They say, "Teach a girl to read and she'll educate a village." We take that thought to heart. Education truly is the cornerstone of opportunity for girls and all members of a community.
Peer Literacy Programme
Since the end of Sierra Leone's devastating civil war in 2002, CAUSE Canada has worked to rebuild educational infrastructure throughout the country. This has involved the construction of schools, wells, and latrines along with the donation of desks, chairs, and schoolbooks. In 2006 the organization developed a formal education program, CAUSE Kids, that focuses on the Koinadugu District, a remote region of the country that was particularly affected by the war and lacked schools and qualified teachers.
5,000 primary school students now benefit from the work of CAUSE Kids. In partnership with CEF, a new program is being implemented to train 60 secondary school girls to teach younger students how to read. Studying under a full-time literacy coordinator, they will develop the teaching and leadership skills needed to teach phonics and reading. After completing a year of training, they will graduate as peer literacy tutors and teach 2,880 students at nine schools during after-school classes.
Education helps women immensely in a country where they face discrimination and human rights violations including early marriage, polygamy, child labour, and female genital mutilation. The longer a girl remains in school, the later she is likely to marry, the fewer children she is likely to have, and the more likely her own children are to be healthy and successful in their schooling. In this way, CEF's investment in CAUSE Kids and Sierra Leone will enrich lives for years to come.
Orphans and Vulnerable Children
Partners in the Horn of Africa
HIV/AIDS is a threat to community health in all parts of Ethiopia, but is even higher in urban areas. In cities like Bahir Dar in the Amhara Region many infected individuals are also the family breadwinners. Their prolonged illness, and eventual death, often leaves their children unable to meet basic daily needs, including food and shelter. These children, especially girls, are often withdrawn from school because their families can no longer afford the expenses associated with schooling and the children are expected to replace the lost income.
With help from Compassionate Eye Foundation, a Partners in the Horn of Africa program holistically supports 100 of these orphans and vulnerable children in three urban areas in the Amhara region. More than 90% of these children have lost both parents.
Basic nutrition and sanitation needs for the children and their older family members are met first. Then, they are given uniforms, supplies and a stipend to pay for their school registration. These young students are provided further enrichment with tutoring, sports competitions and arts training which includes drama, poetry and painting.
It's telling to the importance of education that in the sparse, cramped dwellings these children live that a book bag is often one of their few possessions. Students in the program often perform better than their peers and two graduates of the program have gone on to university and are receiving continued support to help them in their studies. Because of Partners in the Horn of Africa and CEF many more orphans and vulnerable children will hopefully follow in their footsteps.
Teachers Empowerment & Training Project
"No child left out" is CAUSE Kids' promise to young students in the Koinadugu District of Sierra Leone. This impoverished area in the northern part of the country was particularly affected by the devastating 10-year civil war and was left with little basic educational infrastructure. Since April 2006, CAUSE Kids has sponsored one entire school at a time; boosting the quality of education for primary school students, while also improving access for female students.
Though CAUSE Kids provides daily meals, uniforms, shoes and school supplies for students, the key to a quality education is well-trained teachers. To accomplish this goal, Compassionate Eye Foundation has helped CAUSE Kids launch the Teachers Empowerment & Training Project. With this new program, rural teachers will gain the needed skills through training workshops with professional mentoring and through educational extension certificate courses.
CAUSE Kids will also organize annual teachers' conferences where Sierra Leone specialist teachers will share their best practices. In all, 145 teachers at 17 target schools will benefit from the training.
When teachers themselves are students, the gifts of knowledge ripple further through communities. Better teachers create empowered students who can use their new skills to improve both their own lives and the lives of their families. With the help of CEF and CAUSE Kids, the ripples of knowledge will spread throughout Sierra Leone for years to come.
Friends For Zambia
Just south of the Zambian capital of Lusaka is the small farming community of Lilayi. Lilayi has many orphans because of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, so children outnumber adults. When retired teachers Lydia and Simon Maonde moved to the area in the 1990s, there were no local schools so they brought children into their home to provide a basic education. By 2005 the Maondes were teaching 200 students from preschool to 7th grade in bedrooms, the garage and on the porch.
Wanting to leave a legacy for the community that would last after they were gone, the Maondes founded Friends for Zambia in 2006 with the help of former Canadian colleagues. Donating the land adjacent to their house for the new school, they went about raising capital to build it. By 2009 the first buildings had been erected. In 2011 CEF provided funds to build the final three-classroom block and, a year later, to furnish it with desks, chairs, bookshelves and blackboards.
Opened in 2012, the school is called Twitti, which means "from a small branch, a tree grows". It educates over 300 students who can now continue on to high school. With these newly educated minds enriching the Lilayi community, the sapling planted by the Maondes and nurtured by CEF, will grow strong.
Nakie Negao Elementary School
Partners in the Horn of Africa
Nakie Negao is a small agrarian community in Ethiopia's Bale Mountains. The town's elementary school has 1,250 students and is the only school within a six-kilometre radius with grades seven and eight. Any student in the region who wants to continue to high school must pass through Nakie Negao Elementary School.
Prior to 2011, overcrowding led to children being turned away. The students who were enrolled learned in classrooms made of mud blocks. Cow dung was spread on the dirt floor to reduce the dust that led respiratory infections.
To ensure all local students had an education that was healthy and safe, CEF and Partners in the Horn of Africa built two cement classroom buildings. Each building contains four classrooms, a cement block library with books and furniture and a cement block latrine for the school.
Now, young people facing a lack of agrarian jobs in Nakie Negao can acquire the necessary skills to find work in urban areas.
