By Garmai Gayflor (YES 2015-2016, Liberia, placed by AYUSA in Spanaway, WA)
My name is Garmai Gayflor, and my YES exchange year shaped me into the responsible young woman I am today. Being a cultural ambassador of my country to the United States played a significant role in my sense of human connection and appreciation for diversity. I learned how to give back to my community and be a problem solver.
Returning home as a cultural ambassador and a peer educator, I applied for a YES Alumni Grant to address some of the issues young women face in Liberia. Due to a lack of awareness in rural areas, childbearing is regarded as a higher priority than education. As a female and an educator, I want to teach vulnerable teenage girls about the dangers of adolescent pregnancy and early childbirth, as well as the importance of education.
The Promoting Teenage Education project taught 50 female teens from several different schools in Salayea about preventing teenage pregnancy; early childbearing, and its consequences; sexual and reproductive health for young people; traditional education versus western education; and creative thinking and innovation.
Facilitators were creative with their lessons and brought fun games and activities to the classroom to enhance the students’ learning experience. From the participants’ results and the feedback from the schools and project staff, we are confident that our participants are well-informed and prepared to take the lead on influencing their peers for a better future and a better nation.
The project was a great success. Surveys and interviews with the participants showed that much of this was new information, often due to their parents' traditional beliefs.
One participant shared: “The issue of sexual and reproductive health had always been discussed secretively in my home, like something only a mother and father can discuss and children are not allowed to hear. But with the knowledge I gained from this training, I can prevent myself from getting pregnant because I know my rights regarding sexual and reproductive health, and I will also be able to share the knowledge with my peers.”
With this first YES Alumni Grant project, my leadership abilities have grown, and my sense of connection to my community has expanded. I have an increased interest in community service and influencing young women in my country. As a project team full of committed educators, we have also realized that creativity and teamwork are essential in resolving any community issue. Our team worked tirelessly to ensure these students received the training they needed to reach their full potential.
Thank you to the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), the YES program, American Councils for International Education, my placement organization AYUSA, iEARN-Liberia, the YES alumni network in Liberia, the Salayea District Education Officer, the City Mayor, and the Global Transformers-Liberia team for making this project a reality.