2013 Scholarship Recipients

In 2013, A2Empowerment awarded scholarships to 99 women, in 7 regions of Cameroon: East, West, Littoral, Adamaoua, North, North West, and Extreme North. The following letters were written by scholarship recipients or communicated by their Peace Corps Volunteer mentor.

West Region
PCV: Katelyn Ouimet and Rebecca Braun

A2Empowerment is proud to introduce Club FORTES, founded by Katelyn Ouimet, a PCV stationed in West Region of Cameroon. A few of the women belonging to Club FORTES have applied for and will be awarded scholarships in 2013. Here is Ms. Ouimet's description of Club FORTES.

"I established club FORTES in September 2012 at Lycee Bansoa Mbri in the village of Bansoa in the west of Cameroon; it's about 30 minutes outside of Bafoussam, although you might never know it given the deeply village feel of my community. The club name is an acronym for "les Filles ORganisees pour le Travail et l'Education à la vie Saine." The goal of the club is to develop girls with the confidence, knowledge, and skills to make healthy and responsible decisions for their futures; the idea being that in order to stay in school, and avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, one needs not only accurate information but also the communication and decision making skills and self-esteem to safely navigate a world that renders girls very vulnerable to such problems. Club FORTES has perhaps 25 active members, mostly between ages 11-15 years and in classes 6eme to 4eme, but recently more and more older girls have also been attending. Each week we talk about a very specific topic ranging from discussions of future goals, gender roles, puberty, human sexual anatomy, abstinence, correct condom use, healthy relationships, sexual consent, violence against women, and HIV and STIs. As a group we have also written letters to students in the USA and had a Q&A session with a local nurse. I was also recently able to take 13 members of the club to the sub divisional capital to participate in the community's International Women's Day celebration on March 8th 2013 and 2 of the girls presented a skit about how to make healthy sexual decisions to avoid unwanted pregnancy and STIs."

2013 Club FORTES

We have some testimonials from a few of the women belonging to Club FORTES, translated by Ms. Anne Rapin.

Kengne Takou Vanelle writes,

J'aime participer auxactivités du club FORTES parce que nous apprenons comment vivre avec un partenaire, comment éviter les grossesses précoces, les MST, et le VIH/SIDA, et comment avoir une vie saine.

Je suis fier d'être membre du club FORTES parce que Mme. OUIMET Katie nous aime beaucoup, elle nous apprend les bonnes choses et je suis aussi fier parce que les américaines eux même sont fiers de nous.

I like to participate in club FORTES activities because we learn how to live with a partner, how to avoid an early pregnancy, STDs, HIV and how to have a healthy life.

I am a proud member of Club FORTES because Miss Ouimet loves us a lot, she teaches us good things and I am proud that the Americans are proud of us too.

Takam Nelly writes,

J'aime participer aux activités du club FORTES parce que j'apprends comment grandir dans une vie saine et comment éviter les MST/VIH. J'aime aussi beaucoup les jeux du club, et je vois que Madame Katie est un bon modèle de rôle.

Je suis fier d'être dans ce club parce que je peux affronter quelques difficultés de la vie, et je sais comment me respecter et respecter les autres.

I like to participate in Club FORTES activities because I learn how to grow in a healthy life and how to avoid HIV. I also really like the games we play in the club, and I see that Miss Katie is a good role model.

I am proud to be in this club because I can face any difficulties in life and I know how to respect myself and respect others.

Djoussi Cathye Josiane writes,

J'aime participer aux activités du club FORTES parce que là on parle de la sexualité, on éduquer les filles, on parle de la puberté, et aussi parce que on ne parle pas mal des autres.

Je suis fier d'être membre du club FORTES parce que j'aime être ensemble avec les filles, et à partie de la j'ai beaucoup compris.

I like to participate Club FORTES activities because there we talk about sexuality, educate girls, talk about puberty and also because we don't speak badly about others.

I am proud to be a member of Club FORTES because I like to be with the girls.

Rebecca Braun kindly mailed us letters from the scholarship recipients. The letters are translated by Emily Strauss.

