Who We Are–Peace Corps Volunteer Edition

My name is Claire Kofler, and I have been a member of the A2Empowerment (A2E) Board of Directors since 2012.  My first encounter working with A2E was in 2009, while I was living and working in Cameroon as a Peace Corps volunteer and was first introduced to the inspirational work that A2E was (and still is) doing to promote education and empower young women.

My work as a Peace Corps volunteer initially focused on microfinance development, and soon after moving to the village where I would live for two years, it became clear to me that a community’s economy cannot improve unless its women are encouraged to be educated and empowered to increase their knowledge base in order to lead healthier and more productive lives, equal to their male counterparts. After this realization, I began to focus my work on building capacity amongst the women entrepreneurs in my community. I worked with the pre-existing women’s groups, and also partnered with a nearby Community Health Peace Corps volunteer to develop and lead a combined Business Education and Women’s Health course at a non-traditional school for young women, sponsored by the local Family and Social Affairs office. While working at this trade school, I met and became friends with dozens of smart, strong and motivated young women who were so eager to learn and to make something more of their lives. Many of these young women had dropped out of public school when they were younger due to either family pressures or severe economic restraints, and they now wanted to return to school to learn a specific skill; such as sewing, cooking, or basic computer skills, in order to become independent entrepreneurs and to be able to earn a living to support themselves and their families. It was inspiring to work with these motivated women, however it was also often times heart-wrenching to hear the stories of their many friends, sisters, and neighbors who were not as fortunate as they were to be in school due to the familiar cultural and financial restraints.

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For these reasons, when I learned about A2E and my supervisor told me of the opportunity to work with A2E as a community-based A2E scholarship facilitator, I could not jump fast enough on the opportunity. My role as an A2E volunteer was to: work closely with local Cameroonian counterparts in my community (neighbors, teachers, friends) to seek out the young girls who would be most qualified to receive a scholarship based on A2E’s eligibility requirements; facilitate the application process and, later, the scholarship award process; host monthly progress meetings with the girls; and to act as the main liaison between the scholarship recipients and the A2E Board of Directors throughout the academic school year. I enjoyed this rewarding work so much that I quickly volunteered to become the Regional Coordinator for A2E, and even collaborated with two counterpart Peace Corps volunteers to organize a 3-day camp for the scholarship recipients, focusing on women’s health issues and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

When I returned to the United States and I was invited to join the A2E Board of Directors I, once again, could not jump fast enough on the opportunity.  I feel so fortunate to have seen first-hand the inspirational work of A2Empowerment and its powerful impact on the lives of young women, and I am beyond honored to have the chance to continue to contribute, in a different capacity, to A2E’s noble mission of educating and empowering young women in Cameroon.

A2Empowerment Through the Cameroonian Perspective

Alim Ousmanou wrote a newsletter, describing the implementation of the A2Empowerment scholarship program from the perspective of a local, Cameroonian partner. Man Ching Cheung translated this newsletter with the help of Google Translate.

For the school year 2014 – 2015, the tuitions for 23 school girls are ensured thanks to the interventions of the two Anne’s (A2Empowerment). This time the screening and selection has been tough. For the Miskine high school, 12 of 23 girls will attend Nassarao High School in the northern region, 06 high school girls in the Grandma High School and 03 girls Tokombéré high school in the Far North region and are most fortunate. Given the need (several girls in the far north and in the North are in situations of precariousness and vulnerability) and given the number selected last year, one that merely thankful and 2 ANNE they will come out of this situation. The girls’ parents, teachers and coaches welcome this program and wish them long life and be on the sideof vulnerable girls.

Mr Alim, President of the Association AEF Cameroon and Cameroonian representative of A2Empowerment, visited with the 12 girls of the High School to Nassarao Garaoua . During a training session with the grant holders held in the staff room; he congratulated the girls on behalf of 2 ANNE and remind the girls of the use of the grants and expectations of them by the end of the school year 2014-2015. The most important part was to have them commit to support other girls in either primary or secondary, encouraging them to continue their school despite the difficulties and be ready to help them study the subjects.

After an intense activity session between the presenting A2Empowement and girls, the certificates were delivered to the girls. You could see the satisfactionand gratitude in the face of these girls. The headmaster of the High School and the vice-principal of Nassarao have each encouraged girls to be worthy of the trust that has been granted. Thus, the two wanted to reassure ANNE 2 that they will ensure through the good management and proper use of scholarships granted to girls of high school Nassarao. Also, they will do everything possible to facilitate the educational environment of these beneficiaries.Screen shot 2015-08-13 at 1.58.44 PMThe girls present at the ceremony thanked ANNE 2 and promise to do everything to succeed in their exams and do their best to go to higher class. All also agreed to sponsor a girl and review of these lessons. After the group photo was the the farewell session.

