It was hard to see the conditions of the school. We visited the Guidan Arna primary school in November. This was our second visit. We were there almost a year ago for the first time, and nothing appeared to have changed since then. There was still just one permanent, cement block classroom and five temporary classrooms made from sticks and dried grass. Every year, the parents collect enough money to pay for a new, grass roof.
It was difficult to see the children sitting on the ground with the hot sun coming through the ceiling. They looked up at us with their big eyes, probably wondering why we were there. Only a few students had the books and supplies they needed. We learned that the entire school has a total of only 5 books for each classroom – which the parents had bought with the money they pooled.
We knew that because of your generosity and support, this would be a great project for Remember Niger.
We were there because of the local church. The pastor and members of the congregation asked us if we could help the local, public school where their children attend. The village chief was there to greet us when we arrived. The community and parents of the students are already supporting the school and invested. They invited us to partner with them.
This is the reality for most villages in Niger. When there is a public school option, the federal government often provides teachers and pays their salaries, but the rest of the costs (including the construction of classrooms) is the responsibility of the local community. It’s difficult for the communities because most members are subsistence farmers who do not have extra income. The result is underfunded education that doesn’t provide the quality that parents and students need and desire. Remember Niger is well positioned to come alongside these communities to help improve the educational opportunities of the children.
Next year Remember Niger will seek to build a 3-classroom cement block building for the community in Guidan Arna.
Volunteer: Lydia DeYoung
One highlight of the trip that I enjoyed was Soccer games at the Tsibiri school. When we visited the Tsibiri school, the kids were playing soccer with their teammates. It was such a fun experience to not only join the rest of the kids in watching the game but joining the game as well. The girls at the school were still learning the basics of the game but it was so fun to join them and play a common game that we all understood. Another highlight from this last trip that I loved was doing crafts with the kids! Specifically doing a fun sticker craft with the little ones! When we were at the School of Hope in Maradi we did some kind of craft with all the classes but for the kindergarten and first graders we brought these animal stickers for the kids to make. I remember handing out the paper and stickers to the kids and not even one minute later we hear “Tantie, Tantie, Tantie” (auntie/miss) with a million little hands around us asking for guidance with their animals, but in the end they we had so much fun and it was so cool to see how proud they were of these little animals they had made. Overall, this trip was absolutely amazing and such a great learning experience.
Volunteer: Rev. Tricia Petraven
Four Girls, Four Futures
Eleven years ago when I first began sponsoring Hougué, I could never have imagined how this relationship with her and with Remember Niger would affect my life. I got to meet Hougué in 2016 when I went to Niger for the first time, and she was poised and intelligent and a gifted student with dreams of going into medicine. Now she is in college pursuing that dream, and I got to spend time with her once again on my recent visit to Niger. Her story has been an inspiration not only to me, but to the three other girls I now also sponsor.
I packed for my trip this time with a whole different attitude than my first trip. This time I knew more of what to expect, and I mentally prepared myself for the long plane rides, the over one hundred degree heat, the emotional struggle of seeing uncomfortable conditions. At the last moment before I walked out the door of my house, I grabbed four photos from the front of my refrigerator: Hougué, Nana, Aichatou, and Penina. I prayed that I would be able to see them all.
The four girls were in different schools and different areas of the country. Despite complications with air travel delays and questionable car issues, we were able to visit every one of the schools attended by my three younger girls, and we had a whirlwind trip to Zinder to meet up with Hougué in the airport for a conversation. As I met with each of the younger girls, I shared with each girl how glad I was to be her sponsor, how proud I was of her, and I also told her the story of Hougué, who started school with many obstacles to overcome and is now studying in a university. I showed each girl her own photo, assuring her that I saw her photo on my refrigerator every day, that I prayed for her, and that no matter what future choices she makes, whether she gets married or continues in school, I will care for her. I showed her Hougué’s photo, too, and said I would contribute to continuing her education if she chooses to stay in school and her parents agree, just like Hougué.
