This October, Bess visited a group of our mentors in Arlit to see how our mentoring programs were starting out in the new school year.
RAIN’s mentoring and scholarship program has succeeded beyond our hopes, in ways we never imagined. Most of the women in this rural African region are illiterate, yet they come to school each week to encourage their girls to stay in school and to succeed. They teach traditional crafts, which offer future earning opportunities for the girls. The surprise was that the experience motivated the mentors to become literate. In response, RAIN has offered bi-lingual literacy classes to the mentors, who are jumping in with flying colors.
How to make an education program self-sustaining? The mentors love the program; they readily agreed to earn, with RAIN’s help, money to buy their own materials for the craft classes. This is a nomadic region of herders. The women told us that if RAIN bought them some starter goats, they would keep a herd to support the program and help them out, too.
A year later, we find that the goats are thriving and multiplying. The women keep the female goats for milk and cheese for their families, and sell the males to generate money to pay for their practical skills materials.
Stories like these show us that with committed and motivated partners, education can be self-supporting! Education is a long-term goal --- we are committed to seeing these girls through school for as long as they can attend.
It costs $2,500 to develop a cooperative enterprise, such as herding, with each group of 20 mentors. That’s $125 to give six school girls a leg up and support 20 dedicated mentors. We call that a great return on a great investment! We’re so grateful to be sharing these exciting success stories, which wouldn’t happen without you.
Last fall, RAIN set out on a mission to train 25 mentors in the villages of Iferouane, Ingui and Gougaram about the most common diseases in their communities, good hygiene practices, raising awareness among the students and their parents about disease prevention, and spotting signs of illness for treatment as a pilot project in health education. We're happy to report that since the project began, big strides have been achieved in our partner communities!
These accomplishments are especially significant when compared to just a few years ago, when nearby conflict debilitated the local health and education systems. Beyond the benefits of prevention and care, this project has helped bring things back to normalcy. Health can be a major obstacle to children attending school - with your help, RAIN plans to continue the education and care of mentors, children and their families alike to clear the way for healthy and educated nomadic communities!
Interview with Mrs. Jadatta, Mentor, Community of Tangoushman
Recently, RAIN Education Coordinator Abdou Amani interviewed some women in the community of Tangoushman to learn about their experiences as mentors in the Mentoring and Scholarship program. The following is an interview with RAIN mentor Jadatta.
Name: Jadatta Age: 37 Marital Status: MarriedChildren: 3 Education level: Not literate
RAIN: What motivated you to become a mentor for RAIN?
Jadatta: The RAIN staff and the head of our village explained to us what this program entailed. I understood immediately that the purpose of the program was to help our own children. I am a mother of three children, of which two attend school.
RAIN: Since you have become a mentor, what changes, if any, have you noticed in your life?
Jadatta: I learn something new every day. With each round of the RAIN team in our village, we learn many things, either about the children, or health, or questions relating to the school. That is important. Moreover, I’ve become an asset to my community - before the mentoring program, our children did not regularly attend school and did not practice daily hygiene. This is changing, and I am proud of that.
RAIN: Do you feel that the elimination of illiteracy is important for the mentors?
Jadatta: Yes, of course. The knowledge to read and write is essential, regardless of who you are. If we were without education, it is not because we did not want it, but because we did not have the means to create it.
RAIN: What are your hopes for the children who you are entrusted within the framework of the program?
Jadatta: I hope that they continue their schooling, so that in the future they can grow to be productive individuals for themselves and their community. If our children miss their future, the parents will be the ones to assume responsibility and face the consequences.
RAIN: Are there any conflicts that arise between you and the parents of the students?
Jadatta: There have not been conflicts between us and the parents; this is because we sensitize the parents at the start to our plans for their children. They then can see for themselves what we do, and have the opportunity at any time to engage with their children. If our work was harmful in any way, the children would be the first to express this; however, the children like our company and our councils. As a result, the parents have no reason for objection.
RAIN: How often do you meet with the children who are entrusted to you?
Jadatta: Once a week, every week.
RAIN: Do all the five mentors live in the village of Tangoushman?
Jadatta: Yes. We all were raised in this village, and will remain here for our lifetimes. Every Wednesday, we ask the children to return in the evening so that we can meet. Everyone attends. There are absences only in the event of sickness or disease.
RAIN: What are some challenges you encounter in your mentoring work?
