Sunday 22 January 2012

A2Empowerment Calabash Project with Teenage Girls

Last year, a primary school teacher named Esther found me and stated that she needed help: former female students and their friends kept dropping out of school due to pregnancy or poverty.

What first struck me about Esther is that she didn't ask for any kind of funding (which is usually expected when people find out that I'm here for development projects). I want to know if you have any kind of projects that can help these girls either get back in school or support their families. I don't want a handout for them; I want them have something more in their lives than nothing, she said. What further amazed me about Esther is that though she works six days a week as a teacher, she meets with the girls monthly to discuss everything from how to care for their children to how to make healthy choices in life.

Not soon after we met, I applied for a $200US pilot micro-loan project from the founders of A2Empowerment, a nonprofit designed to provide young women with tuition scholarships to complete high school (in Cameroon, students have to pay for tuition and uniforms on top of materials). The project would provide 10 girls with lessons and materials to learn how to design and carve calabashes as an income-generating activity. Ideally, the girls would reimburse the loan and then either save money for school and/or have money to support their families.

Fortunately, the project was approved and today was the first day of classes! All 10 girls showed up on time and a previous student during my tenure in Ngaoundere is teaching in the local language. Let's do this!

The 10 recipients of the A2Empowerment pilot micro-loan project learn how to design and carve calabashes
On an unrelated note, here is the Secretary of one of my VSLA groups, Hadidja! People love Obama here and they're always sporting his t-shirts!

Everybody has an Obama shirt here!

*As of July 2012, the original loan has been reimbursed and reinvested back into the calabash project and into A2Empowerment's scholarship program.  Four of the girls (including two young mothers) will be returning to high school in the 2012-2012 school year.  Nine girls have made the choice to continue the project.

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