We recently announced an exciting partnership with G Day for Girls, which is a new global social movement anchored by day-long events that celebrate, inspire and empower girls ages 10 to 12 as they transition into adolescence.

Channeling the spirit of this new partnership, we caught up with 12-year old Meenah Aldridge who traveled to Ethiopia with imagine1day in 2013 as part of our annual Imagine Ethiopia journey.

Q: What does “global sisterhood” mean to you?
A: We’re all connected and here to support each other, no matter how far away we are from one another. I think as long as you believe in this and want it to be true, I think this is possible.

Q: You recently did something pretty unique and amazing: traveled to Ethiopia with us and helped raise enough money to fund a school. Can you share how that all came to be?
A: Well, I had learned about the country through my auntie, Sapna, who is imagine1day’s Executive Director. I’d seen lots of pictures but other than that I didn’t have a strong connection to Ethiopia yet, and I certainly wasn’t planning on going there any time soon. Then one day in February last year my mom came and told me that it was a strong maybe that we’d be going in the fall. She explained to me that if we were to go, we’d need to get really creative and come up with our ways to raise funds to help build a school. My mom encouraged me to think about how I could connect some of the things I already loved to do, to a fundraising project. One of my ideas was a read-a-thon, which I did end up creating. I also came up with another idea called Chain of Hearts.

Q: Can you tell us about “Chain of Hearts”?
A: I was inspired to create the chain of hearts by watching my little sister do valentines cards. I thought, what if we could make a bunch of hearts and put people’s words on them and then take them to Ethiopia, kind of like a prayer flag. So I set out to create the longest prayer flag made of hearts in the world. I decided to ask for a donation of $5 for each heart and in exchange people got to write a message on a heart. Over a few months it became a rolling business. My two closest friends at school Brontё and Taylor helped me in the summer by selling the hearts outside of my mom’s work place and I’m really grateful for that. When we got to Ethiopia and to the community of Ganzilla where we were fundraising to help build a school, we wrapped the chain of hearts (about 450 hearts) around the school.

Q: What was it like being an 11 year old and traveling to Ethiopia?
A: In two words, pretty amazing. I feel pretty special and honored that I got to go there at such a young age. It’s definitely the furthest place I’ve ever been. Everyone in Ethiopia was quite amazed by how young I was to make that journey. People there kept talking about how amazing it was that a young student like myself wanted to help their children by raising money to build their school.

Q: You had the chance to meet some Ethiopian girls your age. How do you see yourself as different from these girls? In what ways do you feel you are the same?
A: Our lives are different. They walk a long way to get water, to get to school, to feed their families. The way we’re the same comes down to that we’re all girls. Personally I really love school and I could see in all of them that they also love school and they were willing to do anything to go to school and to get a good education.

A girl pointing to a chain of heart shaped cutouts with writing on them in Ganzilla

Meenah proudly strings her chain of hearts in Ganzilla.

Q: How do you feel we could create a stronger sense of global sisterhood between girls around the world?
A: I think what we’re doing really well already, with ideas like my chain of hearts and G Day for Girls. These are a really good start. Another idea is that girls around the world could write letters to one another to feel more connected.

Q: Finish the sentence: I imagine one day…
A: When all Ethiopian children will be educated.

Don’t be surprised if you see a Chain of Hearts-inspired activity at G Day Vancouver on April 28th! Thanks for sharing your inspiring tales from Ethiopia, Meenah.