Tagged: Africa

They are my gifts

 

“I want my children to smile, I want them to be able to live their life smiling.” Seheno smiled as she stroked her daughters black hair. Seheno, mother of four, has a cleft lip. Her daughter Mena, is a twin, and she also was born with a cleft lip and palate. Her youngest boy, Fitahiana, also born with a bilateral cleft lip and palate.

“When my twins were born the first girl came into life with a normal lip, the second was born with a cleft. The midwife brought them both to me and I immediately felt sad and nervous. I reflected on my childhood as a young girl who had a cleft lip. It was difficult. I did not want my daughter to go through the same hard times. When I gave birth to my youngest son Fitahiana, he was born with both a cleft lip and cleft palate. Again, I questioned why this was happening to me. I too suffer from a cleft lip- yet I did not understand why they would have one too.”

Seheno, and her two children have attended many Operation Smile missions. This one being a very special mission for the family. Her two children had already received successful cleft lip surgery from Operation Smile. Her son received cleft palate surgery this mission. This mission was very special because Seheno herself was selected to receive cleft lip surgery as well as her children.

“I waited for my two children to be able to smile happily before I received surgery. I wanted them to have a good start to life and a new smile. Look at them- they are just so happy. Seeing them makes me happy. Now me too, I can smile, I finally received surgery! I am thankful. We have a story, one that we want to share. Our story is of strength, of family, of love, and of determination. I never stopped loving my children.”

Seheno sat proudly and wrapped her arms around her two children.

“I was once asked why I think my children were born with a cleft lip and palate. To be honest, I think God gave me these children because he knew I would be able to take care of them. They are my gifts. I understand that not everyone will have the opportunity to receive surgery, I just want to express how thankful I am. We are an Operation Smile family.”

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A grandmother’s wish

I met Bao Zoma, mother of four and grandmother of seven, while taking a bike ride through the countryside of Madagascar. In September 2015, I joined Bao Zoma as she traveled to the Operation Smile medical mission in Tana with her middle grandchild, Sandra, who was in need of a cleft lip repair. Now that Sandra has a beautiful smile, Bao Zoma is motivated to find more children in need of critical surgical care and bring them to Operation Smile. She has become a spokesperson for Operation Smile in the part of her country where radios do not reach and many cannot read the posters that are taped up at the health huts around the village.

When asked what motivates her to find more children suffering from cleft lip and cleft palate, she responded: “My grandchild once suffered from cleft lip. My grandchild Sandra was teased, dropped out of school, and was a shy girl. Now I can’t keep her in the house, she has many friends, and is constantly smiling. She is beautiful. I would like to give that gift, the gift of smiling to others like Sandra.”

Bao Zoma recently recruited two other patients for the upcoming medical mission here in Madagascar in April.

I would like to give that gift, the gift of smiling to others like Sandra.

She walked eight kilometers, crossed a river and hiked another two kilometers to reach these children– a young boy by the name of Gino and a young girl named Nordine. I am happy to report they will be joining me on the medical mission in April.

Thank you Bao Zoma, not only for serving as a spokesperson for Operation Smile, but also for being an amazing grandmother.

Check out my story on Operation Smile’s Blog:  A grandmother’s wish

 

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Let Girls Learn

Dear Family and Friends,

I am so excited to share with you this amazing project that we are developing here in Madagascar for young girls.
A group of 20 Peace Corps Volunteers are planning a National Girls Empowerment Camp for the end of April 2016. Each volunteer will bring 5 smart and ambitious young girls from their respective communities to attend a 5 day Conference in the Capital city, Antananarivo. This National Girls Camp will bring together Malagasy Girls from multiple ethnicities to focus on issues relevant to adolescent girls, specifically: leadership development, self efficacy, goal setting, and life planning – which includes higher education and work.
Regional GLOW Camps have been held across Madagascar for years but never engaging multiple Malagasy ethnicities in one learning environment. This National GLOW Camp promotes the leadership development of young women, of different Malagasy ethnicities, so they can become effective leaders. In order to achieve this, youth must be aware of themselves – of their current situation and challenges, of their goals and aspirations, and of their potential for success and leadership – and be aware of the community that surrounds them. Once aware, youth will be able to analyze themselves and their communities, become knowledgeable about them, and become able to propose solutions. GLOW Camp provides a proactive environment that applies equally to individual development and social actions. Furthermore, GLOW supports and nurtures young women, providing educational opportunities, guidance and validation – all within the context of reinforcing pride in the student’s cultural background and his/her self esteem. Through this National GLOW Camp, young women- of different backgrounds- work together, support each other, learn about and promote their heritage, and develop skills and commitment to serve their community.
This project addresses the critical issue of women’s empowerment, incorporating the components necessary to encourage girls to lead healthy and productive lives. In each of our communities, girls face a variety of difficulties related to their personal and professional development due to limited resources, assigned gender roles and lack of awareness of the opportunities available to them. Girls become sexually active at a young age and often do not receive adequate education regarding sexual health, particularly related to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The promotion of a healthy lifestyle is essential for these girls to realize their life goals, along with the awareness of opportunities and empowerment needed to encourage them to take the steps necessary to fulfill these goals. As a result, educators, parents and community members have identified the GLOW camp as an effective tool for promoting girls’ development and community and youth development overall through the transfer of knowledge in the short-term and the cultivation of strong role models and positive behavior
change in the long-term.
How is the community the driving force behind the project?
In each of our respective communities, Malagasy counterparts will be directly involved in the selection of the girls to be involved in the camp, and all girls falling within the appropriate age group are encouraged to apply. Interested girls will complete an application that highlights their particular goals and reasons for wanting to participate in the camp. Participants will then be selected through a comprehensive process that involves several stakeholders and are believed to represent the greatest potential for personal development as well as potential to teach and influence other members of the community, particularly youth. Female chaperones from each community will accompany the girls chosen. These women are role models for the girls and can act as mentors for future life decisions, having made connections and received the same trainings during the camp. Both the PCVs and community representatives collaborated to identify priorities for youth development within each community, and camp subjects were designed to address these priorities including both health and life goals. Additionally, PCVs will work with representatives from local organizations and institutions to prepare the camp sessions with the intent to promote learning, discussion and critical thinking among the participants.
Desired outcome of the project:
The desired outcome in the long-term is to empower the camp participants and provide them with the tools necessary to achieve their life goals and to become positive role models capable of encouraging their peers to do the same. In the short-term, 100 young girls will be taught in issues relating to health, career goals and education to encourage their own personal development while building community capacity to address the issues that adolescent girls face.
Please take a look at the brochure I have attached and consider supporting this amazing project!
Follow the link below for more information on how you can make a difference now!