2013 West Letters 01

Sandsong Raissa writes,

Dear A2Empowerment,

I thank you infinitely for the scholarships that you have given to the strong girls of the club at the Lycée of Bansoa. This scholarship helped me not only with my school fees, but also with my school supplies. This sum of 30,000CFA removed a large and heavy load from my mother's back, so I also thank you for her.

Fohkou Djouka Germaine Aicha writes

Dear A2Empowerment,

If I take this end (scrap) of paper, it's to tell you thank you for everything you have done for me, it has facilitated the task of being able to continue my studies. This famous (great) sum has really thrilled me, because I was almost out of money for my studies. This money has really done good for my [mother], since she must also take care of others, like my brothers and sisters. Again, I say a big "thank you."

2013 West Letters 02

Magatsing Alida writes,

Dear A2Empowerment,

If I put myself to this piece of paper, it?s to write you and thank you for what you have done for me. You have offered me happiness between myself and my family in offering me a scholarship this year. My family suffered and [worried] about what to do to pay my school fees, and you came and saved us, thank you and thank you again! I hope that good G-d blesses you, and you continue to be 'fittel au club toutes'.

Kengne Takou Vanelle writes,

Dear A2Empowerment,

I say a large thank you for all that the group A2Empowerment has done for me. I say also a large thank you to Madame Katie Ouimet, we will continue to march to the orders that she has given us. Madame Katie taught me about many things, like advice, honesty, and the spirit of living as a family. Madame Katie has been a very nice and smiling [pleasant or kind?] woman, and I hope that she will find us again someday. I hope that G-d blesses A2Empowerment and gives them a long life on earth. Thank you.

2013 West Letters 03

Kougom Michelle (Lycée de Bansoa Mbrie) writes,

Dear A2Empowerment,

I give you this letter for what you are going to do for us, and [for what I hope] you will continue to do, that is to say, pay our school fees. I also take this occasion to ask how your current health is. I am really very happy to write you this letter. Thank you for the advice that you have given us by Madame Katie. We are really very happy, and we thank you.

Kengne Sado Leaticia writes,

Dear A2Empowerment,

If I take it upon myself to write you right now, it's because this scholarship helped me to pay for my school fees and my calculator. Thank you infinitely for this help. My parents were very surprised by this, and didn't know what to say [like to be "didn't know how to express their thanks]. So I thank you also for them.

2013 West Letters 04

Kamte Tchevong Morelle (4eme, Lycée de Bansoa Mbrie) writes,

Dear Madame,

I'm writing you this letter to say hello, and to thank you for your good deed. I wanted to tell you one more time, thank you for the 30,000CFA scholarship that you offered. This scholarship has really helped us.

Thank you, and see you soon,

Nouwombe Guilaine writes,

Dear A2Empowerment,

Hi! We thank you for the scholarship that you offered us out of love and a good heart, and more than that, I want to acknowledge all the education and advice you have given us. I promise you that I will be an example to my friends, brothers, and sister. We will meet again one day.

Abong-Mbang, East Region
PCV: Matt Bikoff


Letters 01

Kombang Laeticia writes,

My Ladies and gents,

I just itself to your high personality to present you my sincere thanks for the scholarship you offered me.

I am college student John Paul II Abong-Mbang classroom. [Without?] this scholarship, my parents will end my schooling. The Lord Almighty bless you and fill you more.

In the hope that you receive favorably thanks, please accept, ladies and gentlemen the expression of my distinguished sentiments.

Kombang Laeticia

Nyanbo Armelle Blandine writes,

My Ladies and Gentlemen,

I just itself to your high personality present my sincere thanks for the scholarship you offered me.

I am college student John Paul II Abong-Mbang in 2nd class. Subsequent scholarship has allowed my parents to quickly finish schooling by less. That fills you up very benefits that you and bless you all we are very grateful and we present you our sincere gratitude.

In the hope that you will welcome favorably thanks, please accept my ladies and gentlemen the expression of my distinguished sentiments.

Nyanbo Armelle Blandine

Moinbam Raissa writes,

Ladies and gentlemen,

I just itself to your high personality present my sincere thanks for the scholarship you offered me.

