Dec 19, 2019

Sharing Some Successes As We Look to the New Year!

Rakia and Fatima studying
Rakia and Fatima studying

As the new decade approaches, we are proud to share the following programmatic successes and achievements from the last year:

  • 377 girls were mentored through our Mentorship Program.
  • Female mentees were 15% less likely to drop out of school compared to unmentored peers.
  • 100% of girls in our pilot middle school program passed their year-end national exams on the first round and advanced to the next grade. School enrollment is now up 24%.
  • 18 girls received room and board through the Agadez Learning Center, enabling them to attend middle school.
  • 8 girls received room and board in our partner communities in Aouderas, enabling them to attend the Aouderas middle school.

Our Mentorship Program successfully provided mentoring to 564 elementary and middle school students, 67% of whom are girls. With the right support, mentorship, and coaching, our female mentees developed the confidence to value their own education and focused on developing new life skills, building competencies, and outperforming their own expectations. Our local, trained female mentors worked with students and their families to ensure students not only attended school regularly, but also thrived and outperformed their peers. As a result, our female mentees were 15% less likely to drop out of school. This year, we also expanded our existing elementary mentorship program in Tagantassou where the school director noted the positive impact of our program on attendance, which ultimately influences students’ ability to continue their education and enroll in middle school.

In addition to serving as their mentee’s advocate, our mentors provided students with traditional and cultural skill-building practices such as weaving, health education such as WASH techniques and reproductive health, and education on issues of gender-based violence. As a result, our education programming successfully provided critical wraparound support that ensured girls’ continued education, well-being, and long-term success.

RAIN recently piloted a Middle School Expansion Program in response to the Nigerien government’s opening of new middle schools in rural communities. Despite increasing access to middle schools, many of these schools remain largely under-resourced, lacking proper facilities and teacher resources. Our Mentorship Program works to support these under resourced schools and provide students with mentorship and supplemental classes to support their educational advancement. Mentors also serve as a bridge and trusted partner to families, many of whom were reluctant to send their girls to middle schools, especially schools that required long travel to attend. Our pilot saw enormous success in its first year – 100% of students at our pilot middle school program passed their year-end national exams on the first round. This is rare in Niger as most students are obliged to sit a second-round oral exam due to low test scores. Further, our pilot also saw that middle school enrollment increased by 24% this year. With the success of this pilot, we expanded to two new middle schools in the Tillabery region and are currently working with 120 middle school students.

Looking Forward:

2020 will be an exciting year for RAIN as we expand our educational initiatives for girls. With new middle schools and, correspondingly, expanded elementary school populations, we see a unique opportunity to grow our mentoring program. There is a growing demand in our partner communities and their neighboring villages as more families start to see the positive impacts of our programs. For example, in a small village near Ingui, the community has explicitly requested more mentors. While there are already some students enrolled from that area, families are concerned about the long distances their students travel to get to school and believe that mentors’ support and consistent encouragement would help combat this issue. As such, we plan to expand to more than double the mentoring program in this area in the next academic year.

Our educational goals for 2020 are to:

1. Train 137 female mentors (including 25 new mentors) who will mentor a total of 685 youth across elementary and middle schools, 70% of whom will be female students;

2. Provide scholarships for room, board and tuition at the Agadez Learning Center for 40 youth (18 new students from villages that don’t have a local middle school), over 50% of whom will be female students; and

3. Help 75 female students to successfully enroll in or advance to the next grade in middle school. Your support allows us to achieve these milestones.

Group of Mentored Students
Group of Mentored Students
Oct 18, 2019

56 Years of Connection from Maine to Niger

Larry Cassidy RPCV
Larry Cassidy RPCV

In 1963 Larry was in the 2nd delegation of Peace Corps Volunteers in Niger (Pictured in the center on the steps of "La Presidence" -the president's residence).

Larry saw the need in Niger first hand.

56 years later that impression has stuck with him.

This experience is part of why Larry is a RAINMaker - a monthly donor. His recurring donation ensures there's never a season Nigeriens go without.

Last month Larry was moved by the story of Issoufou, a home-stay student from the middle school mentoring program who was profiled in our last newsletter. Along with his check for September he wrote a letter to Issoufou. Larry dusted off his French for the letter and with his go-ahead a rough translation is below:

 

My dear young man, Issoufou,

This very day, I learned your name and I also understand that you are starting your second year at your school.

