Tis the season of giving, and as we gather our gifts for family and friends, one Gillotts student has chosen to give the gift of his time to charity. Connor Botha, in Year 8, has created a promotional video for the charity, Lyra, which works with vulnerable women and girls in rural Tanzania. Creating the film over the course of three months, Connor’s work depicts the lives of children in the Iringa region and the valuable help they receive from Lyra.
Connor is passionate about movie making, having started creating videos when he was 8. For the past two years, he has won awards for his films at the Henley Youth Festival. This particular project came about through Lyra charity founder, Maria Spink, who is friends with Connor’s mother, Angela. Having heard about a music video that Connor had made for Sir Tim Rice, Maria asked if he could create a video to promote her charity. Connor recalled, “We chatted and Maria showed me pictures. I was amazed at the charity work, that children walk that far to school and have no electricity or internet. I learnt about this amazing server, Rachel, that Lyra provide so that the children in the schools can access internet like programmes. I don’t know how I could do my homework without the internet.”
Keen to offer his help after what he had learnt, Connor started to pull a movie together using photographs from Maria’s last visits to the Mazombe Secondary School. The video focuses on the tablets used by the students in the hopes that it might inspire people to give a very special Christmas gift this year. Connor explained, “As it was Christmas, we decided to look for donations of a tablet for a Christmas present. For only £50, a child can have a tablet and they can access the whole world through it. I know they are trying to provide every child in their six schools with a tablet.”
Lyra was founded in 2012 whilst Maria was working for a tree planting company in East Africa. Often meeting female labourers in the field, she witnessed the challenges that the women and girls faced in the community, particularly in relation to education. Maria commented, “I was very upset when I realised how very few girls actually manage to complete their secondary studies (only about 35% go to secondary school and less than 10% complete their studies, with only 3% passing their exams) and how vulnerable these girls were in often walking long distances to school (up to 30 kms). This leads them to often drop out of school and I have seen many girls with unwanted pregnancies due to sexual abuse on their school way. Also, in the region where I worked, the HIV rates are the highest in Tanzania, so I found schools with up to 50% orphans. They have to drop out of school to work.” Maria was also moved by a 13-year-old girl, whom she met in 2010, who was forced to marry an older man instead of going to school. “That’s when I decided I needed to do something for these girls with no voice and no control of their lives,” she said.
Lyra’s main focus is building dormitories to give girls a safe place to live until they complete their studies. Currently, they have built nine dormitories, housing over 1000 girls per year, and hope to build another two or three dorms each year. Lyra also helps to enhance the children’s studies by giving them access to tablets with offline educational content. “These rural areas have no electricity, internet or running water, so the tablets are transformational,” Maria explains. Finally, Lyra provides a business skills course to students in their final year to help promote ingenuity and entrepreneurship. “These young women have tremendous potential and desire to lead their own lives and be successful,” revealed Maria. “We have seen some amazing entrepreneurs emerge from these courses.”
These clever and inventive business women would not have had the chance to shine without the help of Lyra. Connor’s video will be a valuable tool for the charity in their fundraising efforts, and founder Maria was extremely grateful for his generous help. “Connor has been so amazing in supporting my charity,” she said, “so I hope you can look at his wonderful video. So thank you again Connor!”
If you’ve been inspired to give back this Christmas, you can help to change a child’s life by donating to Lyra, either via GlobalGiving or MyDonate. Connor’s video is available to watch below, or via Youtube.