26 March 2009

Give a little?

My dear family and friends,

As you all know, I've been living in a small country in West Africa called Togo for the past nine months. I live and work in a village called Mission Tové, where I work primarily with young people in all sorts of ways: teaching English, teaching business skills like how to do a feasibility study, helping to develop a plan for an apprenticeship center for young people who don't have enough money to pay for the training.

Over the past few months I've been balancing my work in village with a national project - a summer camp for young people from all over Togo. The camp is called Camp Unité and was originally started in 2001 to help address the tension among the various ethnic groups - hence the name Unité (Unity). Over the years it's expanded and now it is four weeks of camps - one week for girl students, one week for boy students, one week for girl apprentices and one week for boy apprentices (apprentices are young people who have gone into learning a trade like carpentry or dressmaking).

Each week, 16 counselors - 8 Peace Corps volunteers and 8 Togolese facilitators (nurses, teachers, apprentice trainers, and other resourceful community members) deliver a program to the the young people teaching them life skills like communication strategies, conflict resolution, time management, and self-confidence. We also facilitate sessions on important but often under-discussed subjects like child trafficking and teen pregnancy.

The camp has been enormously successful, with participants going on to form youth groups in their villages to help further distribute the ideas and skills that they learned. Last year, as part of Peace Corps' goal to make projects locally run and sustainable, the Camp started a collaboration with a local organization call ADIFF (Association for the development of women and girls) to co-facilitate the camp. This is great for me as it gives me a chance to do some capacity-building with the organization, preparing it to eventually take complete ownership of the camp project.

Another way we've sought to make the camp sustainable is by diversifying our sources of funding. Ever since the US Ambassador visited the camp several years ago, we've received significant funds from the local US Embassy, but we' d like to set up something a bit more long-term. Former organizers of the camp from previous years are in the process of starting the Unité Foundation to enable US-based donors to make a tax-deductible donation by adding a little bit extra to the amount when they send their own child to summer camp. That little bit extra will enable a Togolese child to come for a week of camp. For this year, however, the foundation has not yet been fully set up so we've put together a Peace Corps Partnership Proposal to help our friends and family to help support the work we're doing, the local people we work with, and the children we work for by making a donation.

The way that Peace Corps Partnership works is:
The Peace Corps volunteer puts together a proposal with his/her local counterpart. They submit the proposal to the Country Director and it's approved a couple times up the line as a project that not only merits funding but also has a realistic time-period and specifically working toward developing local capacity. The local community is also required to provide at least 25% of the total budget (this could be in labor or materials, etc.)
When it's all approved, the project is posted online at this website:
Then, the volunteer lets all of their families and friends and former teachers and mere acquaintances know about the project and encourages everybody to give a little.
Once the total amount has been collected, Peace Corps transfers the money over to the country of service and the volunteer can get the project going!

The cost to send one person to camp for a week is around $80 dollars (food, lodging and transportation). Luckily, we've got a huge network of people that we're contacting about this project so hopefully we'll be able to get the money raised quickly for this years' camps. I can promise that this money will go straight to the costs of sending a child to camp, no hidden pocket-lining. I would really appreciate any amount you can afford to donate and I promise to send you lots of great pictures of the amazing young people you've sent to camp.

If the link doesn't work you can go to www.peacecorps.gov Click Donate, select Donate to volunteer projects, type in Togo, or Camp Unite and you will find it.

I can’t say enough great things about Camp UNITE! Please see my friend's pictures from last year being a cabin counselor at:

http://picasaweb.google.com/jillianintogo (Camp UNITE album)

You can also check out the UNITE Foundations website at: www.unitefoundation.org.


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