I decided to write to you only to offer you my very good wishes - I am sure that this year offers you many joys and academic growth.

My friends call me Larry, and I'm 80 years old! You see I have very little hair left! (Larry drew a smiley face with 3 hairs).

(and my French is lacking too). I am American but I worked in Niger from 1963-1964, 55 years ago and then some.

Issoufou, young man, I want us to be partners. Buddies, from this day on. You, you learn at your school, and you seek out success and joy wherever they are to be found, and me, I'll keep your name in my prayers. Every day.

I'm happy to know your name.

     Sincerely,

     Larry Cassidy

 

Your support means so much to students like Issoufou, who wouldn't otherwise have access to middle school.  

Issoufou’s ability to attend school will determine his ability to provide for himself in the future. Traditionally, those with physical handicaps were left to beg – being unable to participate in Niger’s economy, which relied heavily on manual labor. Going to school gives Issoufou opportunities beyond that. The ability to pursue an education shows Issoufou, his peers, and others in his community that school and the knowledge acquired there is more than theoretical, it can be practical. It can be a means to survive.  Issoufou's story has touched many and Larry's response touched us at RAIN.  We hope you will join Larry and help close the opportunity gap for students like Issoufou!

Issoufou
Issoufou
Sep 25, 2019

Building Sustainable Food and Water Systems

Harvesting Tomatoes
Harvesting Tomatoes

We are pleased to report that during the 2018-2019 program year, our 60 partner gardeners in Nassilé and Tagantassou directly fed over 300 people in their communities. Additionally, as a result of our garden and drip irrigation installments, over 1,000 additional adults and children from neighboring communities collected water and bought produce harvested from the gardens. 

RAIN’s Sustainable Agriculture program provided our partners in Nassilé and Tagantassou with the critical resources to build environmentally sustainable food and water systems that not only provided secure food sources, but also income generating opportunities.  Here are some of the community garden successes:

Highlights

The Nassile and Tagantassou gardens produced over 46,000 lbs. of crops enabling the women in the program to feed their families and contribute to nutritious and diverse diets across their communities.

o Harvest included cabbage, carrots, eggplant, yalo, lettuce, green pepper, tomato, potatoes, onion, melon and watermelon representing a significant contribution to expanded nutrition compared to a diet consisting predominantly of grains.


Despite a difficult harvest year nationally, our local gardeners produced enough food to sustain themselves and even sell surplus crops for an additional profit.


o Gardeners in Tagantassou increased the group’s income to bring in 411% of the previous year’s earnings (150,000 fCFA) to contribute to their economic independence and garden sustainability;


o Nassilé gardeners engaged in additional income generating activities to earn 274% of the previous year’s total (594,050 fCFA) – their increased earning power was due in large part to a new cereal bank initiative (271,900 fCFA with stock remaining). This consisted of stocking cereal such as millet and sorghum to store and sell during the “hunger season.” They stocked 13 bags of cereal to serve a dual purpose: to keep gardeners and their families fed during the hunger season and to increase profit by selling the grains during the off season when their market price peaks. They also benefited from a new product: mangos;


o Earnings were used to ensure garden success and sustainability; gardeners purchased mosquito nets to protect the nurseries, pesticide, fuel for the motor pump (before the new well was established), bags for produce sales, a padlock, and travel to and from sale sites.


RAIN installed two borehole wells (50+ meters deep) with solar powered submersible pumps – RAIN’s first wells with this more sustainable and efficient technology. In addition to providing safe drinking water, these wells save women precious time and contribute to their safety.


o The wells are both over 50m in depth. In Nassile, the well produces 1.5 m3/hour of potable water and in Tagantassou the well produces 3.5 m3/hour;


o This increased access to water will facilitate garden expansion in the coming year – something the communities have asked for but that required additional water. It also ensures that there will be sufficient water for consumption in addition to the water used for drip irrigation;


o Finally, these are communities where a lack of well productivity left women waiting by the well late into the night and early in the morning, hoping to collect a few more drops of water. This increased water flow will save women time – allowing them to dedicate more time to income generating work – and help ensure their safety by eliminating the need to wait outside for long stretches of time at night and in the early morning.

 
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