In 2011, the Rotary Club of Bowen Island raised $3,118.34 to support the Komera Project through the Rotary Run for Rwanda held on the morning of Bowfest. This is the report to Bowen Island from Margaret Butler, founder of the Komera Project
In 2008, the Komera Project founder and former primary school teacher Margaret Butler spent a year living in a remote village in Rwanda. She explored the countryside during her daily runs, and occasionally, a local girl would join Margaret only to stop once she realized her behavior wasn’t socially acceptable. Margaret also noticed that the few girls who made it through elementary school were expected to stay at home to tend to household duties and did not have the opportunity to attend secondary school. These few brave girls inspired Margaret to host a girls-only “fun run” to promote the rights and education of Rwandan girls. As the intrepid girls took off, shouts of “Komera!”which means “be strong and courageous” in the local dialect, could be heard from the crowd. As a spin-off from the race, the project worked with the local government and schools, and ten girls were selected to be the first set of Komera scholars.
Thanks to Komera Project supporters like the Bowen Island Rotary Club, there is now financial and social support to 61 girls. Each girl receives a comprehensive scholarship package that includes tuition for boarding school and health insurance, as well as the personal and educational supplies needed to successfully achieve their academic goals. The Komera Project continues to host an annual fun run in Rwanda as well as annual fun runs in the United States which fund-raise and engage young people in achieving Komera’s mission.
Impact of the Bowen Island Rotary Club
In 2011, the Bowen Island Rotary Club generously donated $3,118.34 to the Komera Project through the Rotary Run for Rwanda. With our annual budget of $40,000, your support is a huge asset to our programs. A full annual scholarship for a Komera scholar averages about $500 USD per year. Your donation covers two Komera scholars who have three years of school left.
Over the past 4 years we have learned a lot about girls’ education in Rwanda. We have found that there are many girls who have been forced to drop out of school due to financial or social duress and we believe that we are in a unique position to provide them with an opportunity to return to school. Our scholars therefore, vary from having one to six years of school left. The two scholars below were both out of school for a period of time before the Komera Project was able to provide them with scholarships.
Angelique is a natural born leader. Last year during the Rwinkwavu Fun Run, she led all of the girls in song and dance. She is a very good student and is determined to become a doctor. Her favourite subjects are physics, chemistry and biology. In her spare time she enjoys playing volleyball. I visited her school last year and it is a lovely small co-ed school tucked away in the hills behind the Rwinkwavu hospital (pictures below).
I have known Christine since 2007 – she is part of the original group of Komera scholars. Christine is also a very good student and has dreams of becoming a doctor. She loves studying science and is determined to graduate with honors. She is currently in Rukara Secondary School with five other Komera scholars.
In 2012, the Komera Project has committed to putting another 27 girls into secondary school. We are growing because of the enthusiasm and support of our partners like the Bowen Island Rotary Club. We are thrilled that the world is starting to take notice and take action to ensure that girls are able to attend school. Our students are identified in the community as the most vulnerable but they are also selected because they show a strong desire to go to school. They are intelligent, compassionate and hopeful for their futures. This past week, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on business leaders attending the World Economic Forum in Switzerland to increase their investment in women and girls, “Investing in the health of women and girls is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do for national economies and global stability”. The movement to support girls and women in the developing world is growing and we are excited to have the Bowen Island Rotary Club as a partner in such an important endeavor. We look forward to our continued partnership and we hope that it will continue to grow in the years to come.
– Margaret Butler
About Margaret Butler
Margaret Butler, founder of the Komera Project, was born and raised on Bowen Island. A talented runner, she has represented Canada in cross-country and track and field. After working as a teacher for several years, she went to Columbia University to achieve an MA in International Education. Since then, she has worked in many sectors including international NGOs, corporate partnerships and grassroots organizations.