Friends For Zambia
In response to a request from Zambian educators, a basic school in the low-income farming community of Lilayi is being constructed. Two 4-classroom buildings have been finished, as well as three washroom facilities and a water well. Compassionate Eye Foundation (CEF) has funded the construction of the third and final classroom block at Twitti School.
New school for a
Sierra Leone is one of the most poverty stricken countries in the world, and in 2002 emerged from a brutal civil war that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of citizens and the destruction of many schools. As a result, many children left primary school with very limited literacy ability. In the Koinadugu District, which was especially devastated by the war, the community of Kathombo was utilizing an overcrowded primary school to serve 300 youngsters.
Through it's partnership with CAUSE Kids, Compassionate Eye Foundation has provided funding to build a much larger, three-classroom school, which expands capacity and reduces classroom size. Funds are also being used to fund a peer literacy program, in which student tutors in the region are trained in phonics and pass those skills to primary school children with the goal of improving literacy rates. The tutors, in return, are funded to attend high school.
By partnering with CAUSE Kids, which is making an important difference in this war-torn, impoverished locale, CEF is significantly improving the quality of education in the remote Koinadugu District of Sierra Leone.
Pre-school program for mothers too
Preschool begins at age 5 in Guatemala and continues until children attend grade 1 at age 7. The government provides a teacher in communities where there are 15 children eligible each year. Bella Vista (a small Mayan-Mam village) has had, at most, 9 children eligible in any given year. In January 2008, Compassionate Eye Foundation (CEF) started a pilot preschool program in which mothers also can attend. The program has been very well received and has been continued.
The first language in this area of Guatemala is Mam. CEF believes that earlier exposure to Spanish will ease the transition into school. The day's activities include a variety of typical preschool activities including learning colours, letters and numbers in both Mam and Spanish. The students also benefit from a snack program which helps to improve nutrition.
The community built a temporary structure to house the preschool program as Bella Vista currently has two classrooms for all grades 1 to 6. CEF plans to build a proper preschool structure in 2010 and to continue funding the preschool program. In fact specific donations have been received to help fund this very successful program. There are currently 14 children attending preschool on a regular basis.
CEF receives monthly attendance records and reports from the teacher. Members of CEF met with the preschool teacher in March 2010 and were extremely happy to see the advancement of the students in the Spanish language skills and the fantastic relationship the teacher has with all the students.
Scholarship program for village youth
Initiated in 2006, the "Scholarship Program" was created to provide an opportunity for children in Bella Vista to continue their studies after grade 6. Until 2009, the government of Guatemala only provided education to the completion of grade 6. Although the government has now eliminated the monthly fees for education post grade 6, the costs of textbooks, uniforms, gym clothes, school supplies and excursions make it nearly impossible for students to continue their education.
Keyboarding and computer skills are part of the curriculum and require that the students travel to Comitancillo where they have access to computers. Compassionate Eye Foundation is also funding transportation and Internet café costs to ensure that these students have the opportunity to learn these basic computer skills.
The first language of students from this community is Mam. In Guatemala, Spanish is the country's official language; the language of education and employment. Consequently, continued education is necessary for the development of Spanish language skills in order to make these students competitive in the job market.
Currently there are seven students in the Basico scholarship program, grade 7 to 9, and one student in Diversificado, which is equivalent to high school.
In November, 2009 the first Basico scholarship students graduated from grade 9 and received the first Diversificado scholarships. One of the third-year Basico students has expressed a desire to study nursing.
The nearest major centre, where most career programs are offered, is four hours away from this community. Ideas are being explored to prepare these students for their need to move away from home so that they can take advantage of educational opportunities in a variety of careers. With continued support in this community, and the example that the current students are modeling, it is anticipated that we will have interested applicants each year. It is clear that the current amount of arable land in Bella Vista can no longer endure further subdividing to sustain future generations of farmers. The lifeline for these students is education so that they can become employed, productive citizens.
In addition to the scholarships for students in Bella Vista, CEF has supported two students at INTECAP (Instituto Técnico de Capacitación y Productividad). INTECAP is a well-recognized, well-equipped technical school located in a few areas of Guatemala. The closest campus is in Quetzaltenango, commenly known as Xela, the second largest city in Guatemala and offers a variety of programs. Following graduation from a three-year program both of these students have the potential to return to their home community in Comitancillo as trained auto mechanics.
A new three-classroom school
Loma Linda is a small village in Guatemalan highlands, which is home to 235 indigenous Mayan people of the Mayan-Mam community.
In January 2010, the community celebrated the inauguration of their new three-classroom school that provides enough room for 25 girls, 32 boys and two teachers. Compassionate Eye Foundation (CEF) coordinated with a local non-governmental organization to manage the construction of the school that was built to replace an existing one-room building. As Loma Linda voluntarily assisted in the construction of their new school, the people in the village used the needed resources to construct a better future for the youth of their community.
Prior to the construction of the new school, the lone teacher was responsible for all grades. With a new school, the consejo, the community committee responsible for education, was able to request a second teacher.
During CEF's visit in March 2010, Board members had the opportunity to not only see the school first hand but also to meet with one of the teachers, the consejo, and the entire community in a round table discussion.
The visit to the community was very successful. CEF plans to continue to work with the community in education, health care and sustainable economic development.
Our first school
In the outlying villages of Guatemala, education receives very little government funding. In the village of Bella Vista, the school had one teacher and 45 students sharing a small, single classroom. As a first project, Compassionate Eye Foundation (CEF) provided funds to purchase property and to build a second classroom in Bella Vista.
Completed in 2005, the school now has two classrooms, two teachers and over 60 students in grades 1-6. In 2009 CEF partnered with school's parent committee to provide the school with electricity and build a safer play area for the students. The success of this project became the inspiration for our future.