Your investment goes so much further than you can imagine. Here are 10 things you might not know about our work and how your donations make such a deep impact.
1. Vision for Major Change
First and foremost, we seek to bring hope to each vulnerable and impoverished youth in our program, supporting and guiding them to become empowered, educated, innovative, critically thinking, and responsible citizens. Our goal is to create change in Kafue and Zambia at large through each individual student by inspiring them to be change agents themselves. In fact, our Alumni Program provides opportunities for graduates to give back to the organization, younger members, and society.
With limited resources, we already have a strong track record of lifting our most promising students out of poverty. This is thanks to the dedication and passion of our team who have grown the organization to be highly effective, efficient, and impactful.
Our next step is to build a state-of-the art facility in Kafue that is custom designed to better facilitate the quality of our programs. As a result of our increased impact, we plan to have a role in the reform of the Zambian education system and policy structures in an effort to steer it away from the current and shift toward more progressive and higher impact approaches and standards that we practice ourselves.
2. Young Men for Gender Equality
Women’s economic empowerment is trendy in the world of development, particularly over the past few years, from the UN to Davos to Washington. Counter to the idea that women’s empowerment means a sole focus on women alone, UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ said earlier this year, “We need all men to stand up for women’s empowerment. Our world needs more women leaders. And our world needs more men standing up for gender equality.”
From the beginning, we have always had a great concern for promoting opportunities for Zambian women and girls and ensuring that they are equal participants in the planning, operation, and benefits of programming. A key goal has been to build the leadership of female staff and students, empowering them to be strong, vocal women, and break the mold in a society that demands their submission.
At the same time, we have a strong focus on empowering our young men through programs focused on equality between women and men as partners, reproductive and health rights, and elimination of gender discrimination and violence. We are proud to maintain a 50-50 ratio of male to female student beneficiaries.
3. Calorie Counter
According to National Geographic, “Zambia's daily food supply is the lowest in the world. Inadequate production plays a large role in food insecurity there." Zambia’s average calorie intake is 1870 compared to the United States on top with 3729 calories.
Education is impossible on a hungry stomach. We are working hard to combat hunger through a Nutrition Program, providing meals averaging 1,500 calories to over 100 students every school day. Thanks to this program, student attendance at school has increased and performance improved. Benefits go beyond feeding by promoting nutrition and healthy living.
4. We Know Every single student
Ask any one of our students who their role model is and the most likely answer is:
a) Madam Lu Lu (Extracurricular Programs Manager)
b) Mr. Fred (Academic Programs Manager)
c) Momma Mario (AEP Visionary and Board Member)
d) JA (short for Julie-Anne, Founder and Executive Director of AEP)
Why? Because our staff and volunteers go far beyond just facilitating our programs and youth center in Kafue, Zambia. Everyone is invested in the wellbeing and growth of each student.
How do we make sure the students are as invested as we are? A lot of work goes into selecting our scholarship recipients… In fact, six months of evaluation takes place before scholarship donors receive a thank you letter in their mailbox.
We do not believe in investing in strangers. To be awarded a scholarship, students must be active members of the youth center in Kafue, taking advantage of the resources provided, and taking part in the clubs and activities. They must also be vulnerable and otherwise would not be able to attend school if they did not receive a scholarship. This is to ensure that students at most risk for dropping out are given the opportunity to pursue their education.
Six months before the new school year starts, students have the opportunity to apply for a scholarship and are interviewed by the center’s staff. Home visits are then conducted for each of the student applicants to verify status as an orphan or vulnerable.
5. Education for All
Cheshire Homes Society of Zambia estimates that nearly half of children with special needs in Zambia have never been to school. In 2012, Zambia only had 15 schools offering special education.
Despite our mission to help the most vulnerable youth, we have been limited in our outreach to students with special needs due to the current youth center’s location and lack of accessibility.
We are now proud to partner with Twatasha Community School, the only school in Kafue providing special education and inclusive education.
6. Staying Positive
AVERT estimates that 12.4% of Zambians ages 15 to 49 are HIV-positive. 85,000 children are estimated to be living with HIV, alongside 380,000 children orphaned by AIDS. Kafue is not an exception to these estimates, nor are our students and their families.
We do far more than just track the number of HIV-positive students in our program; we promote healthy, positive, and productive living. We help our HIV-positive students embrace their lives to the fullest. The youth center’s staff provides extra support through counseling and close health monitoring.
For all students, regular programs focus on HIV infection prevention for youth and breaking the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS.
7. No Teen Moms Here
Zambia’s Demographic and Health Survey (2013-2014) found that 29% of girls age 15 to 19 in Zambia are already mothers. ”Urban areas” such has Kafue have a 20% teenage pregnancy rate.
We started fighting the pregnancy trend early on and have less than 2% of our female students becoming pregnant each year. Our scholarships relieve economic burden for families, making them less likely to force their girls into prostitution or early marriage.
Weekly Girl Talks focus on sexual education, pregnancy, eliminating HIV discrimination, and gender-based violence. We work hard to empower the youth center’s girls to effectively refuse sexual overtures and, should they choose to be sexually active, to insist on use of condoms and protect themselves with birth control.
8. Thought Leaders in the Making
In 2016, the United Nations Population Fund estimated that 4.8 million Zambians were young people aged 15-35 (36.7% of Zambia’s population). The future of the country literally lies in their hands as the upcoming innovators, creators, builders and leaders.
Leadership development is a key component to our work. We pride ourselves on the fact that programs were developed by the youth themselves and directly respond to the needs they raised. During the early days of the youth center, students debated and then voted to decide whether condoms should be distributed…today condoms are always available. More recently the girls started a club called One Up for Girl Power which meets weekly to discuss self-esteem, aspirations and constraints, and helps them develop strategies for achieving their personal dreams.
We not only seek to create Zambian leaders, but thought leaders in their areas of interest, pushing boundaries and promoting change. And we are already seeing students in action. University graduate Febby Choombe wants to change the education landscape for students with special needs. Nursing college graduate Mirriam Mambwe wants to change the way women have access to reproductive health. And university student Bruno Sichone recently completed a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Centre course in entrepreneurship.
9. Long-term Impact, Deeper Change
In 2012, UNESCO estimated that less than 4% of Zambian high school graduates would enroll in tertiary education.
Today, we support about 30% of our high school graduates with a college or vocational training scholarship. Alumni of these programs are not only changing the poverty trajectory of their families, but of their community as well.
We do not want to stop here. We seek to increase student success rates by investing more time and resources into each individual student. Our goal is to have a 100% passing rate for our high school students and provide each student an opportunity post-high school either through college or vocational training. Our goal is to have each individual student lifted out of poverty so that the community as a whole can transform.
10. Transparency & Accountability
Eugenia Lee, a social impact ethnographer, explains in the Guardian, “A briefcase NGO exists, metaphorically or literally, inside a briefcase. It may have well-written proposals and access to western donors but for one reason or another, any funding it receives for programmes goes into the pockets of those running the NGO.”
We are far from a briefcase NGO. Over the past ten years, we have raised and over $1,000,000 for our local programs. We have developed proven systems for transparent financial distribution and efficient and effect use of this funding. We have dedicated and experienced Board of Directors and Executive Directors both in the United States and Zambia.
Most importantly, we work hand-in-hand with local community leaders and the youth themselves to develop effective educational programs that are combined with valuable local cultural and community assets to create an impactful model that bolsters education and changes lives.