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As the Zonta Club of Prowers County’s main service project for the 2018-19 year we chose to sponsor a group of local middle school girls who were participating in the “Girls on the Run” program. Girls on the Run is a national program focusing on girls in 3rd – 8th grade. Their mission is to “inspire girls to be joyful, healthy and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running.” They provide participating schools with a curriculum that teaches life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games.
Running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. The class culminates with a 5K run with other girls from around the state. This was the first year that our local middle school participated in Girls on the Run, so our club voted to sponsor the 6th – 8th grade girls.
Because Lamar, Colorado is a low-income rural area, our club paid for the girls' entry fees. We also felt that it was important for the middle school girls to get to know us and Zonta International. Therefore, members from our club went into the classroom on several different occasions to introduce us and introduce the Zonta ideals to the girls. We held mock Zonta meetings, which the girls were thoroughly fascinated by.
The most exciting and rewarding portion of our involvement with these young ladies was educating them about “Let Us Learn Madagascar.” I first learned of the partnership between Zonta International and UNICEF USA at the 2016 Zonta International Conference in Nice, France and again in Yokohama, Japan.
Being an educator, I was immediately drawn to Let Us Learn Madagascar, a program that creates opportunities for vulnerable and excluded girls to realize their right to an education in a secure and protective environment.
Our club has used UNICEF USA videos of the work taking place there as programs for meetings, as well as a recruitment tool! The middle school girls and Zonta members watched three videos of Let Us Learn and one of the members was overheard saying, “These videos make me proud to be a Zontian.” The girls had no idea what going to school was like anywhere other than Lamar, Colorado, let alone across the globe. They had so many questions and felt such empathy for girls their age who desperately want an education. They came away with a better appreciation for what they had always taken for granted.
The semester ended with the 5K race. Our club made “goody bags” for the girls. They said that it was like Christmas! They all did a great job; in fact one little girl who had never run a race before came in third out of 250 girls!
Lamar Middle School did not have a Girls on the Run program this first semester, but we are planning to sponsor a group of girls next semester (January-May 2020). As the Zonta Club of Prowers County continues to donate to Zonta’s Foundation’s International Service Fund in support of the project, in addition to our educational work with Girls on the Run, we will again focus our efforts on supporting Let Us Learn Madagascar with the goal of continuing to inspire the girls, our community and Zontians alike on the importance of an education, especially for girls in Madagascar.
Together, Zonta International and UNICEF USA are positively impacting tens of thousands of women and girls, building brighter, safer and healthier futures.
Let Us Learn is a UNICEF initiative that was launched in 2011 to bring innovative educational opportunities to the world’s most vulnerable children. Let Us Learn addresses inequities in education by reaching out-of-school children, expanding girls’ education and improving the quality of education. Five countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Liberia, Madagascar and Nepal – are targeting the most vulnerable children by sharpening the equity focus in both programming and monitoring of results. To date, this program has made great strides to ensure that over 1 million of the world’s most marginalized and underprivileged children have access to quality education.
Since 2016, Zonta International has committed to supporting Let Us Learn in Madagascar.