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.

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