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.