I am college student john paul ii Abong-mbang classroom tauallemand. Cotte scholarship has allowed my parents rapidment determine the tuition by a witness. That fills you up very gu'il benefits and bless you all, we are very reconnaisants you and we present you our sincere gratitude. In the hope that you occueillerez fovorablement thanks, please Accept my ladies and gentlemen the expression of my distinguished sentiments.


Letters 02

Bandang Mezi Aude Arielle writes,

Ladies and gents, members of the "peace corps"

I just itself to your high benevolence to thank you. Indeed, it is thanks to the scholarship that I got from you on behalf of subsequent school year. With subsequent scholarship, I was able to buy school supplies and I help a friend who was in trouble. The first quarter I had 12.87 average. I promise to always work at the school for your money bears fruit. I also pray the Almighty God grant you long life so that you continue to help us.

I cordially greet you with my sincere thanks.


Djomo Seupa Leslie Neile writes,

Dear members of the Peace Corps

I'll write it this letter in gratitude and that god gives you the strength to do well Continued flying this coming vows of love. This scholarship you give me the password years helped me to pay my tuition in the college where I sius between frequent because the tuition is very expensive here. Thanks to you, I aye my schooling without difficulty.

I wish for you pleasant things as you have done for me.

May God bless you and give you long life.


Meiganga, Adamaoua Region
PCVs: Tess Vogel and Charla Hough

2013 Adamaoua Region

Charla Hough stands with the recipients of A2Empowerment scholarships, 2013, for the Adamaoua region.

2013 Thank you letter from Adamaoua Region

PCV Tess Vogel sent us a letter from Aissatou Y. She writes,

My Dear Annes,

Today is a big day for me, as my letter I'm sending you with is with appreciation from the bottom of my heart. My family and I immensely thank you, and we will never forget you for everything you do for me and my sisters here, too. I guarantee you that we all will make every effort to make you happy.

Really, may God bless you and help you in your activities. One more time, thank you. Take good care of yourself and thank you again for your kind gesture.

My sincere regards,

Aissatou Y.

University student
PCV: Robert Ross

2013 University Student Monique

Monique, a university student supported by a generous donor, stands with Robert Ross.

Lokoti, Adamaoua Region
PCVs: Samantha McLean and Rachel Damery

2013 Meiganga recipient, Hadidjatou

Both pictures feature scholarship recipient Hadidjatou. The one on the left was taken at the National Girls' Forum and the other was taken as Hadidjatou gave a speech at Youth Day. Samantha McLean writes about Hadidjatou, a scholarship recipient who worked as a counterpart to Ms. McLean, co-facilitating a girls' club and promoting girls' empowerment in Lokoti. Ms. McLean writes,

Hadidjatou is a 19-year-old high school student in Lokoti, a village in the Adamawa region of Cameroon. She is one of eleven children and the first person in her family to progress to the second to last grade in high school. She plans to graduate in 2015. In addition to consistently being first in her class and having great academic success, she is active in the community as a girls' empowerment advocate. She speaks at large community events such as Women's Day and Youth Day on important issues such as sending girls to school and gender equality. Every week, she leads a girls' club that teaches life skills to younger girls most at risk of dropping out of school. Her commitment to girls' empowerment has gotten her invited to attend Peace Corps Cameroon's annual National Girls Forum, as a participant and as presenter, sharing her promising practices on promoting girls education in a conservative setting. Thanks to the A2Empowerment scholarship, Hadidjatou is able to continue supporting herself and paying for her schooling, while continuing to be a role model for girls in Lokoti.

Extreme North Region
PCV: Sarah Jennings

2013 Extreme North

North West Region
PCV: Amy Boyd and Claire Kelly

2013 NW

This is Claire Kelly's favorite picture of Rebecca, Rebecca & Lucie, all students from Tokombere.

2013 North West

Ndum Nadine, Soh Juvitus, and Tinong Michael paint a mural as part of a group activity for scholarship recipients.

Littoral Region
PCV: Lauren Funtanilla

2013 Littoral

Ms. Funtanilla wrote a few words about the scholarship recipients in Littoral.

