LitWorld Girls Club Harlem Meet Arianna Huffington!

The Teen Girls Club with Executive Director Pam Allyn and Arianna Huffington

Earlier this month, the LitWorld Harlem Girls Clubs had the pleasure of meeting Arianna Huffington. Ms. Huffington's warm spirit was so inspiring and contagious, that the younger girls wouldn't leave her side! She was elegant, welcoming, and approachable all at the same time, a demeanor that many of the teen girls admired. She listened intently to the girls' stories, and shared her own.

She offered stories of courage and fearless pursuit of dreams, and, joined by our Executive Director Pam Allyn, they both reminded us all of our power to become the best women we can be.

Joining hands for the Farewell Song

Ms. Huffington with Executive Director Pam Allyn and members of the LitWorld Board

We hope to see Ms. Huffington again soon. Until then, we'll keep you posted on our next cycle of Harlem Girls Club, starting again January 2011!  - Ruby

LitWorld Girls Club in Erbil, Iraq, Rise as Leaders.

After the first meeting for the Venos Girls Clubs in Erbil, Iraq, most of the young women now have the spirit to be leaders and to make change.

I asked them, "What is the thing that made you happy last week?" , and all of them responded that participating in the Venos Girls Club is the most important thing that makes them happy. They think about their Girls Club all week until their next meeting arrives.

When they were asked about what they benefited from since the first Girls Club meeting, this is what the young women had to say:

Arazo: When I told you about my story, I felt happy for the first time because you shared my story. This pushed me more and more to be active and make a change in my life. Even when my family saw that I started to think in a different way , they encouraged me to attend these workshops till the end, and they also encouraged my sister to participate in this program.

Aisha: I told my colleague in the hospital about this important workshop, and we started to make a group to help keep the hospital clean. Now the girls there want to participate in these workshops with me!

Marwa: My family was so interested when they saw the change in the way of my thinking. After I told them the details about the program, they sent my sister with me to benefit from it.

All of the girls also established an environmental group in their school and led a cleaning campaign  for the school yards and garden, and also donated different books and stories  for their school library.

Renas: One of the girls in the school (not in our  club group) made fun of me when she saw me cleaning the school yard, but this behavior pushed me more and more toward my goal to make my school clean and better.

The girls in the program are already becoming transformed, feeling proud to be a part of this global movement for girls. Surely, there will be more positive change to report for the next one!

- As reported by the Erbil, Iraq Girls Club Facilitator, Saadia F.Hassoon

Introducing the "Venus Girls Club in Erbil"!

Girls Clubs in Iraq have officially launched in Erbil,with 13 young women in participation! When the girls were asked what to expect from the program, they replied that they expected Girls Club to "empower our personality in the right way, have an opportunity to know more about others". One of the other participants also offered, "I have goal to  achieve, and I hope this program will help me get on the right steps toward this goal".

When we asked the girls about their goals , their replies were as follows:
- To be a journalist not only on Iraq level, but on the world level, in order to let the world hear an Iraqi woman's voice.
-To be a police officer, in order to enforce and apply the  law.
-To  explore the world by traveling and learning the people's customs and traditions.
-To be an Arabic teacher in order to help other Kurdish people to know the language of their partners( Arab people) in Iraq.

The girls felt so empowered, they elected club officers to create a more formal organization of the club and spread its mission even further to other young women. They've even officially named the club as the Venus Girls Club in Erbil.

The girls exchanged their stories, and were so pleased to have the right of speech and to have the freedom to express their ideas. Our second meeting is set for the earlier part of 2011. More to come soon!

As reported by Girls Club Erbil Leader, Saadia Hassoon

Girls Club Kibera is on a Roll!

The Girls Clubs of Kibera have been on a roll all year, participating in numerous uplifting projects thanks to the leadership of Joscelyn O. Truitt and Jeff Okoth. The photo above shows the girls with a remarkable quilt made especially for them by the Children of Kibera intern, Jackie Espana, after the girls participated in knitting lessons. The fabric in the quilt are made from their first pieces, a reminder of all their time spent together during lessons!

Aside from their quilting project, the girls in Kibera have also been discussing peaceful tactics for conflict resolution, and dialoguing about peer pressure and self-respect. Talks on health and hygiene have also been important topics, resulting in their story project, "Nesla's Dillema".  As you might remember from our previous post, the Kibera girls have also been exploring ideas of esteem, and celebrating the multifaceted beauty of black women through their photo shoot project, "A Girl Is...".

