From the 11 year old who writes her parents’ friends about donating, to the musician who writes songs, More than Me has always encouraged people to do whatever they can to help girls in Liberia go to school.
There are critics of the idea that if you are able to help, there is a way to help. This, “international snark brigade,” as they have been called, says that issues involving international development policy are more nuanced than good vs. evil, rich vs. poor, or “let’s all help someone!” Their cynicism is not misinformed, but it is misguided. No one would argue that baking cookies to fund scholarships, wearing a certain brand of t-shirt, or voting in a photo contest is the solution to cyclical poverty, which is often perpetuated by varied and diverse factors, including lack of education infrastructure. But selling cookies, running a campus campaign, or just posting a Facebook status can all be part of a larger move to address complicated, nuanced issues in development.
More than Me has been working with an amazing group of high schoolers in New Jersey to raise money for girls like Agnes and Rose, girls who are now in school instead of working on the street. C.R.A.F.T., which stands for Change Reaches All Friends Today, formed three years ago around the simple idea that high-quality, homemade bracelets, cards, and candles could be sold to help worthy causes. C.R.A.F.T.’s motto, “provide an outlet for creativity, while donating to charity” sums things up nicely, but doesn’t get close to exposing the dedication and drive of these young people. The group has their own business cards, logo, and designs, which they employ to help and highlight non-profits that benefit girls’ education.
The most exciting part: it’s working. C.R.A.F.T. has received media attention and they recently raised enough for More than Me to send a girl to school for an entire year. “We hope to touch lives of many people with our hand-designed pieces of art. We are helping their community in a creative way while practicing teamwork, confidence, and dedication,” they told me via email. The youthful and creative energy of these girls is doing something that even the biggest NGOs have trouble accomplishing. They are connecting people not just to worthy causes, but to other people half a world away. C.R.A.F.T. is making girls’ education an important issue in a tangible, fun way. It’s one thing to share a statistic, it is another when someone asks, “nice bracelet, where did you get that?” This doesn’t mean that statistics don’t work or that bracelets are better than professional research; promoting development and empowerment isn’t an either-or choice. Everyone has a role to play.
A pithy Facebook status doesn’t always capture the complexity of a situation, but it can get to the heart of it. Sharing a link to a blog post might not change a life, but it could be the first step toward changing someone’s mind. A bracelet isn’t always just a piece of jewelry. Groups like C.R.A.F.T. are helping in the best way they can. To see high schoolers working for something bigger than themselves is inspiring, to see the effect of their work on the life of a girl in Liberia is amazing.
There will always be critics and there will always be cynics, but there will also always be people and groups like C.R.A.F.T. who look beyond these and ask, “what can I do to get involved?”