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akshita

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EXPANDING LIVES
May 15, 2010

This summer I had the fantastic opportunity to work with Expanding Lives as a cultural liaison to four young women from Niger. I worked with the girls from the very first day they landed in America and was with them up to the day they boarded the plane back home. It was my job to help the girls assimilate to American culture, their host families, and interact with other youth of similar age. This transition took place while the girls participated in six weeks of classes with topics ranging from English, computers, public health, leadership and democracy to peer mediation and African dance. Through this experience the girls gained invaluable skills, abilities, but more importantly independence. Coming from a country where only a nationwide 6% of women go to secondary school, the opportunities that a trip to America offers is priceless. It is life-changing both for the women and for anyone else who has worked with them. Personally, seeing the internal motivation and strive for education that each and every one of these young women presented was inspirational. They have the drive and the ambition, they just need the opportunity. The opportunity to get a better education to better themselves, the lives of their families and communities, and eventually become models of change within their country. The amazing strength that these girls showed in coming to a foreign country, all alone, to pursue education is phenomenal and truly says a lot about just how powerful young women are. They have inspired me to pursue a career in women’s empowerment, especially in developing countries in Africa.

The Great!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

seeing the changes that previous years girls have made in their own communities. Girls have gone back to continue their education by enrolling in a university, starting village-wide efforts for a cleaner commmunity, starting groups to teach proper health.

Ways to make it better...

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

create a video to show the kind of environment that these young women are coming from, to highlight the statistics concerning education and women in countries in West Africa. Possibly interview past participants on how their experiences have helped them.

More feedback

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the direct relationship it lets volunteers develop both with the girls as well as other volunteers that have experiences with Peace Corps and other such organizations.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

amazing. It was eye-opening to work with and talk to women who have spent years in Niger, as volunteers, working to better the lives of these women. They're very open and very enthusiastic.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

change the world! If more women are given the power and the chance to take charge, especially in Africa, they could change everything, from poverty levels and mortality rates to higher education and increased female participation in the government.

Ways to make it better...

it could not have been better. My time spent working with this organization was some of the best time of my life. It really helped me to see the world and identify my life path as one that includes helping empower young women from Africa.

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

lack of funding and unstable governments in Niger and West Africa as a whole.

One thing I'd also say is that...

Expanding Lives works to change the lives of anyone it comes into contact with. Not just the four women who come over every year, but literally EVERYONE who works with them, even if it's just a soccer game one afternoon.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

MY ROLE:
Volunteer & I worked with young women from Niger to help empower them to become positive role models and agents of change within their own community.