Y&H Spotlight: Letter from the Executive Director
2018-2019: A Year of Growth and Success
Youth and Hope, l’Espoir pour la Jeunesse, was created in 2011 in Columbus, Ohio, by a small group of individuals passionate about education and making a difference in the lives of Mauritanian children. Youth and Hope focuses on assisting Mauritanian children that were repatriated in 2010 after deportation to Senegal due to border conflict.
These students and their parents, though brought back to their native Mauritania by the government, still live in precarious conditions and face hardship, especially in access to education. At Youth and Hope, we seek to empower students through education, by providing them with school supplies. While a set of school supplies may seem like a small gesture, the reality is that it can make the difference between success and failure for Mauritanian school children.
In 2018, after Y&H board member Chris Hemmig travelled to Goural, one of our target villages, we realized just how challenging it is for students in our program to commute to high school in neighboring towns. In some instances, students must pay 500 Old Ouguiyas, or about $1.30, in one-way taxi fare to get to schools which too far to walk. That cost is out of reach for many families and thus prohibits students from attending secondary school.
We came to a crossroads: what good are school supplies if the student cannot get to school to use them?
Going the Extra Mile for Education
In order to take our support a step further and respond to this challenge, we piloted a stipend program to assist our students with the cost of commuting to high school.
In December 2018, we established a partnership with the Sahel Foundation to launch our first ever stipend program in Goural and we are happy to announce that it was a great success!
Thanks to our loyal sponsors, and oversight from Sahel Foundaton director Brahim Ramadhan, we assisted 10 students in 5eme, or 11th grade, during this first year. Because of the stipend program, none of our 10 students were forced to drop out. And 8 out of 10 passed the grade and will go on to terminal, or 12th grade!
In the next year, we are planning to expand the stipend program to more students and start another stipend program in the village of Diolly. We hope that we can count on your continued support as we continue to on this exciting journey!
Celebrating a Successful Year
In addition to the stipend program, we had an overall great year at Y&H. We were able to assist 145 students with school supplies in our 4 villages (Diolly, Goural, Bellel Ourguel and Gawdal), a Y&H record for one year! We could not have done it without your dedication.
From the bottom of our hearts, we say THANK YOU for being a Youth and Hope Champion. You are making educational goals POSSIBLE for Mauritanian children. Though far by distance, these students are near in our thoughts, and together we are making their world brighter.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
Executive Director, Y&H.
My visit to Goural, one of four Youth and Hope pilot villages, was the highlight of my recent trip to Mauritania in March of 2018. Before the trip, I connected with Youth and Hope partners in Nouakchott and arranged for them to purchase school supplies for me to deliver to Goural.
Goural is a few kilometers outside of the town of Aleg, the capital of the Brakna region, and about 255 km east of Nouakchott along the Road of Hope. Even though Aleg is relatively close to Nouakchott, the trip took over four hours due to the abysmal road conditions as well as the numerous police checkpoints that strictly monitor the movement of goods and people along the road.
When we finally reached Aleg, I met up with Ibrahim Ba, Youth and Hope's contact in Goural, and he arranged for a taxi to take us to the village. Ibrahim was my host in Goural, and I spent most of my time in his house as his guest. As a community leader, he is Goural’s local liaison for Youth and Hope, keeps records of donation deliveries, and facilitates the distribution of materials.
The extreme heat arrived early to Mauritania this year, and so we spent the mid to late afternoon hours staying out of the sun and talking. Despite my rusty Pulaar, we still covered a lot of ground in our conversations. We talked about my experiences in Mauritania and how I got to know Houleye Thiam and the Mauritanian community in Columbus. Ibrahima told me about life in Goural and about his own experience as a refugee in Senegal. He returned to his village in Mauritania after fleeing the border conflict of the early 1990s.
He also talked about the challenges that Goural students face in receiving a quality education and the deep appreciation that they have for Youth and Hope's support in providing school supplies. Y&H helps families offset their most significant costs of sending their kids to primary school. Goural’s school has six grade levels where approximately 200 children study primarily Arabic and French.
Unlike some rural schools, Goural has a full complement of teachers--one teacher for each grade. Teachers are government-appointed and placed in communities they are not familiar with or where they don’t speak the local language. Most Goural teachers reside in Aleg, resulting in a disconnect with community and frequent tardiness or absence.
Many students leave their studies before completing primary school, and many of those who do finish their sixth year do not progress to middle and high school. Children able to continue studying must travel to Aleg and afford the costs of transportation, food, and lodging in addition school supplies. The odds are heavily stacked against Goural’s students; high school and university diplomas remain out of reach for most. Nevertheless, the community highly values education and does whatever possible to make it a reality. Many of Goural’s female leaders came to greet me during my stay to express their gratitude for Youth and Hope's support.
Journey to the Village
Y&H Spotlight: Chris's Visit to Goural
An Evening in Goural
Visit to the School
The morning after I arrived in Goural, Ibrahima and I visited the school, where the students gathered and played in the courtyard, waiting for their teachers to arrive. My presence created excitement and we immediately drew a crowd of curious and energetic children.
Ibrahima gave me a tour of the classrooms, ranging in condition from adequate to defunct. Village donkeys and goats occupy one classroom with severe roof damage, while the community waits for sufficient funds to repair it.
After touring the school, it was time for me to return to Nouakchott. Ibrahima accompanied me to the public transport garage where I found a ride and, as is customary, he made sure to call me when I got to the capital city, to make sure I arrived safely.
This visit gave me a valuable perspective on the difficulties facing Mauritanian rural communities with respect to education.
My visit also reminded me of the incredible warmth, grace, strength, determination, and wisdom of those people who struggle to survive in such a harsh environment.