Empowering young girls

The primary objective of this project is to educate adolescent girls about issues related to health, education and life goals through a five-day GLOW, or Girls Leading Our World, camp. We hope to empower participants to lead healthier lives and give them the tools to achieve their life goals related to work and education by learning about opportunities available to them, and in turn teach other girls in their communities about lessons learned. The camp will be held in the capital city of Antananarivo for 100 girls and 20 women chaperones from 20 different communities across multiple regions of Madagascar.

The GLOW curriculum will focus on issues relevant to adolescent girls and specifically leadership development, self-efficacy, goal setting and life planning – including higher education and work. In the short term, we will encourage the girls to reflect on and discuss the subjects addressed during the camp, and then transfer knowledge gained to peer groups in their communities through additional trainings and discussions. In the long term, we hope that the girls will adopt healthy habits and become role models to other individuals in their communities, encouraging behavior change and eventually empowering themselves and others to lead their best possible lives. The community contribution includes supplies to promote a good learning environment for the girls throughout the camp, time donated by chaperones to help the camp run smoothly, and materials donated to facilitate learning in the communities after the camp has ended.

This project has been designed to expand access to education for girls in Madagascar as part of the Let Girls Learn Program. Learn more at letgirlslearn.peacecorps.gov.

 

Please donate to our project!

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/donate/project/national-glow-camp/IMG_1291 (2)

 

 

The Gift of a Smile

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I met Bao Zoma, mother of four and grandmother of seven while taking a bike ride through the countryside. In September 2015 Bao Zoma brought her middle grandchild Sandra up with me to the mission in Tana. Now that Sandra has a beautiful smile, Bao Zoma is driven to find more children in need of new smiles. She has become a spokesperson for Operation Smile in the countryside where radios do not reach and many cannot read the posters that are taped at the health huts. When asked where her motivation to find more patients that suffer from cleft lip and palate comes from, she responds: “My grandchild once suffered from cleft lip, my grandchild Sandra was teased, dropped out of school, and was a shy girl. Now I can’t keep her in the house, she has many friends, and is constantly smiling. She is beautiful. I would like to give that gift, the gift of smiling to others like Sandra.”

Bao Zoma, recently recruited two other patients for the upcoming April Mission here in Madagascar. She walked 8 km, crossed a river and hiked another 2 km, to reach these patients, a young boy by the name of Gino and a young girl named Nordine. I am happy to say they will be joining me on the April Mission. Thank you Bao Zoma, for being not only a spokesperson for Operation Smile but an amazing grandmother.

Counterpart Training

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These women are the HEART and SOUL of the Cultural Center of Hope. It was amazing to be able to have them trained at the recent Peace Corps Counterpart training! They thoroughly enjoyed the accommodations, meeting new friends, and sharing funny stories about their PCV!

Thank you for being the backbone of my project!

Interning at the Maternity Clinic

I have been blessed with the experience to intern at the local maternity clinic! The photos above are actually from a clinic 90 km north of my village. Unfortunately we do not have an ultrasound as of yet, therefore expecting mothers must travel 4 hours north to get an ultrasound. My friend Nasrine and I traveled north to check how far along she was and the position of her baby. She is having a boy! (Actually by the time this post goes up she will have already have given birth!)

I decided to focus my third year on interning, watching, and soaking up information in the local health clinics. I have sat through mother child consultations, helped with vaccines, and will be seeing my first birth this month!