The young women who attend our Girls Vocational Training program lead hard, complicated and often messy lives. And yet there is a resilience in each one of them , a beauty in their hearts, their desire to learn, their desire to take care of others and a desire to experience real love. In a culture where women do not often get to choose their education, or to choose whom they will marry, some of these desires seem out of reach.
In the culture in Niger most of the young women struggle to live their lives in the fine balance between having some autonomy and choices and fun like normal teenage girls all around the World, while still respecting their culture, their elders and family and living under often strict cultural and religious norms.
Our program is multi-faceted. The Girls come to school 5 days a week. We teach them, along with our talented team of National teachers, a variety of topics. We cover sewing, tailoring, knitting and embroidery on the Vocational side of the program. We teach them about health, hygiene, sex education, childbirth and pregnancy, disease reduction and much more. We also cover moral topics like honesty, forgiveness, conflict management, integrity and many more topics using stories that are appropriate in their culture but come from the Bible. Each girl is fed a hot lunch at the school and has access to a free weekly medical clinic. We also purposefully spend a lot of time mentoring many of the young women, especially outside school hours where we can visit them in their homes with the families and share with their entire family unit and help each young woman navigate many of her life choices and to get to know her and her culture better each day.
During the first three years of our school, we saw the full spectrum of joy to despair in the lives of these young women. We saw many of them pass their exams, earn their own sewing machines and small business start up kits and marry and have children of their own. We heard stories of how they are ready to be mothers with all they have learned and feel prepared in many ways to be better moms and wives. We visited many in their homes and grew close to them, honored to call them not just our students but dear friends. We celebrated life’s joys with them.
We also saw heart-wrenching experiences of abuse, rape, forced marriage, abortion and deep days of despair and depression and illness. It was equally an honor to walk through the dark valleys with these girls, to support them when their culture called them untouchable and to show Christ’s love as the Forgiver and Great Lover of their souls. We spent many days on our knees and searched to find solutions to help the Girls. I would like to say we were always successful, but sometimes there is nothing we could do but love them and pray for them.
As we prepare to start our second cycle of Girls (for another three year period of schooling) in the Fall of 2014 we look forward to applying all we learned since we opened our door almost 4 years ago. We are excited to meet a new group of Girls while we continue to mentor and spend time with our graduates.
If you would like to be a part of our prayer team to support and pray for these Girls and receive regular updates, please emails us at Admin@nvoc.ca