SheHero of the Week: Shannon McNamara

sm0606africalns1jpg-9378b357c62582ff_largeGirl Scouts is a great organization that encourages girls to work hard in all that they do and inspires them to give back to their community by making the world a better place. But Girl Scout Shannon McNamara decided to take those lessons a bit further and step outside her own community by making a difference in a community thousands of miles away, in Tanzania.

Shannon had certainly been no stranger to helping kids on the other side of the world. She had been joining her family on trips to Costa Rica, Guatemala, China and Peru where they had been volunteering to teach english to primary school children for years. Shannon began working on her Girl Scout Gold Award, which includes creating a project that fulfills a need within a girl's community (whether local or global), creates change, and hopefully, is something that becomes ongoing.

While trying to come up with an idea for her project she was also researching an upcoming trip to Tanzania where she learned of the many gender inequities that exist within the education system there. While boys are encouraged to study, girls are encouraged to learn domestic skills. That's when Shannon came up with the idea for SHannon’s Afterschool Reading Exchange (SHARE).

In 2008 Shannon arrived in Africa with 500 pounds of books and school supplies and the "girls only" reading program began. Shannon has returned to Africa every summer since and in that time SHARE has opened four school libraries in Tanzania and one school library in Zanzibar. The organization serves 3,000 students -- boys and girls -- who may use the library books during school hours. There are 610 girls taking part in the various SHARE programs, many of which are touching a book for the very first time thanks to SHARE. On top of all the boys and girls that are taking part in the program there are almost 1,000 New Jersey students involved in helping the organization.

Shannon is the true definition of a SheHero and by using her own passion she has helped to inspire and educate thousands of others.  She richly deserves the United Nations Youth Achievement Recognition Award, which she recently received, and a big high five from us at SheHeroes.

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