 

Who We Are–Founder Edition

Video of Founder

My name is Anne Cheung, and I am the President and a co-founder of A2Empowerment.  This summer I was honored as one of Fortune 500 magazine’s Heroes of the 500.  My employer, Biogen, nominated me and created a video to share on the company internal website when the list was announced.  Biogen graciously allowed A2Empowerment permission to share it here.  I’m choosing to share this video, in lieu of writing about myself, because it perfectly explains my story surrounding A2Empowerment.  

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Who We Are–Intern Edition

 My name is Lilly Skerlj, and I am A2Empowerment’s summer intern. I am 17 years old and a soon to be senior at my high school. When I was 10 years old I moved to Boston from Vancouver, Canada. Because I moved at the age of 10, I was young enough to be able to call Boston my new home, but old enough to carry a different perspective that I had acquired from living in a different country. For example, while living in Vancouver I was exposed to very liberal ideas, which have shaped my opinions today.  Many of our friends there were part of the green movement, doctors who practiced socialized medicine, or members of philanthropic organizations.  I witnessed that they not only believed in the cause, but they lived their lives true to the cause. Because I have always been around people who sought to create change in the world by helping other people, I have always wanted to do something to leave my mark on the world. 

      Every morning my family reads the newspaper to keep up with what is happening locally as well as internationally. My parents discuss what is happening around the world at our nightly family dinners and how it has an impact on our life and the lives of others. The discussions often end up in debates, which are encouraged in our house. Additionally, my parents enjoy entertaining at our house and having lively philosophical discussions with their friends. I look forward to participating in these conversations and listening to new opinions. 

       My background of living in different places, and the environment of worldly discussion within my household aroused my interests in politics and current events from a young age. Two years ago I participated in a summer program at Brown University and chose to take a class about power, philosophy, and democracy because I wanted to better understand the democratic process, its history and the importance of its future. I was interested in global aid and political refugees, and my research paper in the class was about the impoverished region of the African Sahel and how to improve the impact of aid. I learned that aid, especially in the form of money, can sometimes be detrimental to a nation’s attempt to move out of poverty. The one form of global help that has been the most successful is expanding people’s access to education, allowing more people to have an opportunity to attend school. 

      At school, I am a leader of a club called Up-Close which is a place for students to discuss current events. Furthermore, I have been a member of my school’s Model United Nations club since my freshman year. As a junior, I served as the club’s Under Secretary General, and next year I will be Secretary General. My experience at MUN has made me passionate about coming up with solutions to global problems. In the club we have discussed issues like terrorism, international aid, the food crisis in the African Sahel, the oppression of women around the world, and balancing development and resource management. For every issue discussed, a reoccurring root of each problem is the lack of education, specifically for women. The fact that simply educating girls can alleviate so many different problems, compelled me to do something to help. 

        I read about A2Empowerment online and was inspired by the work that they do to help girls in Cameroon attend school. As their summer intern, I have been working on their social media outreach, as their cause is one that should be publicized. For their social media outreach, I have been managing their Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and have started this blog. If interested in contributing to a girl’s education, then visit http://a2empowerment.org/ and give a donation! Remember to subscribe for more updates about A2Empowerment!

Empowering Ted Talk

Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist and founder of Gbowee Peace Foundation Africa which provides educational and leadership opportunities to girls. In her passionate Ted Talk, Gbowee reminds us why educating girls is so important. She speaks of a Liberian village where only one girl made it to ninth grade. This is not an isolated incident in one African village, but a trend across the continent as a whole. Empowering girls through education is the goal of A2Empowerment along with several other  organizations. Spread the word to help every girl have access to education!

Welcome to A2Empowerment

      A2Empowerment, Incorporated is a charity that provides educational scholarships and support to girls and women so that they may increase their knowledge and empower themselves to lead healthier, more productive lives.

       A2Empowerment is a non-profit company dedicated to empowering women through education. Since its founding in 2008, the company has awarded over 500 educational scholarships to young women in Cameroon. Recipients are chosen based on need and merit, with a priority placed on selecting girls in the later years of high school when they are at a higher risk of dropping out. This year approximately $75 USD will cover tuition, fees and books for a year of school. All company overhead costs have been covered by the company co- founders, so the full amount of all donations is put towards scholarships. The project is set up as a Peace Corps Partnership Project, so all funding is strictly monitored by the Peace Corps and A2Empowerment.

        In 2014, a total of 217 recipients have been selected in seven of the ten regions of Cameroon. A2Empowerment coordinates this process with Peace Corps Volunteers. Scholarship recipients are expected to report on their progress to Peace Corps Volunteers and meet monthly with the other recipients in their area. In addition, the recipients serve as role models by volunteering to tutor younger students as part of the Community Contribution required for all Peace Corps Partnership Projects.

        We plan to continue and improve this program in 2015, sustaining support for current recipients who qualify and expanding the program to additional students. In 2015, the tuition has increased to $75 per student.