Photo: YES '16 alumni with the U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, John Hoover, at the U.S. Embassy in Freetown; Joseph Kebbie is far left, Hawa Yokie is in the pink dress, and John Kpaka is far right.
By Joseph Kebbie, YES 2015-2016, Sierra Leone, hosted by ACES in Oregon City, OH
I think it’s important for people out there to know what young minds like us are capable of doing.
Last month, when I got back to Sierra Leone in June 2016, I teamed up with my fellow YES ’16 alumni, Hawa Dominica Yokie (hosted by PAX in Hutchinson, KS) and John Kpaka (hosted by AFS in Rochester, NY) to enter a project challenge from the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The challenge asked U.S. State Department Exchange Alumni to submit their ideas for projects to help improve environmental education or girls' leadership skills. I am more than thrilled to share with you that the Embassy selected our project to receive $10,000 (Le60,000,000)!
Our project, which we named, "Catch them Young," aims to enhance girls' education and leadership opportunities in Sierra Leone through using STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics). In Sierra Leone, there continues to be an eroneous stereotype that STEM fields are mostly for boys and that young girls cannot understand STEM subjects. Through Catch them Young, we hope to disprove this stereotype and empower girls by teaching girls ages 3-6 basic STEM concepts.
We will start the project this summer in the cities of Bo and Kenema, and will continue working with the girls for the next six months. We hope that by teaching girls these skills in a fun, hands-on way at a young age, they will be more likely to continue pursuing these fields in the future.
We wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to the U.S. Embassy in Freetown, Sierra Leone for opening this door of opportunity to us and giving us a boost to help give back to our communities. We are also especially grateful to Mahmoud S Javombo, who has mentored us throughout the application process.
Our team may not know all the answers to the challenges that our country faces, but today, with this project, our team feels confident because we've identified a problem, wrapped our heads around it, and have found a path to a solution.
We are looking forward to working with organizations and individuals who are also passionate about promoting girls' education. We are hopeful to work with schools around the world, and especially in the U.S.
Like I mentioned in June when I was privileged enough to give a speech at the U.S. Department of State, "Our amazing YES year may have come to an end, but the incredible experience of being a YES alumni has just begun."