Sheila Leonard is an intern at GlobalGiving. This summer she traveled throughout West Africa and visited a number of GlobalGiving projects. On May 29th she visited "Education for 900 Rural Girls in Burkina Faso." When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Sheila said: "Great: They are making a difference."
This project is awesome. Seeing these very poor little girls hold on to their lambs for dear life and try desperately to keep them in line was inspiring. Each school I visited (2) sponsored around 25 girls by Friends of Burkina Faso/NEEED. For my visit, the parents came to school and brought their lambs. Picture 20 bleating lambs tied up around a million school kids running through them - it was quite a sight to see. In a culture where girls barely attend school, husbands have multiple wives, and women start bearing children in their teens, creating a project that designates these girls as worthwhile to themselves and their families brought tears to my eyes. After visiting some of the surrounding villages, it is clear one lamb is a great luxury for these families.
Asking questions directly to the parents and children proved difficult because of their fear of me, and the language of course! The father of one 6 year old girl told me (through two translators - More (the local language) to French to English) "NEEED helps the kids have clothing to wear and good working conditions at the school and a better future. But especially we thank for clothing to wear...We wish that all the girls are supported by NEEED, it is difficult because it is a limited number of children" It is true - NEEED works with school administrators to support the neediest children in the village, not every student. The parents and administrators also begged me for better school buildings. One of the schools only has a thatched roof and no door so wind, dust, and stray animals join the classroom at any moment.
The best part of this project is the responsibility bestowed on the families. Instead of just giving each family school tuition, the family must take care of the lamb and help it grow so they can receive a better price the following year - enough to buy 2 new lambs and start the process over. NEEED is very well-organized and had a good answer for everyone of my probbing development questions. I admire their throughness in making sure girls attend school, and parents are involved in the process. Burkina Faso is a beautiful country with kind friendly people and I am glad to see a project that gives help where it is needed.