For this round of reporting, we share the brief story of an Internally Displaced Scholar, Victorine, who is originally from Kumbo, a fairly remote area in Cameroon, but based in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, which is a safe zone. On the recommendation of another Open Dreams Scholar, she reached out to the office of the non-profit. Despite her displacement with the accompanying challenges, she had not given up on educational pursuits. She had earlier been offered a scholarship at the African Leadership University, Rwanda to study Computer Science, and was required to submit a passport for travel by January 5th 2021. Besides being an IDP, she is also from a very low-income family. For months ever since being notified of the scholarship offer, she could not afford money for the passport. Her scholarship was thus at stake, since she could not meet up on time with getting a passport. When she reached out to us and explained her financial situation, we took some time to conduct background checks to be sure that the family truly could not afford the money. After a good conclusion, we got her to Yaounde, the capital city of Cameroon, and went for the passport. Two days later, she returned to the Open Dreams Center with the passport. She had already sent a scanned copy to the school. She saw her dreams coming through/true. Today, she is safely in school in Rwanda studying, with hopes for a better tomorrow. Being a female, she might even make so much more out of the tech-study opportunity. School should not only be for the rich. That's why our mission is to equalize access to educational opportunities. "It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another." - Mandela
A year ago, Open Dreams committed to rebranding some of the support offered to scholars, under "Exploring Beyond infinity", which is a slogan used by one of our scholars. This round so far, we have:
- had some outstanding graduate students take the GRE;
- paid more application fee at the Graduate level;
-sponsored a record number of students for the SAT;
-supported many pre-scholars from different towns in Cameroon for them to travel to Yaounde, with transport, lodging and feeding taken care of as they complete applications to colleges etc;
-invested more on providing access to the internet for many including those carrying on online studies at the Open Dreams Centre with streaming that consumes heavy data;
- established passports for 10 other scholars, meeting some set goals.
Open Dreams is home to many longing for educational opportunities with the desire to win together by maximizing the resources available and giving back over time to assist more people. Last December, we organized many outreach programs in the community which involved voluntering and visits to the hospital. Our Centers in Bamenda and Yaounde all in Cameroon continue to provide quality mentorship to scholars, pulling in some of the best mentors and accomplished leaders, to impact the rising scholars. We had yet the highest number of scholars obtain scholarshps last year and the earlier part of this 2021 - about 35 to date and counting. We have also mulitiplied outreach to many schools as well as our professional development programs for educators in collaboration with support international organizations in the same area of operation.
A lot of the great work we do is beautifully captured on our Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/opendreamsforall . We would not have been able to do this much without your donations. From our hearts, we express our deep thanks. We pray for your continuous support, so we can reach out to more people in need of mentorship support in their journey to self-discovery and dreams-actualization.
It’s been a momentous season for us from creating an enabling environment to accommodate our scholars taking lessons online, to launching the 2020 summer academy and also getting set to organizing a Premier Summit for Graduate Students from all over Cameroon, with many organizations taking part. These are breath-taking activities in unprecedented times, as we mark our first anniversary in Yaounde at the center you all contributed for us to set up. Thank You!
Generally as each year ends, our scholars who succeeded in securing scholarships travel out, creating space for the incoming cohort. This year is different. Not only do we have to continue hosting them and ensuring that they have utilities like unlimited broadband internet access for their online lessons, we also have many relocating from regions hit by the crisis in Cameroon to Yaounde where we oversee their daily welfare. This means we need more laptops, more safe and conducive space for them to stay focused on their studies without having to compete over resources with the incoming cohort of students. This year, we have had yet the highest number of applications to our summer academy, with many people investing so much hope in getting a spot. We want to be as helpful as much as we can to those who really put in much in the realization of their dreams and to the internally displaced, especially the young girls with big dreams who are a thrill. Our mentorship program has become very popular and there is an urgency for us to expand our capacity.
