Some letters from our A2E Scholars!

We love receiving feedback from our A2E scholars. At the beginning of the year the girls receive their scholarship contracts:

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At the end of the year we received some great reflections from the girls about how the A2Empowerment scholarship helped them and their families:

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Thanks to our Peace Corp Volunteer, Mary Screen, for sending over the reflections and the great pictures!

A2Empowerment Scholarship Winners

Our A2E Scholarship winners! The photo features our Peace Corp volunteers, Alex & Joyce Hall, along with the principle (left) and vice principle (right)!

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This photo includes the A2E Scholarship winners and their family members that came to the information meeting for the family contract.

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Meet the Girls: Sa-adatu Adamu

The following profile comes courtesy of Dicko Sulle, the interim head of English Language and Literature of English Expression at GSS Upkwa.

“Sa-adatu Adamu is a first time recipient of the A2 Empowerment
scholarship. Last year, former Peace Corps Volunteer and i missed her
a lot on the program. One of the outspoken and front role player among
all the girls, Sa-adatu Adamu is the type of girl to be on such a
program. In fact, we included her for most of our sessions last year
because she triggers discussions and pulls the girls along in public
speaking. Coming from a community where women play the back role, most
of the girls spoke in their armpits out of shame and shyness. It took
the likes of Sa-adatu to break the silence and even engage the boys in
discussing gender sensitive topics. She is focused and [does] not avoid
eye contact when speaking to her teachers let alone her peers.

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“Our wish have been to have her on the program and we luckily did. She
is also one of those girls who has multitudes of potential husbands
for her beauty and elegance. ” Sa-adatu Adamu will not stop school for
any man until she finishes school” her father declared when [I] sought
to know from him how he is coping with the pressure of marrying her
off. On her part, Sa-adatu is bent on continuing school and dreams to
become a journalist. She is writing her end of course GCE Ordinary
Level examination this June 2016. If she succeeds, she will proceed to
high school out of Upkwa, her village. Going out of Upkwa to continue
high school remains a serious threat to the education of not only
Sa-adatu but all the girls. Because this will mean them staying away
from their parents, a thing which majority of parents would not prefer
for various reasons. Among the reasons is the lack of money to pay for
not only fees but house rent and food allowance out of home. The fact
that these girls will live alone is also a highly detested idea as
they think this will further expose their daughters to social vices
like prostitution.

“When [I] sought to know what she feels about the program, this is what
she had to say, ” I do not know how to thank A2Empowerment for this
scholarship. My parents are just too happy and it has increased their
pride in me. Now they see me as a girl who can make a difference in
the society”. Sa-adatu will remain at the center of school activities,
from [singing] the National Anthem during morning devotion to carrying the
school flag during public events. She is also the senior school
prefect girl who sits in all disciplinary council and Parent Teacher
Association meetings as a students representative….”

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Meet the Girls: Fatimah Abdullahi

The following profile comes from the Dicko Sulle, who is the interim head of English Language and Literature of English Expression at GSS Upkwa.

“Hi there,

“Let me begin the stories of our A2Empowerment girls in GSS Upkwa with
Fatimah Abdullahi.

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“Fatimah is an orphan who lost [her] dad to thieves
when she was still a few years old. She grew up with her grand mother
in Upkwa, a resettlement camp for 1986 Lake Nyos survivors. Fatimah is
a second time recipient of the scholarship award and is by far the
best in academics, punctuality, dedication to community service and
humbleness. She is a role model with a big dream of becoming a medical
doctor. She is now 17 years old and plans to graduate from secondary
school next year and go on to high school. Recently, her uncles
attempted to pull her out of school to marry one of her cousins. She
remained strong and determined to resist until the plan was finally
halted. This term that just ended, her performance in school was
encouraging more than ever before. “[I] will work hard to merit the
support of people until [I] graduate from school and get a job” she
recently declared to me a few weeks back when [I] sought to know how she
was faring on. Like all the other girls in the Aku community, Fatimah
wouldn’t have been in school if GSS Upkwa was not created. The school
is now host to some 57 girls less than 1% of whom would not have been
in school if the school was not opened.

