This is it! My 27 months of Peace Corps service in Benin, West Africa will be coming to a close in August or September of this year. It’s been quite a ride, and I can’t thank my friends and family enough for all the support and encouragement graciously shown to me throughout. Please help me raise money to make these last few projects happen. Thank you!
Girls Leading Our World
Summer camp for girls
“Is it okay for a girl of 13 years old to be married to a boy who is 18?” “How can a girl avoid being harassed by her male teachers?” “Why do some people mistreat other people?” These are some of the questions, in their own words, that members of my girls club have posed to me. After more than two years living here, I can tell you first hand that Benin is often not a great place to be a woman. And there is an alarming lack of strong female role models for young girls to look up to.
In 1995, Peace Corps Romania started a project called Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a week-long summer camp/workshop encouraging young girls to become those missing positive female leaders in their communities. The movement spread around the world, arriving at Peace Corps Benin in 2004. Last year I brought several girls from my village to Camp GLOW in the city of Parakou, and I still consider it to be one of the best projects I’ve been a part of here. You helped make the camp a success last year, and I’m asking you to contribute again this year! Donate to the camp and help Beninese girls learn to see and believe in their value and in their right to dream big and live bold.
Visit donate.peacecorps.gov and search for the project under the last name “Baug” (the volunteer coordinator of the camp this year) or the project number 14-680-015 to make a tax-deductible donation to: Camp GLOW 2014.
ADDITIONALLY, I am hoping to raise another $300 by MAY 4 to purchase and send fifty-five sketchbooks and pens for a creative writing and nature journaling session at the camp. My artist/writer mother will be collecting money specifically for this purpose (so seek her out!!), as she will be the one to purchase and mail the items. If we don’t raise enough, the money we DO raise will be put into the general camp fund (above), but I know we can do this and it would mean so much to the girls to have their very own journals!
It’s in a book!
Building a library
During my time here, I’ve received multiple packages of books from home – French/English dictionaries and English picture books for my English club students. I never imagined how much love and use these books would see! But here in Benin, books aren’t something most kids have access to. Even kids who don’t know any English yet will come by asking if they can borrow a book for a week just to have something to flip through and talk about. Having seen how much books mean to them, I’m asking for your help now in helping a friend of mine and fellow volunteer build a library in her community. I wouldn’t normally solicit funds on behalf of another volunteer, but she is among the hardest working volunteers I know and now has limited time to raise the money for this library. She is hoping to raise at least enough to purchase the books if not to build the building (if she raises more than is necessary for the books but still not enough for the building, the extra money will be put into the Peace Corps Country Fund to go toward other volunteers’ projects).
Visit donate.peacecorps.gov and search for the project under the last name “Prainito” or the project number 14-680-003 to make a tax-deductible donation to: “It’s In A Book!” School Library Project.
Bringing students together from around the country to compete in an English spelling bee
Benin has over fifty local languages. Most children grow up speaking at least one of these languages at home. In primary school, they begin learning French. And in secondary school, they start learning English – so it’s usually their third or fourth language. But many of them know that English can open a world of opportunities for them, so it was one of the first requests I got from students when I arrived in my village – help us improve our English! The twice weekly English club that resulted has been one of my favorite activities, so I was really excited when I got a slot for two kids from my village to go to the Peace Corps organized national English spelling bee in June. This event (and the preparation that has been preceding it) will encourage participating students to keep working hard in school and stay motivated in their language studies.
Visit donate.peacecorps.gov and search for the project under the last name “Martinez” (the volunteer coordinator of the camp this year) or the project number 14-680-012 to make a tax-deductible donation to: 6th National Spelling Bee.
Where There Is No Gatorade
Relay running the country for gender equality and women’s empowerment
Some of you may remember hearing or reading about my experience training for and running my first ever marathon over a year ago, early on in my service. I did it without ever being able to measure mileage on training runs, without ever being able to ice sore muscles or relax in an air-conditioned room post-workout, and without a single drop of gatorade :) That was a thing I did for myself and my fellow volunteers, but now we’re preparing for another run with a much bigger goal. Collectively, Peace Corps Benin will travel à pied (by foot) the length of the country. In a relay-style race that will take us twenty-one days, we’ll pass off the Peace Corps baton from volunteer to volunteer, village to village – from Benin’s northern border with Burkina Faso to its southern border with the ocean – all in the name of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
In a 2013 global report (including 136 countries), the World Economic Forum ranked Benin as having the 11th highest (worst) combined gender-based disparities in economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health, and political empowerment. Money raised from the relay event will go into a Peace Corps Benin fund for volunteer projects related to shrinking that disparity. So please sponsor me as I take my turn running for a better Benin!
The web page where you can donate isn’t quite ready, but it should be up and running at indiegogo.com on May 3. Stay tuned for more details.