For the past months:
-10 of our scholars have taken the SAT and 20 + more will be taking the test in October and December 2020; -5 Graduate Scholars took the GRE and the Toefl and 10 more are due to take the GRE in the days ahead while 50 will be taking the Duolingo Test;
- 5 of our scholars acquired the National ID Card with the process expedited, 16 of them acquired new international passports, 10 booked visa interviews;
-We have continued to provide excellent mentorship and leadership programs to our scholars at the center, including organizing a Mandela Day, participating in many webinars and inviting leaders in the community to interact with the scholars. These activities are reported on our blog www.open-dreams.org/blog and our Facebook Page, https://web.facebook.com/opendreamsforall which captures the best of our daily pace of activities;
-Our Scholars have been active in the field, assisting in providing humanitarian supplies, covid-19 response in terms of education and provision of Face Masks and hand sanitizers, providing medical care and conducting research and working on peace building initiatives for greater cohesion in the community ravaged in some parts by conflict which is creating a humanitarian crises. Much of these are reported on our blog.
-We have hosted a seminar organized by the Cameroon Fulbright TEA Alumni on Competences of an Inclusive Teacher leader for STEM Educators;
-Open Dreams Scholars have featured on the National Television (CRTV) and Radio 7 times, talking about access to Education. This is exceptional. Open Dreams Scholars and the team launched an EducationFirst Campaign to get more schools to re-open in the crisis hit-zones of Cameroon where schools have been shut down for the past 4 years. As another academic looms, we are stepping up the initiative.
-Our Scholars have been involved in many fronts, teaching the underprivileged in the neighbourhoods and sustaining learning; We also conducted research on how Cameroon is coping with Distance Education Processes. The findings were published and we are now looking forward to implementing a training program for teachers with the sponsorship of the US Embassy, Yaounde - Cameroon. This is only one of four other projects we shall participate in, all sponsored by the US Embassy, Yaounde. Thank you for helping us to build our capacities to attain this level which requires greater engagement.
-We need more resources to support our growing pool of scholars who are highly ambitious. Precisely, we need more laptops, more chairs, tables, more space for lessons and hostels;
-We also need more resources for the summer academy and our graduate summit and to continue supporting students across the country, who might not have the opportunity to be in Yaounde.
-We need to pay for more educational technology including upgrading our website to accomodate more interactive features and resources that the public can utilize;
-The capacity to host more teachers in training programs and hosting seminars for community actors who inspire our scholars.
-We need support to provide for IDPs who are outstanding in Academics at the end of our summer academy, and more. Your donations will continue to impact the most promising and the most vulnerable; it will continue to transform lives.
Thank you for supporting our cause. The best legacy is to impact more lives around you and we are lucky to feel your impact. Thank you!
Thanks to the magnificent support of our donors and many volunteers around the Open Dreams community, the transition from the conception to the realization stage of the Yaoundé Open Dreams Center evolved so rapidly, and we have attained stability and operations now run very smoothly. Resources from our donors continue to troop in to render the center more supportive to all our scholars including the girl child, our staff and program facilitators.
From January to March 2020 before we scaled down operations due to the global COVID19 pandemic,
- Ten of our scholars had intensive lessons daily and went in for the March 14 SAT Test, while 20 others were already taking preparations simultaneously for the May SAT. They all make use of the resources at their disposal thanks partly to our donors.
- We were able to cover the cost of 5 of our scholars from different regions to Yaoundé where they spent one month participating in the final SAT preparations which involved providing steady internet connection, tutors, photocopying etc. A good number of our scholars are IDPs. The provisions at the Open Dreams center have kept them focused on their dreams, and too often they are busy working on the great things which will shape their tomorrow and make them better citizens.
- For our scholars who already had scholarship offers, we have been supportive to them in helping them financially to establish passports, conduct their health checks, pay for the obtention of and mailing of official GCE results to universities where they have been admitted and putting together the necessary papers and certifications for the visa processes.
- We were also able to pay for the TOEFL Test and the sending of SAT, TOEFL, GRE scores to universities for a number of our scholars. In some cases, we also covered application fee and CSS Profile Fee payments for a few of them.
- The Yaoundé center, in its daily activities, has been able to accommodate a record number of users from academically high-achieving students who are under-resourced to teachers who support these students in the high schools. We had taken up programs which support educational access and achievement – many more members of the community have been able to benefit from these services we provide to the public, thanks to your support. Regular access to computers, broadband internet and experts in different fields have been a good attraction at Open Dreams, where quality content gets delivered.
- We have also hosted events run by other non-profit organizations and have seen our partnerships growing, thanks to the increasing awareness on our effectiveness and outreach. The latest of our partners who had a full-day program with us were the Cameroon-based representatives of the African Leadership Academy, South Africa and aspiring students of the institution.