Josephine Fallone Ebah

Josephine has been a delight to get to know. She is always one to greet me with a smile that is accompanied by a large dimple, and I can't seem to get her to leave the formality of calling me Madame Lauren in greeting. She is of the personality to enjoy simple pleasures and her wide eyes also show much emotion. Josephine always has something useful to add to discussion or is quick to respond to all my questions and curiosities. Her favorite subjects in school are English and history. Josephine is currently pregnant and due in the spring. The baby will be a little boy, but together, we hope she will be able to continue her studies after her baby is born. She also lives in Zorlingang, a village outside Diang proper, and she lives with her grandmother, her uncle and her uncle's family.

Gwladys Aboko

Gwladys also attends CETIC. Although she is just fifteen years of age, she carries herself with pride and has a beautiful beauty mark on her left cheek - reminiscent of Cindy Crawford. She lives in Mbeth, which is a village just outside of Diang proper with her mother's sister and her mother's sister's family. Gwladys is very kind and is respected amongst her peers. She is currently the president of Club E.V.A. at the CETIC, which we hope to continue meeting later next month. Her favorite subject in school is accounting.

Chantal Yanga Abanda

Chantal is one of the younger girls in our group. She lives with her family in Bivelka, which is one of the neighborhoods in Diang proper. She has two brothers and three sisters. Her boisterous father, Bonthelemy, is very supportive of the A2Empowerment program, and whenever he sees me in passing, he often shakes my hand vigorously in greeting. Chantal is soft-spoken and a bit shy, especially when amongst her older peers. But she radiates kindness. Her favorite subject in school is German, which she is doing well in.

Nelly Ntsama

Nelly is one of our CETIC girls. She is also quiet and soft-spoken but still friendly. She lives in Motombo, which is a village just outside of Diang proper but probably about three-four kilometers away from CETIC since the school rests on the other side of town. Her favorite subject is civic education.

Danielle Nancy Yasmine Bikoun

This young woman of twenty has a lot of spark. She is one of the older children in her family of six. Although her family used to live in Bertoua, she now currently lives in Zorlingang, which is a small village about a 30-45 minute walk, depending on how fast you walk, from Diang's center of town. I was able to meet Nancy's mom and younger siblings at her home. Per Cameroonian hospitality, I was offered some roasted peanuts while I chatted with her family. It is clear that Nancy's mom was grateful that her daughter was able to continue her education. Some of Nancy's other siblings stay home because the family cannot afford to send all the children to school. From my first few encounters with Nancy, she has an easy smile and mischievous eyes. She is fond of music like most her peers, but she also likes to draw as you can see by her colorful card. Her favorite subject is Spanish, and she will soon be twenty-one on February 28th.

Vanina Nyidanga Avom

Vanina is a young girl who also has a lot of spark, very sociable and seems well liked by her peers. Like any teenage girl, she seems to smile with a little bit of attitude. Vanina is also a member of Club E.V.A. (L'Education de la Vie et de L'Amour), which is a young girl's club I have started up again at the high school in order to teach girls about their reproductive health and life skills lessons. Vanina lives with her family on the road to CETI.

Gwladys Ndengue Sanzi

One of the two Glwadys' in our group, this young woman lives in a neighborhood called CETI, after the technical high school next door, which is one of the three high schools in Diang and run by the Catholic mission. Glwadys shares a house with three to four other young women who either attend CETI or the Lycée. Often students are from surrounding villages in the subdivision of Diang, but because the distance is so long, they often find housing in Diang during the school year and then return home to their families on the weekends or during school breaks. Still the trek from CETI to the high school is about two kilometers each day. The photo of Glwadys is her standing next to her home and underneath one of the many beautiful trees you will find in Diang and in the East region of Cameroun.

Ms. Funtanella was also kind enough to write an essay to answer,

What is it like to be a young girl in Diang?

In many ways, it is very similar to the being a teenager in the States. As a youth development volunteer in Diang, the East region of Cameroun, I see girls personalizing their school uniforms. For the Lycée de Diang, girls' uniforms are a royal blue; for CETIC, they are light blue top and a khaki skirt. Or I see the girls distinguish themselves with earrings, bright colored shoes - a favorite color is white, although it is hard to keep clean on account of all the dust, which might be its appeal - and of course, the many different ways the girls can braid each other's hair. Then there is pressure of school, studying and doing well in exams. Or fitting in with their peers, making friends, and maybe, even having one's first boyfriend. At home, you'll find the all familiar disputes and hugs shared between siblings. But there are also many differences to growing up and becoming a young woman in Diang.