We can't wait to see the new adventures the upcoming year has in store for the Kibera girls. We thank Joscelyn and Jeff for their inspiring leadership in Kenya!

Nesla's Dilemma: Stories Written by Red Rose Girls Club Members

Nesla's Dilemma is a combination of stories written by Red Rose Girls Club members. After a series of talks and lessons on hygiene and the female menstrual cycle, the group decided to write about our periods. Some girls decided to write a fictional story and others recorded their thoughts on the issue.

Using bits of each girls stories or reflections, their facilitators combined them all into one story. Nesla is a poor girl who lives in rural Kenya. One day, she suddenly gets her period and is unsure of what to do. But, after an enlightening talk with her mother, she learns that she is experiencing a normal change. However, Nesla's family is too poor to afford buying sanitary pads.

Her mother finds a Girls Club for Nesla to attend and it is there that she receives sanitary pads. The pads allow her to be in school every day so is able to finish and excel in her education. This story reflects how the Girls Club affects its members, as many girls are not able to afford pads nor are they comfortable talking about their periods with a mom or aunt. This story is informational, as well, and the Red Rose girls hope to use their stories to inform other girls about menstruation and how to handle it.

LitWorld Girls Club Harlem Sends a Video Message to Accra, Ghana:

A few weeks ago, the girls of Accra, Ghana, sent the Harlem Girls a letter to introduce themselves. Instead of writing a letter back, we decided to make it a little more personal and create a video, so that the girls can have a more interactive way of communicating, even across continents.

Hello from Harlem, Accra! We hope to meet you soon :)


Virtual Training with Kenya: LitWorld Embraces the Future!

Live from the Red Rose School in Kenya

Because we are a global organization working on an international platform, we aren't always able to meet with our partners face to face. Well, actually, yes we can! We at LitWorld love technology and the way it allows us to connect, work, and build together, no matter the geography or time zone. This morning, LitWorld Executive Director Pam Allyn in NYC led a virtual training on the Girls Clubs for Literacy Project to the teachers at the Red Rose School in Kenya.

It is truly incredible what technology can do to bring the world closer.

And even within the US, technology helps keeps our national staff connected every week! No matter how far, we can communicate on real time. Wow.


Forbidden Love: A Discussion About the Nature of Love in Society by Harlem Girls Club

Above: Aisatou Bah shares her thoughts on the politics of love.

By: Ruby Veridiano

Like many teenage girls, my girls in Harlem are always eager to talk about love. And why shouldn’t they? Love is both exciting and exhilarating, a new frontier to explore. After all, aren’t we all going to remain forever young on the inside, like giddy girls with budding hearts eager to welcome that magnificent thing called Love in? Especially around these girls, I know I most certainly do.

A few weeks ago, the girls and I spent time talking about love. More than just a feeling, we also recognized that in a world of injustice and inequality, love is also it’s own politic. To spark discussion, I brought in a song from one of my favorite artists, Janelle Monae. We listened to her song “Metropolis”, a song about a cyborg robot who faces the threat of being violently disassembled because she fell in love with a human.

Her lyrics read, “How can a wired thing understand/Love is too deep; too wide to feel/when your soul is a button/and your foot glows in heels”

Above: Tiffany Collins writes an ending to Janelle Monae's song

After listening to her song, I asked the girls if this concept of “forbidden love” told through the metaphor of a robot is something they could recognize in the real world. Immediately, we launched into a deep and profound discussion about love and the many politics that surround it. The girls brought up the forbidden love that sometimes taints relationships: from race to class, sexuality to religion, age and arranged marriages, the girls engaged in a deep, multilayered discussion about our country’s heaviest issues.

"What We Care About", Part 1 (From Accra, Ghana)

Last week, the Harlem Polo Grounds Girls Club offered their own missions of how they would change the world. This week, Madison's group in Accra, Ghana, share their own ways of changing the world and sharing compassion. Take a look at the heartwarming photos and poignant visions of change that the girls in Ghana offer:

Our Girls Club takes place in a cinder block cell of an old schoolhouse, with no roof, no floor, and no desks, so we try to make due with our notebooks and markers and the supplies we have.  Today we tackled the topic of compassion, one I was weary of discussing with girls who have so little themselves.  To understand compassion, we wrote the word itself out on a piece of paper, and then talked about what we thought it meant.

