25 Mar 2016

Meeting our Students through Remember Niger

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Jean traveled to Niger with Kara VanderKamp from Remember Niger to see our sponsored students and the work being done by the organization we’ve partnered with for more than five years. 

Thrilled and nervous, I was looking forward to meet with the 8-year-old girl whom I sponsor, Nana Yesmina at the Zinder elementary school. I’ve looked at her profile picture a few times before I came to Niger to make sure I remember how she looks like. The moment finally came, the shy girl with her bright orange, white and black plaid headscarf bowed her head while walking towards me. I handed her the care package I had prepared for her, she said “merci!” in her soft voice and avoided eye contact with me. The Hausa and French phrases I had memorized beforehand departed me when I met her face-to-face. “Ah, how I wish I could speak fluent French or Hausa to interact with her more”, I thought to myself.

JeanNiger2Fortunately, with the help of local staff Ibrahim, he read out and corrected the Hausa letter I had written her using Google translate. As he explained my letter line-by-line to her, encouraging her to enjoy and learn new things at school every day, I saw a smile on her face. This made all the effort coming to see her worth it. I know that with the education she’s able to receive through Remember Niger, her future could be promising and full of possibilities.

Our travel companion Tricia has sponsored a young girl Houge for years. She also got to meet the high school student who’s grown to be confident and beautiful. When asked about what she wants to become in the future, Houge responded “I want to be a doctor”. Tricia then asked her what she would do to get her towards that goal, Houge answered, matter-of-factly, “I WILL be a doctor.” Given only 9% of Nigerien girls proceed with their middle/high school education, the determination and confidence Houge displayed was something remarkable. I want my girl Nana Yesmina to be aspired to that. And this is exactly what the school can provide.

As he explained my letter line-by-line to her, encouraging her to enjoy and learn new things at school every day, I saw a smile on her face. This made all the effort coming to see her worth it. I know that with the education she’s able to receive through Remember Niger, her future could be promising and full of possibilities.

When I looked around the school, I noticed the poor environment the students are in (if compared with American standard) – the trees and floor decorated with trash surround the school, there’s no A/C in their classrooms under the scorching sun, the sandy ground makes everything dusty, not to mention the absence of clean restrooms and wash basins. However, the fact that there’s a school and free education available is already a huge blessing. I couldn’t help but think of the kids we spotted earlier that day at Zinder airport. A dozen of them watched us land at Zinder airport and observed us from afar. At first I thought they were students who came to welcome us, until Kara told me otherwise. Unfortunately, education is luxury here in Niger. Not all of the children get to go to school. For that I’m grateful to take part in the sponsorship program, because I know with the knowledge and skills the kids learn from school, they will be equipped with tools to lift them out from poverty and contribute towards a better Niger.

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