In 2011, Houleye Thiam founded Youth and Hope in response to the critical resource deficiencies in rural Mauritanian schools.
Since our founding, we have focused on villages whose primary populations are black Mauritanian, and former refugees returned to their homelands in southern Mauritania.*
As of 2021, we serve primary schools in four rural repatriated villages.
*A border war between Senegal and Mauritania in 1989-1991 forced thousands of black Mauritanians into exile in Senegal and Mali. In 2007, then-President of Mauritania Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdullah asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to aid in the repatriation of black Mauritanians living in camps across the border. Click here to learn more about the border war and refugee repatriation.
While the cost of attending primary school in Mauritania is low, many families do not have enough income to provide their children with the basic supplies needed to participate in the classroom. This compounds the educational challenges that students and families face, and the result is large numbers of students out of school.
Today, our goal is eliminate the basic resource need for primary school students in our target villages.
As we grow, our focus will expand to secondary education, improvement of classrooms, and providing leadership development opportunities for Mauritanian youth.
Interested in helping us take Y&H to the next level?
Houleye believes firmly that education is the most powerful tool for changing lives in Mauritania which has struggled to achieve unity and equality for its sons and daughters since its independence from France in 1960.
Houleye was born and raised in Mauritania. She currently resides in the Columbus, OH, where she works as Social Worker with Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services. She holds an MPA from Indiana State University.
Chris Hemmig, Phd
Board Member, Treasurer
Chris's interest in Mauritania was sparked by his Peace Corps service from 2002 to 2004. His experience in Mauritania motivated him to pursue graduate studies, and he wrote his dissertation on local perspectives of development in southern Mauritania.
He has traveled back to Mauritania three additional times over the years, while also developing strong connections to the diaspora community in Columbus and Cincinnati.
Board Member, Strategy
Grace started working with Y&H in 2017 after a chance meeting with Houleye and realizing a shared interest in promoting equality locally and in West Africa.
Grace is a Master of Forestry candidate at the Yale School of The Environment. She has lived and worked in rural Senegal, Amazonian Ecuador, and the cloud forest of Costa Rica, and as a wildland firefighter in the western US. When not working, you'll find Grace trail running or listening to live music.