Jadatta: One frequent obstacle is the hour of our meetings with the children, which coincides with our domestic obligations. But we overcome that obstacle and make the sacrifice to always be present. Another challenge is to make food available for the children in the evenings at the school. Some children must travel a few kilometers back to school each evening from home, and at times are fatigued and hungry when they arrive. To address this problem, we are striving to increase the school food supply to offer the children in the evening, in order to ensure full attendance. Another challenge is that certain elderly individuals in the village, who do not yet understand the purpose of education, attempt to discourage parents of the children attending. This problem is presently being addressed by the parent and teacher committee, who plan to organize meetings to increase awareness.
RAIN: What are some of the issues you discuss with the children?
Jadatta: We discuss good health and hygiene, habits of successful students, study guidance, how to behave safely and responsibly, and the importance of respect for others. The school principal guides us with the curriculum, and must be congratulated on working with us tirelessly.
Here are two personal stories from Gougaram and Iferoune about how the RAIN Mentoring and Scholarship are changing lives.
My name is Ahmed Illias. I am a member of the parent committee at the Iferouāne elementary school. Before the RAIN Mentoring and Scholarship Program, our school had difficulties with student attendance. Twenty percent of students were regularly absent due to sickness, or because illiterate parents did not regard schooling as a priority.
Today, with the RAIN mentoring and scholarship program, the community is aware of the importance of education, and sick students are immediately brought to the health clinic for treatment. We’ve seen attendance rise to 95%, and can testify that this success is a direct result of the support of the mentors. The added value of learning practical skills attracts students and parents alike, because it prepares them for the future with the desire to have a trade, and to take part in the development of our country.
On behalf our community, and particularly our students, I would like to thank RAIN and the individuals who support RAIN.
My name is Fatimata Rhissa. I am the mother of Amina Souleymane, a student at the Gougaram school. She is my only child and all I have in the world. I am divorced, and my former husband left the country some years ago to find work. I engage in small income generating activities to provide for our needs, and those of my parents. I offer plait braiding in downtown Arlit to many visitors who travel near our encampment. But with the conflict and the displacement that comes with it, my work has not been generating income. We have suffered much hardship.
Before the mentoring program came to our community, I did not want my daughter to attend school. I thought she should be at home to help me with domestic tasks and to keep our goats. After meetings with the RAIN mentors, I become more sensitized to the importance of bringing my daughter to school instead of having her stay at home. With the practical skills she has been learning, I now have confidence in my daughter, who is already starting to embroider. I can say that my daughter is thankful for the skills training and the counsel of the mentors, who now have a primary role in preparing her for the future.
RAIN Mentor Health Education Training Underway!
By Ibrahim (Michel) BoubacarDirector of Programs, RAIN Niger
On November 15, 2010, I found myself, along with RAIN Program Assistant, Mohamoud Mouta, on a rough and dusty journey to Gougaram and Iferouane – villages in the Air Mountains of northern Niger. Our mission: to launch the new Health Education Training Program with the mentors in our Girls Mentoring and Scholarship Program, an initiative possible by the Izumi Foundation, and of course, supporters like you!
First Stop: Gougaram. Ten new women mentors were recruited in Gougaram to recognize Niger’s most common and serious childhood diseases in their early phases and refer the children to health care. They will also educate families and community members about the prevention and treatment of these diseases. The mentors learned of the importance of this new program and its goals of treatment and prevention of these dangerous maladies.
During the training, the mentors shared their current ideas about hygiene and related subjects. Mentors were taught about diseases such as meningitis, diarrhea, malaria, pneumonia, and measles, in concrete and precise terms. They learned the causes, symptoms, means of transmission, and methods of prevention.
Next Stop: Iferouāne. Ten women mentors were selected to participate in the program in Iferouane, all of whom have collaborated with RAIN in previous years. Two of the mentors also volunteered to serve on the Management Board. Much like the process in Gougaram, the trainer spoke to the mentors about different health issues in the area, especially the principal diseases the program wishes to prevent.
As always, I am amazed by the willingness, energy and enthusiasm of our mentors. These women already volunteer much time and effort in their mentoring roles to students, and now are investing even more time and effort to be able to offer such a valuable service to their students as well as to their communities.
The new school year is just underway in Niger, and we are excited to see how the mentors apply their newfound health knowledge. I hope to see concrete changes in children’s health by the end of the year! RAIN communities improve as a direct result of all their own hard work!
I’ll keep you posted.
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