“In the Aku community, secular education has just begun to sink deep.
Previously, Aku had total distrust for secular education. They claimed
that children who go to school end up morally bankrupt with unwanted
pregnancy being the  inevitable for the girl child. It was considered
a taboo for one’s daughter to have a child out of marriage. Hence
girls were  married off as early as twelve years old. Even now, many
parents only allow their girl children in school only as long as a
husband does not show up. Every year, we have kept losing many girls
to early marriages. But girls like Fatimah and a few others are poised
to change the situation. It is also my wish to see this happen.”

Note: This post was updated because Mr. Dicko Sulle was misidentified as principal at GSS Upkwa.

Who We Are–PCV Edition

My A2Empowerment girls are all Upper Sixth
students, toughing it out through the last year of high schools and
national exams. A2Empowerment has been a great experience, and
recently we discussed volunteering and the importance of giving back
to the community. The girls were optimistic enough to sign on to
helping me with the World Map Project! A few long weekends later, itIMG_1165
came together and we all signed it with our painted hand prints. One of the girls joked that, “after this, they better pass their next
geography exam!”

Thank you to Kathleen Kirsch for sending us this picture and commentary!!

Meet the Girls

 

“I learned how to realize a goal. I appreciated our conversations. I was proud because I passed French and physical education. My class also won the soccer match. Thank you very much for your kindness. I would like to meet you but it is not possible so thank you for the good you have done.”
“It was good that we want to help the school with a filter. I am proud I never passed math or science until this year. Thank you to those who helped us because not everyone can pay. If I could see you, I would give you a hug.”
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“I learned how to use my time and the importance of school. This year, my class won the inter-class soccer match and I was proud. The scholarship made me very happy and helped me continue my studies. Thank you very much.”

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“I learned games each meeting we ate cookies and beignets and she explained why we received the scholarship. I was very proud when I received the scholarship. First I had ten and after I concentrated on my courses and got fourteen. Thank you for helping my mother to pay my fees and buy my books also for encouraging other girls to study.”

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“It was good that we want to help the school with a filter. I am proud I never passed math or science until this year. Thank you to those who helped us because not everyone can pay. If I could see you, I would give you a hug.”

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Who We Are–Board of Directors Edition

My name is Tom Landers, and I have been a member of the A2Empowerment Board of Directors since the organization’s inception. I came to A2E by way of the organizations’ President, Anne Cheung. My family has known Anne’s family for years. In my professional background, I am a principal and CPA at Bonadio & Company. Several years ago, Anne was describing to me the organization she was starting to assist girls and women with access to education in Cameroon. At the time A2E needed a treasurer and Anne asked if I was interested in filling the role. Having two young daughters and seeing  the opportunities available to them, I could not pass up the chance to assist in providing similar opportunities to those in need of them.

In my role I have maintained the organizations financial reports, filed tax returns, researched international tax laws and served as a sounding board on various financial matters.

It has been very rewarding to see the growth and success A2E has achieved over the years – please check out the rest of the website for great information on the organization and the girls/women it has helped. I continue to be inspired by our very dedicated board and the whole A2E team and the drive they all have to improve and expand program.  If you are interested in contributing to a girl’s education then visit http://a2empowerment.org/ to donate!

For more information, feel free to visit the organization on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

 

Who We Are–Founder Edition

Reflecting on her experiences as a science teacher with the Peace Corps in the North West region of Cameroon the things that made the strongest impression on Anne were: the disparity between boys and girls in the last few years of secondary school; the attitude of many girls believing themselves to be inferior to the boys.  She also noticed the struggles girls in particular faced in staying in school: their brothers were prioritized when paying school fees, they had extra responsibilities at home such as cooking, working in the market and cleaning prevented girls doing homework or attending school, some even were married and started families before they were able to finish secondary school.  Being the type who likes to leave situations better than she first finds them Anne felt compelled to continue supporting the youth of Cameroon even after she returned to the United States.  A2Empowerment started as a small side project that slowly grew into a larger more fulfilling piece of her life.

Shortly after starting A2Empowerment Anne began working on a Masters of Public Health and International Development at Tulane University. Her studies eventually took her overseas again.  Currently she resides in Jordan supporting the response to the Syrian Crisis.

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.