To tell the story of The Eniola Sisters, I first need to tell you Monique's story. Monique was born on April 29, 1979 in Maryland. At the age of 2 she moved to Ibadan, Nigeria with her family. When she was 9 she returned to the states and lived in Brooklyn, NY. Following high school Monique attended The University of Buffalo (UB). In 2002, Monique graduated from UB with a B.S. in Occupational Therapy. She was motivated to continue her schooling and went back to UB in 2004. In 2007, Monique graduated with a Juris Doctor and MBA. She began her career as a lawyer with Hiscock and Barclay LLP in Buffalo, NY shortly after.
For many, the rigorous schooling would have been enough, but Monique was involved in many other projects. She was a Sunday School teacher and a Board Member for Bethesda Community Development Corporation. She also adopted several international children through World Life Ministries International with her allowance.
Sadly, on March 8, 2008 she passed away, after a short battle with cancer.
Before Monique’s passing, she and Eniola Sisters Founder, Chantele Scissum began developing a mentoring program similar to Eniola Sisters, but the plans never came to fruition.
Later in 2008, Chantele recognized the need for girls programming at her Church, New Life World Harvest Restoration Center in the Commodore Perry Community in Buffalo, NY. She reached out to the girls in the area, and the program began. The official "start" of the Eniola Sisters was April 29, 2009 (the date was chosen to honor Monique's birthday). Chantele couldn't think of a better name for the program than Eniola Sisters, after Monique's middle name.
The original program held “Sisterhood Meetings” to provide life skills instruction, character building, self esteem building, spiritual enrichment, and opportunities to build lasting friendships. In November 2010, Eniola Sisters added the one to one mentoring component to the program. Then, in 2011 Eniola Sisters was adopted by New Life Economic Community Development, a 501(c) 3 organization, and added the after-school program component.
When the Eniola Sisters began, they served a small group of eight girls. Currently, the organization serves 95 girls, with more added every week!
Today the organization has many components including the after school group mentoring sessions, community based group mentoring, and sister to sister mentoring (one on one). The organization is run completely by volunteers (including the organizations leadership structure). They have been fortunate to partner with many other local groups including Gerard Place, Westminster Community Charter School, Merge Restaurant of Buffalo, Junior Achievement of WNY, Jericho Road Ministries, and Candy Kids Spa, to name a few.
When speaking with Chantele she said the mission of Eniola Sisters is, "To improve the lives of girls and empower girls to be their best selves." Chantele told me that girls today have many factors working against them. Department of Education research shows that nationally girls are falling behind in at least one subject area between 4th and 8th grades. Here in Western New York, teen pregnancy rates are the highest in the state, and obesity rates continue to grow. Besides physical and educational barriers, bullying is an increasing concern, deflating the self-esteem of many girls both locally and throughout the world.
Programs like the Eniola Sisters are doing an amazing job combating the challenges girls are faced with today by providing them with the necessary skills, knowledge and confidence to become successful leaders in the community. Many girls in the area, and across the country don't have the "role model" or female support to encourage them. Eniola Sisters are more than just another organization, they are a family, that continually supports the girls in their program.
Although the program is pretty new, there have been many "success stories". Chantele reflects on one in particular: " One of our “original” girls was 13 years old when the program first started. She was shy, quiet, very few friends, and had very low self esteem. She was hesitant to engage with her peers. She expressed being very unhappy with her appearance, and often expressed suicidal thoughts. Today, that same young lady is very involved in her church, community, and school. She has taken a leadership role in all of her extra curricular activities and has reported having several close friendships. She has attributed her growth to her involvement in Eniola Sisters and working with her mentor."
Parents, teachers and community partners can enroll girls in the program by calling (716) 835-0945 or visiting the website www.eniolasisters.org. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact the organization. They are always looking for volunteers to become mentors or assist with different activities.
CALL TO ACTION!
The community can get involved with Eniola Sisters in a variety of ways. They are currently accepting donations of arts and crafts supplies, travel sized hygiene products, Wal-Mart and Target gift cards, empty hygiene containers, electronic donations (cameras, video cameras, TVs, DVD players, etc), tickets to cultural events, and monetary donations. They are also looking for mentors and workshop facilitators. If you are in the "giving spirit" this holiday season, consider donating an item on this list to Eniola Sisters.