Niger officially gained its independence from France on August 3, 1960. In 1975, tree planting became a tradition throughout Niger in order to mark the day and to prevent the desert from advancing further into croplands. The 2011 summer volunteers and I had the great privilege of participating in this activity. After touring the newly constructed school we completed digging holes, placed the Neem Trees in them, covered the roots with dirt and watered them. As I finished planting my tree, I jokingly pleaded with my EERN colleagues not to let the tree die. Symbolically, I didn’t think it would be very good representation of what we are trying accomplish! However, all kidding aside, I can’t think of a better metaphor for what we are doing in Niger. The Evangelical Church of Niger, the Remember Niger Coalition and other partners are “planting” schools. But, like trees, we can’t just plant them and then walk away – surely, most of them would die. We need to care for and nurture them. We do this through programs such as student sponsorships, teacher training, the food program, computer labs, and so on. We also regularly visit our partners not only to see if there are areas that need more support and attention, but also to bring encouragement and friendship – which I believe is comparable to providing the necessary nutrients to trees.
Thanks to the generosity of many people we have accomplished a great deal in 2011:
- Phase 1 of the Aguie Primary School will be completed and ready for the first day of school on October 1.
- Construction of Phase 3 at the Zinder Primary School began in August. This three-classroom building will hold the pre-school and kindergarten classes. Currently, those classes are being held in the building that was originally intended to be the guard’s house. As you can imagine, the space is a bit cramped! We are still seeking approximately $10,000 to complete Phase 3.
Computer Lab and Technology Training
- In August, a five-person volunteer team installed a twelve-laptop computer lab at the Zinder Primary School and helped facilitate technology training for over twenty-five teachers and administrators.
Teacher Training Scholarships
- We will be sending four future teachers to Teacher Training College this year. Three of the four will graduate in April 2012.
- We are still seeking $2,000 to send a current teacher to graduate school for a Master’s
degree in Administration.
- We have raised over $4,000 for the food program for the 2011/2012 school year. This program ensures that the most disadvantaged students will receive at least one nutritious meal every school day.
- We are still seeking $2,000 for the food program at the Aguie Primary School.
NEW Student Sponsorship Program
- I’m pleased to announce that we have completely changed our Student Scholarship program! We are now going to match sponsors with specific children. This means that you will have the opportunity to witness the amazing
impact that you donation has on a child in Niger.
Kara VanderKamp, Executive Director