Education leader for Gambia girls to speak in Nevada City |

Education leader for Gambia girls to speak in Nevada City

Change doesn’t happen on its own. Big change, real change, change whose ripples can be felt through communities and generations, starts with one idea. One person.

Mam Yassin Sarr-Fox of Gambia saw the desperate need for change in her village and stepped forward to initiate this change at its core — education.

Sarr-Fox, who will give a presentation Tuesday afternoon at Purple Moon in Nevada City, founded Starfish International, Gambia’s premier girls’ empowerment project.

It strives to empower Gambian girls through education, altruism and humanitarianism.

Though primarily a program for girls, this year 35 boys were invited to enroll in the program.

The students improve literacy in the community by helping to operate a neighborhood library and by teaching younger students life skills, leadership and service.

They learn entrepreneurial skills to earn money for their own education. A diverse cadre of international volunteers, along with local teachers, expands their learning.

One of those international volunteers is Teresa Langness, founder of Full-Circle Learning. FCL’s mission is to help young people embrace their role as the agents of change and humanitarians of their generation.

Its educational programs integrate and expand students’ character strengths, academic excellence, artistic capacities and peacemaking skills in service to the global human family.

Langness founded FCL after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. At the time, she had an office in the vicinity of the riots.

“There were a lot of children traumatized by that event, and we worked with social services to help these children feel nurtured by their community,” she said.

“We opened our office and nobody came. We started to build a trust with these children and set up a program where they learned they could be the change they don’t see in the world. That program became the model — help them see local and global change.”

FCL’s model has been used in the programs of 18 countries, including the U.S. Langness will travel wherever she’s needed to help children become agents of change and humanitarians.

Sarr-Fox will be visiting Syracuse, N.Y., this month (where she is receiving her doctorate).

Langness invited her to speak in Nevada City, where she relocated earlier this year when her husband retired.

“In all my travels, it is rare to see young women who embody the best traits of society,” Langness said. “Yassin has integrated a value system that incorporates life skills, benevolent leadership and education as a tool for leadership.”

After the presentation, crafts and gifts (jewelry, purses, soaps) made by the students of Starfish will be available for purchase.

All profits will go directly to the students’ scholarship funds.

“These girls work hard to contribute to their own education and to serve their communities with dedication,” Sarr-Fox said.

“They are among the few who will come back to help the many, and they already started on this journey. Assisting their cause is a worthwhile investment.”

The presentation and fundraiser take place at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the Purple Moon, 708 W. Broadway, in Nevada City. Admission is free and all are welcome.

For more information, email or call 530-264-7392.

Freelance writer Katrina Paz lives in Grass Valley.

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