Each of the girls has a story. Nana’s story touched me the most. She started school late and is older than the other students in her grade, but she already shows a strong aptitude for learning and is a good student. Her favorite subject is history, and she is interested in staying in school and going to college. I understand that she is still a young woman and her dreams may change over time, but I’m overwhelmed with joy that I get to be a part of Nana’s dreams and aspirations, no matter where they may take her. Penina is good at sports and loves the outdoors, and Aichatou is shy but she has made good friends at her school. Their futures are wide open because of the educational opportunities they have through Remember Niger. It is remarkable to me that I get to change these four lives halfway around the world just by supporting their education. I pray that these girls will grow to be bold and kind, leaders in whatever fields of interest they pursue, and that they will always know they are loved. Seeing each of them in person was not only an answer to prayer, but it reminded me that God works in mysterious ways to bring to each of our lives just what we need. That is a life-changing idea, and seeing it in action strengthens my faith and helps me trust God for my own future, too.
When Chefou was a young boy, his older brother herded cattle for missionaries. One day, the missionary visited Chefou’s home so that she could pay the boy for his work. As Chefou tells the story, when she saw him (Chefou), she immediately asked, “Would you like to go to school?” His affirmative response changed the trajectory of his life. He attended the Tsibiri Boarding School, which at that time was run by missionaries (it is now run by the EERN and a Remember Niger partner school). It was during those formative years that Chefou became a Christian. He did so well academically, that he was allowed to continue through secondary school and then he was offered a scholarship to attend university in Nigeria. He returned to Niger and worked as an English teacher for many years, eventually working his way up into administration.
Through it all, Chefou never forgot the life-changing question that the missionary had asked him, “Do you want to go to school?”. He and the Evangelical Church of Niger (EERN) leaders in Madaoua, where he was living, wanted to ask the children in their community the same question. They had a dream of creating a school that would enable them to provide excellent, education grounded in Christianity to the children in their community. They approached Remember Niger, seeking help in achieving their dream and we came alongside them. In 2014, they opened a kindergarten class with 23 students in a temporary classroom on the church property. Now, the school is bursting at the seams with 437 students in preschool through 6th grade. The first 6th grade class graduated in June 2021. 100% of the students passed the national exam and matriculated to secondary school.
The story doesn’t end there. In 2017, Chefou retired and moved with his family to Tahoua. He and the leaders of the Salama Church wanted to ask the children in the Tahoua community the same question, “Do you want to go to school?” Again, the Chefou and the local church approached Remember Niger, seeking partnership. In 2018, the Salama Primary School opened with a kindergarten class in the Sunday School classroom on the church’s property. Today, the school teaches nearly 60 students in grades kindergarten through 4th grade and Chefou and his church continue to ask the children, “Do you want to go to school?”
It is remarkable to see the way in which God’s love continues and multiplies. The missionary’s simple act of love - sending a child to the Christian boarding school - has reaped fruit beyond measure and continues to grow. We are humbled to walk with Chefou and other amazing Nigeriens who are making Christ known through their simple desire to enable every child in Niger to have the opportunity to answer the question, “Do you want to go to school?”
Remember Niger facilitated two teacher training seminars in 2021. In partnership with the Nigerien Education Department in the Maradi Region, the first seminar focused on the new Nigerien curriculum and technology. All Remember Niger partner school elementary teachers and directors were invited to participate. This seminar was generously funded through a grant from IMF Giving Together Fund. The second seminar was a special teacher training focused on sign language and technology. Teachers at the Niamey School for the Deaf, the Niamey Inclusive Middle School, the Maradi Deaf School and the Zinder Deaf School participated. We were pleased to have an expert sign language professor, Dr. Victor, provide the instruction. Generous support from Entrepreneurs for Knowledge (Efk) and the United States Embassy and Cultural Center in Niger made this seminar possible.
“I am very grateful to Remember Niger and its collaborators for organizing this training to improve and strengthen the capacities and activities of its partner schools. This training provided the knowledge and tools that will allow us to manage our school activities well in order to have a school that is useful for society. We hope that Remember Niger and its collaborators will continue to train teachers on pedagogical and technology topics. God bless you.”
-Leahtou, Primary School Director (pictured below)
Remember Niger partnered with Rotary clubs in Maryland, Minnesota and Niger to complete solar power projects at two of our partner schools. Solar panels, inverters and batteries were installed and connected to provide consistent power for computer labs and classrooms at the Niamey School for the Deaf and the Hamsa Girls Education Center.