There is of course the difficulty of having to wake before sunup in order to start the day's chores before school. Maybe you have younger siblings that you must prepare breakfast for or bathe, dress and ready them for school. For most of the A2Empowerment girls of Diang, many live two to three kilometers away from their respective schools. Although the girls are habituated to such treks, it doesn't make it any easier to do every day. Also there is always the chance of getting sick and being unable to make it to school. Illness, especially now in the dry season, is rampant. Many have difficulty finishing their studies on account that once they are home they are expected to help with the evening chores like prepare diner, fetch water and watch after their younger siblings. And while these girls are at school, it is easy to become disinterested by the absentee professor or to become distracted like every other teenager the world over by members of the opposite sex.

Early pregnancy is rampant in Diang, and I am slowly learning some of the causes as to why. For example, many girls are unfamiliar with how their bodies work or understand their monthly cycle, and if they do, it is through classes taught only as they enter into the later years of high school, which at that time, they might have already become pregnant and given birth to a child. Conversations between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons and vice versa also seem to be lacking here.

Seeing young mothers or young fathers is such a common occurrence that I am beginning to wonder if people even find it to be a problem anymore, or if people have just accepted early pregnancy as a fact of life in our village. But maybe the biggest problem I see is applying one's current knowledge and understanding to behavior change and practice. For many youth here, there appears to be a disconnect between one's actions and the consequences. That is to say early pregnancy and making healthy choices is what I intend to spend the majority of my time on in Diang.

So is A2Empowerment and scholarship necessary? Absolutely. When I visit the homes of these girls, it is obvious there is not much money to supply the necessities of life like food and clothing, let alone, pay for school fees if you are from a family of six, seven or eight like the families these girls belong to. The families I have been able to talk to also show their gratitude, always offering me a seat in their home, any food they happen to have or just kind words, although I am not really the one who is providing the funding.

I included photos of the girls and of the small fête at my home that was just an opportunity to meet each of the girls of the program in an informal setting. Photos are able to capture only so much, but it was a pleasure to witness the smiles in the girls' expressions as they read the letters from America. I think that was their favorite part.

Unfortunately, two girls did not show up who were here in Diang. (Vanina Nyidanga Avom and Gwladys Ndengue Sanzi. Honorine Mondieng is still away.) I was able to follow up with them again in order to take their photo and deliver their letters etc. Scheduling meetings here always takes more than one attempt. But of the girls that did show up, they were able to receive the small trinkets. I think they really liked the photo of the both of you. Photos here are so important to Cameroonians, and I think it helped them to put a face with the people behind the program.

We listened to a compilation of American and Cameroonian hip-pop, drew and wrote return letters and talked about differences between American and Cameroonian culture. Nancy had a lot of questions about if boys in the States prefer girls who are thin. It was a little difficult to explain the stereotype in my broken French, but I think she understood in the end. And that led to the conversation about eating too many beignets. But at end of the meeting, we ate all of the beignets along with drinking fulére juice.

Our future plan is to continue meeting once a month and to develop a kind of community engagement project. When I first started talking about this plan of action most girls seemed hesitant. But when I mentioned maybe working with the young girls in the primary schools they seemed much more congenial to the idea. Any activity is fine as long as it is not working in the fields, one girl said.

We have a newly elected mayor who happens to be female, and I am getting to know to her well. I would like to discuss with her and the directors of the primary schools in Diang and in Zorlingang ? since some of the girls are from that village - if it would be possible to have a discussion about why school is important and the importance of female role models with the young girls in those schools. This is just one idea I am mulling over.

Below you will find some information on the girls. I know some better than others simply because I have been able to interact with them more, but in the next months, I hope to become better acquainted with all. Work here I am learning takes a lot of patience and time. I hope this is some of the information you were looking for. If not, feel free to let me know what else you are looking for, and I can try to see if I can provide it before the end of February. I am still trying to find a date for our meeting in February since our IST is coming up as is Youth day.

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