Around the world, young girls are often not given the chance to receive a consistent education. When families with limited financial resources are forced to decide upon which child or children to send to school, it is almost always the girls that are left at home to tend to the chores while the boys are given the token school fees to advance their futures. Outside of the walls of school, the chance of child marriage increases drastically, along with the risk of sexual assault. Both of these factors result in girls becoming mothers at very young ages, which leads to increased maternal and infant mortality, increased family size, and increased risk of poverty. As these girls' children grow up in poverty, the cycle is likely to continue, just as it will for generations to come.
The Girl Effect Solution
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. -Edmund Burke
The only thing necessary for the triumph of good is that I do something. -Coach Olsen
The WOW Beginnings
Since the Spring of 2014, the Lynchburg Women’s Soccer program has been sponsoring a group of 17 young women in Gulu, Uganda through Sports Outreach Institute. The program has promised to financially support these "Women of Worth (WOW Girls)" for as long as they wish to pursue an education, which collectively adds up to about $4,000 annually. Through this sponsorship, the girls have been able to receive a consistent education, in addition to Biblical training, feeding assistance, mentoring, sports ministry activities, and health care assistance. The mission of the Women of Worth (WOW) Project is to transform and empower young girls to become world-changing women. This is done through love, encouragement, and reinforcement of self-worth as we build life-long relationships through mutual respect and trust!
WOW Girls By Name:
Babra, Brenda, Catherine, Eunice, Eunice, Irene, Janet, Janeth, Lucy, Mercy, Oliver, Phiona, Scovia, Sharon, Stella, Sunday & Vicky
The 2014 Meeting
In June 2014, Coach Olsen led his third Lynchburg College study abroad trip to Gulu, Uganda. It was on this trip that seven members of the Lynchburg Women's Soccer family first had the privilege of meeting the WOW girls face-to-face. The girls greeted the team with joyful songs and dancing, and over the course of a week, both parties had the incredible opportunity to get to know each other and to pour into one another as women in this world. Although separated by oceans and different cultures, the Lynchburg team and the WOW Girls found unity in the womanhood that they both share, and left one another's presence feeling encouraged and moved to use their unique gifts to change the world.
Meeting the WOW Girls was such an inspiration. Having been to Africa previously, I knew about the oppression women faced and I knew that there was such a need for a program like WOW. But when you are home in America, the girls felt so far away. It felt like we were doing these little fundraisers, but we didn't feel like we really had a purpose or were making a difference. That was until I got to meet these girls, hear their testimonies, and see how we really were contributing to their lives. We didn't give them anything - all we did was invest in something we knew would give back in three-fold. We invested in girls and we gave them a tool that should already be rightfully theirs - an education. They don't take their education lightly either. They are some of the most driven, grateful, intelligent, confident, and determined women I have ever met, and as an educator myself, I often wish I had them all in my classroom! -Tori Dott '14
The 2017 Reunion
In May 2017, fourteen members of the Lynchburg Women's Soccer program travelled to Gulu with Coach Olsen on another Lynchburg College study abroad trip. The major focus of this trip was to use public health and the game of soccer to empower girls and women. While in Gulu, some members of the team and the WOW Girls reunited, and others met for the first time. For the team, it was an encouragement to see how the WOW girls have grown into young women and to hear about how their education has radically changed and shaped their lives. Many of them have passed their exams to allow them to move onto higher education, others have begun to teach in schools, and one has even begun the process of becoming a nurse. The group of women spent the afternoon together learning new songs, teaching different dance moves, talking about life, and laughing hard. Both parties are eagerly awaiting their next in-person meeting, but until then, the relationships will continue to be built upon via letters and emails!
Getting to meet the WOW Girls was a really cool experience for me because I had heard stories about them and wanted to meet them ever since I had first heard of the WOW program. When I finally met them in person, they blew me away with how motivated and inspired they were about getting an education and spreading love. They are true leaders for their people and I can't wait to see what big things they do for their country. -Rachel Cooke '18
Taking Education to the Next Level
In early May 2017, the Chairwoman of "Women and Girls in Soccer (WAGS)", formerly known as "Washington Area Girls Soccer", drove three hours to Lynchburg to have lunch with Coach Olsen and some members of the coaching staff. At this lunch, Coach Olsen was presented with a check for a sizable donation for the WOW Project on behalf of the WAGS organization. Wanting to use this incredibly generous donation with wisdom, the coaching staff decided upon creating the first "WAGS Resource Center" in Gulu. This center is now home to a computer lab and other resources needed to further the education of young women in Gulu. The WAGS Resource Center provides girls of all ages with the opportunity to be trained in valuable skills that will increase their ability to be hired, start a steady career, and be able to provide for their children. The impact of the resource center will impact the women in Gulu for generations to come!