Unlike other topics, I noticed how the girls were drawn to the idea of compassion – they took out their notebooks and began scribbling everything that was said, straining their necks to see how to spell the word.  It was an early indicator of how amazingly they handled this topic.

I wasn’t able to print out a book about compassion, so I made up a story about a little girl named Abby, who, while walking home from school in Accra, meets another girl on the road who cannot go to school because she doesn’t have a uniform, so must sit alone outside all day.  Abby goes home and searches her room, and finally finds her old uniform to give to the girl so she could go to school.  When we discussed the story afterwards, the girls automatically started shouting out other ways they could help people in their community, from giving money to food to a place to sleep!  It is amazing how a child who has so little can be willing to give so much, and so many people who have so much give nothing at all.

We had a piece of chart paper today, and we wrote across the top “What We Care About”.  The girls wrote ideas like “we need to help people who are in need”, “we have to help people who are sick”, and “we must take care of our environment”.  Then we went around in a circle, and the girls shared the changes they would make in the world.  I had a chance to jot down what they said – it is too wise not to share.

My name is Hannah and if I could change one thing in the world, all girls should be respectful and brilliant.

My name is Irene and if I could change one thing in the world, everyone would love themselves.

My name is Ophelia, and if I could change one thing, all parents should take care of their children.

My name is Matilda and I think all people would care about others.

My name is Leticia and I think we need to respect our parents.

My name is Lucy and if I could change one thing in the world, all parents would educate their children.

My name is Mary, and we should respect people.

My name is Eugenia and I think we should love one another.

My name is Naomi and if I could change one thing in the world, we need to apologize to people we offend.

My name is Ophelia and if I could change one thing, we should all be compassionate to others.

My name is Dora, and we should love one another.

After the girls shared their thoughts (which struck as beyond their years) the girls each wrote a letter to the world.

I’ll let those speak for themselves, and simply say that we ended our girls club dancing because we were all so happy, and taking some photos hugging each other and laughing.  I know wisdom comes with age, but some of it must be intrinsic.

(continued in Part 2)

Red Rose School from Kibera, Kenya Share Their Work

Our Girls Club at the Red Rose School in Kibera, Kenya, is led by Joyce Cherotich and Jeff Ochieng. Recently, they sent us some beautifully designed writing from their students that challenge them to answer the question, "How well do I know myself?" . Check out their  beautifully studded and heartwarming work below. They're gems!

Check out more work by clicking the link below:

LitWorld Girls Club Kenya: What We're All About

Welcome to LitWorld Girls Club Kenya! Since April 2010, LitWorld and Children of Kibera Foundation have partnered to implement a Girls’ Club in the Red Rose Primary School community. Currently, we work with 24 girls every Sunday afternoon at the Red Rose campus. We’ve had a wonderful year together! So far, we’ve engaged in a few different activities to increase literacy, but also to introduce issues that affect girls and young women, particularly in Kibera. Our Girls Club is a meeting space for young girls, ages 9-13, to practice their creative writing skills by applying them to real-world situations they each face in Kenya.

Red Rose Girls Club is situated in Kibera, Kenya’s largest urban slum. Kibera holds about half a million residents who live in small shanty homes. Residents of Kibera face extreme poverty, lack of sanitation, improper health and education facilities, violence, corruption, and overcrowding. For young girls, it can be difficult to elude traps like teenage pregnancy, dropping out of school, or losing hope of success as young women are constant targets of violence, rape, and abuse. One Girls’ Club member, Mercy, writes about these pressures in her poem, “Who Am I as a Girl?”

As a little girl being employed

Others to school as I am at home.

Working past hours, never given time to rest.

Being weak, no growing, no feeding or being abused.

As little girls, we should fight for our rights.

Finding a young girl learning and enjoying

Life in school, but after a few weeks,

Boy sweet talks mislead the girls

After a few months, falling in love, a girl drops out of school.

Why, every girl has a right to school.

As little girls, we should fight for our rights.

All my parents are gone, I’m remaining an orphan.

People insulting and laughing at me,

Others even encourage me to leave school. Why?

I should learn to become a good person in the future,

Help my family to leave poorness behind and cheer for new life.

As little girls, we should fight for our rights.

