Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's group cheers release of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram

For a St. John's non-profit group, the release of 21 girls kidnapped by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram is a cause for rejoicing — but there's still much work to be done.

More work to be done by We Care Foundation

Zainab Jerrett, who founded the We Care Foundation to raise money for the victims of sectarian violence in Nigeria, said she's grateful for the support her non-profit group has received. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

For a St. John's non-profit group, the release of 21 girls kidnapped by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram is a cause for rejoicing — but there's still much work to be done.

Rev. David Pilling of St. Augustine's Anglican Church, which has held several fundraisers for the We Care Foundation, said it's good news that some of the 270 girls seized have been released.

"It's time for celebration that the 21 young women are able to be with their families again," Pilling said.

"But for those who have been released and for those who have been orphaned, our fundraising continues to help send those to school and make sure there's an education for them."

Zainab Jerrett of St. John's, originally from Nigeria, started the We Care Foundation last year to raise money to get girls out of Nigeria's Boko Haram-controlled areas and back into classrooms.

She said the struggle isn't over even for the girls who have been released.

They need to be rehabilitated. They need to be educated.- Zainab Jerrett

"I saw how devastated they are," said Jerrett, who has been speaking to people in Nigeria and watching news coverage. "They are like they have no soul anymore, they are living as if they're aliens. So they have huge challenges."

One of the girls was raped by a Boko Haram soldier and has a child. 

"Most of them, if not all, were raped," she said.

"They need to be rehabilitated. They need to be educated. Now the politicians are promising to educate them, but we know that after handing them over to their parents, they'll be left on their own."

30 girls sent to school so far

Pilling said so far We Care has been able to help send 30 girls to school. It's a small portion of the more than 50,000 who have been orphaned by sectarian violence.

"We'd love to be able to do much, much more," he said. "We only see ourselves making a difference one child at a time."

It costs $240 to send one girl to school for a year, he said.

"That's very little money, but a great deal of impact upon a child's life," he said.

Jerrett said she's been grateful for the support We Care received.

"People are very, very supportive. They care," she said.

"I meet people, even at the mall, they say, 'Oh, I saw you on TV. You've been doing this. How are the girls?' So people care, and I know they want to help. They can be praying for the girls ... keep praying for the girls."

With files from Jonathan Crowe

now