft, revise, and share stories from their lives. The students learned so much about each other and formed long-lasting bonds during this process. We had a culminating celebration of writing at the end of the project where students read their stories aloud and families came to listen. Their stories were published in a shiny, illuminating anthology entitled "They Were Very Beautiful: Such Things Are" along with several memoirs written by refugees currently living at Dadaab. The proceeds from this wonderful book are used to help young female refugees continue their education after completing high school. Matawi offers incredible opportunities to aspiring youth who have persevered and successfully overcome hardship and obstacles. Matawi also educates us about the adversity refugees face and it helps build caring communities through the power of sharing stories.