Girls Club encourages students to express their thoughts and views using stories, poems, songs, and other creative mediums. Aside from that, we spend a considerable amount of time talking about the pressures that can steer a young girl away from concentrating on her studies. One topic that is especially important is health and hygiene. Many girls miss days or weeks of school during their menstrual cycle due to shame and no access to sanitary pads. Girls Club plays a hugely important role in providing sanitary pads and info sessions on how to use them and care for one’s personal hygiene. One member, Diana, wrote:

There was a girl named Diana. She had a problem. She never had anyone to talk to. But since we introduced girls’ club, she came in. But she was so scared to say her problem.  She had a big problem that was eating her up. We talked about many things. She still didn’t want to say her problem. One day, she heard somebody talk about the problem she also has. The problem was how or what to do when have your period. Now look how girls club really helped her in life and now she is ready to share the problem she has. Girls’ club is really helpful to the girls.

Girls Club offers these girls a safe place to discuss body issues or social problems that are often too shameful to discuss with a parent. Another important topic is staying away from peer pressure or harmful people. We introduced a Children of Kibera Foundation high school scholar, Abiba, who talked about different ways to maintain good grades and to stay away from men or boys who might persuade you to leave school. Rape is not an uncommon occurrence in Kibera, and so it’s also important for girls to know how to protect themselves from such attacks. We also discussed the concept of “sugar daddies”, or men who will provide you with things in exchange for sex. This trend has become widely accepted as a means for a young woman to take care of herself, so we made sure to talk about prostitution and how it can be disguised as something different.

One other activity that the girls have taken great pleasure in is learning to knit. We provided needles and yarn, introduced the first few steps, and the girls took off. Some have caught some form of knitting fever! They knit with sticks and thread they find on the ground. With the help of a former intern, we put together a beautiful quilt, which features all of the girls’ first pieces. It’s a small reminder of the time we spend together every Sunday.

Girls Club has become an important and vital meeting place for young girls in the slums. Coming together every week to complete activities, have discussions, or play games have allowed the girls to trust the facilitators, but more importantly, to trust each other. Bringing women together to find strength and courage among each other to become leaders is what Girls Club ultimately represents.

- Joscelyn, Girls Club Facilitator

Girls at Harlem Polo Grounds Share Visions of Change.

This past Tuesday, I led the girls at the Harlem Polo Grounds in a discussion and writing exercise that urged them to talk about their purpose. Their visions of change included everything from education, women's empowerment, child development, and the elimination of all the "isms"- racism, sexism, classism, and the celebration of love in all its forms. It is inspiring to watch these young women develop their personal mission statement, and to create a space where they can learn to hone in on their "WHY". Watch the videos below from some of the Girls Club participants in Harlem, and listen in on what they want to contribute to our world. - Ruby

"I want to legalize gay marriage." - Daija Spaulding

" I want to help kids stay kids, and become adults when the time is right." (On nurturing child development) - Natasha Croom


"Women are empowered, independent, and strong. My power lies in my hands, and [it's ability] to withhold change." - Tiffany Collins


How do you envision change?


It was evident that when the topic of sisterhood was unveiled to the girls they were more excited than they've ever been. The girls discussed what being a sister meant to them and how they perceived their role in relationships with their siblings. I remember being 8 years old and the relationship I had with my siblings; it was terrible. Much like these young ladies, I didn't have many kind words to share about my younger brother. Kristyn and I tried to keep them focused on the positive attributes of sisterhood, not just in their role as a sibling, but as a friend and a young lady. They were able to make the connection after reading "Amelia and Eleanor Go for A Ride".

The book touched on the close relationship of two friends and their quest to fly a plane as women. The girls were able to articulate what the book was about and relate it to historical events. They were asked to write a story about someone who possessed characteristics of a good friend.

Sunshine G. wrote,

Today we talked about sisterhood. I would want a sister like Christena. She is funny, playful, and she is also helpful. She's even nice and never mean. She's not even a follower, she's a leader. Sometimes when I play in the park and there's a fight she'll just walk away and play with someone else. She's a person that respects everyone. I wish I had a sister just like that.

Lucas Rotman Plays at the National Underground and Donates Proceeds to LitWorld!

Our friend Lucas Rotman is playing at the National Underground in the East Village, and he's donating all the proceeds to LitWorld! Come support the music and the cause.

Where: The National Underground, 159 E. HOUSTON, NYC

When: October 30th, 6 PM

For more information, check out the website here.

We thank you for your generosity Lucas!