-We are looking forward to working with:
(a) Better Breed Cameroon, a non-profit, on a Reading-Caravan project to raise awareness on the importance of developing a reading culture in the early stages of education and sustaining it.
(b) JumpStart Africa, a non-profit, to train high school students on skills which our markets demand
(c) MathCamp Uk, a non-profit, to help high school students develop Applied Mathematic Skills.
(d) The Cameroon Fulbright TEA Alumni Association, in the implementation of its teacher and student-focused programs over the next few months etc All of these projects and partnerships have been thanks to our capacity to accommodate the programs of these organizations at our center. These programs are in line with our visions and we are happy to partner with them in the realization of our common objectives. We would not have otherwise been able to do this without the resources. Hence, our center serves more than just the Open Dreams community – our partners also benefit from it.
- The US Embassy made donations of important educational resources to us. The British Council Yaoundé also donated and some of our top scholars also made signification donations which have widened our capacity to serve more people with the right resources.
- We have acquired a bookshelf, paid for more educational software as well as updating existing software subscriptions like antivirus security.
- We have also received many august guest-speakers, including the Assistant Cultural Affairs officer at the US Embassy Yaoundé, US State Department Program Alumni, Doctors, Engineers, University Professors, Teachers and Community Leaders. They have served as an inspiration to our scholars who yearn to accomplish like them.
- On the wake of COVID19 spreading to Cameroon, we immediately went in for Hand Sanitizers,
Acholic Disinfectants, Face Masks and other essential needs to increase hygiene at the center in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.
- We have been able to cover the monthly running costs for our centers in Cameroon, acquire a new post box in Yaoundé, and in partnership with other organizations like the International ACAC, run training programs for lead teachers in Yaoundé.
- Daily sessions have become a reality with very steady and insightful debates from our scholars, carefully planning and strategizing on the college admission processes and discussions on contemporary issues in our society to boost leadership capabilities, volunteering opportunities and a lot more now characterized our hub, and the scholars are stimulated by the trail-blazers who come in to deliver and inspire.
- Our Scholars, including the graduate scholars have led their own initiatives in the community, attending conferences (which we sponsor), participating in public debates and shaping public opinion. One of the scholar-led initiatives is EduMail which provides educational resources to students in parts of Cameroon where an armed struggle, for the past three years, has made it hard for students to have access to education.
We celebrate your donations. They take us far. They lead us to our dreams. We need to grow our capacity and keep our operations going; we need to keep reaching and supporting more people. Together, we make SDG#4 a reality by 2035 through our community activism. Keep supporting us! For, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”. – Nelson Mandela.
"In order to rise from its own ashes, a Phoenix first must burn". This quote from Octavia succinctly illustrates the turmoil and challenges from which hope and optimism has sprung a shining light in the form of our brand, new Open Dreams Center in Yaounde. While our main headquarters in Bamenda has endured 3 years of turmoil, we finally broke ground and opened our long-awaited Yaounde center, which has been 2 years in the making, thanks in large part to our generous donors during our September campaign.
The desks and chairs have been procured while 12 laptop computers have served as invaluable portals, helping transform scholars lives, one essay at a time. The classroom is filled with the camaraderie and joy of classmates in collaboration, joining forces to help each other throughout this year's college applications. Mentors - many of which are Open Dreams alumni themselves - dial in via Skype to ensure mentees are on the right track. This Christmas Season, to christen our new Yaounde Center opening we are hosting our 4th Annual Open Dreams Christmas Party that will be filled with singing performances, dances, Christmas Caroling and more.
Among the top recent successes over the past month, Beauclaire, who has been mentored by Open Dreams co-founder Blaise, was recently awarded the prestigious Schwarzman Scholarship for a year-long masters studies in International Affairs in Beijing, China. Through their efforts to make a sustained and exemplary commitment to improve their communities and the world around them, Open Dreams alums Theodore and Ngosong were accepted as Clinton Global Initiative Scholars and will be attending the CGIU summit in Edinburgh in April. We are very proud their accomplishments as they set a strong example for others to follow. We await university decisions to see who will be the next batch of scholars to officially capture a prestigious full-ride college scholarship.
The SAT Exam Testing on December 7th is just around the corner and Open Dreams will have a record, nearly 20 students, taking this important entrance exam. Many of these scholars have been scoring in the 1300s on their practice exams and we wish these scholars the best of luck! From all of us at Open Dreams, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday Season!
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