Special thanks to the following Rotary Clubs for their support:
Stillwater Sunrise Rotary Club • Roseville Rotary Club • Bethesda - Chevy Chase Rotary Foundation • Gaithersburg Rotary Foundation • New Brighton / Mounds View Rotary Club • Maradi Rotary Club (Niger) • Montgomery Village Rotary Club Foundation
Isaaka looked at me with very sad eyes as he waited patiently for his turn to talk. He was articulate and his French was excellent for 3rd grade. Isaaka gave me information that every new sponsorship student provides. He told me about how he loves to play soccer with his friends and he wants to be a policeman when he is older. It wasn’t until later that I found out why he seemed so sad. I was talking with teachers when I kept feeling a tap on my arm and a pull on my sleeve. When I looked down, there was Isaaka standing there with a friend. The friend pointed to Isaaka’s foot, which was very swollen. There was an inch-long sore that was jagged and oozing. He had been playing with his friends a week earlier when his foot had been stuck by a stick. I was really alarmed because he could hardly walk on the foot and he had not been to the clinic yet. I spoke with the directress of the school and she assured me that she would make sure that he went to the clinic, even if she had to bring him herself. I left funds for the clinic visit and the medicine that he will need. Isaaka's injury would likely have caused him to lose his foot if it had continued to go untreated.
The vision of the Kollo Girls School is to create a safe learning space for girls to receive a high-quality education. The school opened its doors with 30 kindergarten and first grade students in November 2021. When complete, the school will provide education to girls in grades preschool through high school. The school will utilize the STEAM education approach that teaches the girls to be curious and to think critically and creatively about the world around them. They will be the future leaders and problem-solvers in their communities and country.
Karen Pepin, Remember Niger Sponsorship Coordinator, shares her experience visiting with students and family members at the school:
"The Kollo Girls’ School opened its doors and classes began in November. During my visit to the school, I met with the students who will receive sponsorships and their caregivers. Most of the girls are orphaned and live with their grandparents or aunts. The girls were identified and selected for the program by the female mayor of Kollo. It was so powerful to have her standing in front of the girls as we talked about the importance of education and staying in school. Several of the grandmothers told us how they weren't allowed to go to school when they were young and they regretted it. Fati (the woman pictured in the green outfit) said that when she asked her father if she could go to school, his response was always, "Go pound the millet!". And now, thanks to the generosity of Remember Niger supporters, her granddaughter is attending school.
I cannot thank you enough for helping to make this possible. What began as a dream is now a reality. I’m always amazed when I look at the happy and active children learning and playing in the school building and on the land where, not too long ago, there was nothing but sand and bushes. It’s an honor to partner with you and be a part of God’s work in this way."
Three classrooms were added to the high school in Zinder in 2021. There was so much demand from parents and community members for more space and classes that additional classrooms needed to be added sooner than initially planned.
The Zinder School was established in 2007 with 27 students in preschool through 1st grade. The school now serves over 700 students in preschool through the 2nd class of high school. The opening of Zinder High School in 2020 provided students with the opportunity to attend a quality school that will prepare them for university or future employment.
Remember Niger is honored to be a part of Zinder School’s growth and the realization of their vision for a preschool through high school complex that will serve the Zinder community for many years to come.
We are pleased to report that in Zinder, three more classrooms are being added to the high school this summer. They will be ready for classes to start at the beginning of October. We are excited that there was so much demand from parents and community members for more space and classes that additional classrooms needed to be added sooner than initially planned.
I met Shapiou and his mother a few months ago when he entered the Remember Niger Sponsorship Program so that he could attend the School of Hope for Children with Disabilities. I was moved by his story and wanted to share it with you so you can see how you are impacting the lives of children in Niger.
Shapiou is a 10-year-old boy who had a motorcycle accident. He was playing with his friends on the side of the road, when a motorcycle ran over his leg. Unfortunately, following this accident the doctors had to cut off his right leg below the knee to save him. As a result, his mother, being poor with no income, was forced to sell everything she had to pay for the surgery and hospital. This is a very important act in Nigerien culture. Here in Niger, when a young woman is preparing for her marriage, parents take care of giving her everything she needs before going to her home, such as: the bed, mattress, dressing table, kitchen utensils etc. These materials are objects jealously guarded by the woman because they are objects offered by the parents. Their value is historical and sentimental for the woman. She will keep them her entire life because they mean so much to her. But, Shapiou’s mother lost a whole story and memory of her life by selling her precious goods to save her son. We can say apart from being a good mother she also sacrificed her story and her memory.