A Campaign for the Orphans In Iraq: Rebuilding with the Power of Words

Dear Friends,

Experts estimate the number of orphaned children in Iraq at 1-5 million. The plight of this large number of orphans poses a serious humanitarian crisis. Unless effective interventions are made in the next 10-15 years, many of these orphans will reach adulthood without receiving care for the trauma and suffering they have endured. The United States has a special responsibility to honor the ultimate sacrifice of thousands of America's finest young men and women by working together with Iraq's nascent democracy to nurture and protect Iraq's next generation.

LitWorld has partnered with the Sponsor Iraqi Children Foundation to effectively help address this situation, and we are in the midst of an incredible campaign to fill a plane with school supplies that will be going to orphaned children in Iraq at the end of October. LitWorld is working closely with the Sponsor Iraqi Children Foundation to promote ongoing learning for the children who will receive these supplies.

Will you support this important cause? Here are some easy ways to participate in our campaign over the next few weeks!

·  Use the Change is in the Air Flyer as your Facebook, Twitter or Blogger "Avatar" image until Oct 25
·  Link to our Change is in the Air Blog Post on Facebook, Twitter or your website or blog with a note about the campaign, and encourage your friends to do the same
·  Make sure you "Like" LitWorld on Facebook, and invite all of your friends to "Like" us as well
·  Find our New Twitter Account @litworldsays, follow us and retweet our messages about the campaign; start with this tweet: Help @litworldsays send a plane full of much-needed school supplies to students in Iraq: http://ow.ly/2QOyv #changeisintheair
·  If you are in the New York City area, celebrate for LitWorld on Saturday, Oct 16 at a Benefit Concert in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

With your help, we can truly create positive change and take steps towards global literacy.

- Pam Allyn & the LitWorld Team

The girls connect "Belonging" to Langston Hughes "My People"

It's amazing how a poem brought a room full of girls together on some many different levels. Focusing on belonging, Kristen and I read the poem entitled "My People' by Langston Hughes to the girls. They seemed to be intrigued at the idea of what "my people" meant. Some thought the poem referenced African American people, others thought it referenced a family. We touched on the idea that "my people" could be your family, friends, people from your country or someone who lives next door to you. The point was to allow the girls to resonate that "their people" could be anyone they felt they belonged to and connected with. It was interesting to hear Ayana say "my family is from Trinidad" and Sunshine reply "my family is from Trinidad too"

All of the girls are definitely inquisitive and always take each session beyond where the curriculum has intended to go. The spontaneity of their questions and responses, always makes for an interesting session. That is the beauty of girls I guess, we always push the limit.

Poem: "Iraqi Sky", by Girls Club Harlem Team Leader Ruby Veridiano

Hello friends! This is Ruby, leader of the Harlem Girls Club at Polo Grounds. In honor of LitWorld's "Change is in the Air" campaign to send a plane filled with school supplies to students in Iraq, I wanted to share a poem I wrote for Iraqi peace activist Farah Abrahim.

Farah at the Church Center for the UN

Last month, I was paired up with Farah to translate her story through poem for the International Day of Peace event at the Church Center for the United Nations. I listened to her story, and asked her to give me a list of words that describe her childhood. This poem is my humble offertory in celebration and gratitude for her work fighting and standing for peace.

Iraqi Sky

In America I long to remember what an Iraqi sky looks like at dawn

If in the brim of the sun’s rising, it enjoys a quiet peace

Does it sigh after the smoke unravels like ribbons

Like spirits ascending to be set free

In Iraq, prayer is an anthem draped across a battlefield

CHANGE IS IN THE AIR: LitWorld Is Sending a Plane Filled with School Supplies to Students in Iraq!

LitWorld is determined to accomplish a great feat this October. We are filling an empty plane with school supplies to send off to students in Iraq, but we need your help! Please help us fill the plane by donating a few dollars to the cause. Every little bit counts!


$5 buys 50 ballpoint pens

$10 buys 6 brand new notebooks

$20 buys 288 pencils

You can find donation information through this link here. You can also bring your donations in person to LitWorld’s benefit concert in New York on October 16th! Check out more information on the concert here.

With your donations, October can be the month where we can see that change is truly in the air. Thank you so much in advance for supporting our cause. Now let's fill this plane!

10/16: LitWorld Invites You to Our Benefit Concert!

Dear Friends,

We invite you to join an evening of music with us as we put on our benefit concert on October 16th in Brooklyn, New York City. We would love to gather our growing  community to build together and share ideas of how we can all contribute to changing the world, one book at a time!

All of the proceeds will go towards LitWorld's reading and writing programs. We hope to see you there!