By Fatima Umar (YES 2017-2018, Nigeria, placed by YFU-USA in Bay Village, OH)
During my stay in the U.S., I learned valuable lessons about volunteering and giving back to my community. One issue I am passionate about is providing underserved youth with entrepreneurial opportunities that will provide income and improve their standard of living, so I applied for a YES Alumni Grant to teach practical skills to youth in my community in Kano, Nigeria.
Almajiri children, some as young as five years old, are sent to the cities from rural areas for Islamic education. Instead of receiving education, many are exploited, abandoned, and left homeless, begging in the streets. These children were part of my project’s target beneficiaries along with young girls in underserved communities with limited opportunities. These young girls are instead burdened with household chores or early marriage. My project aimed to provide them with skills needed to generate a dependable source of income. Lack of funds and knowledge were the primary barriers to pursuing entrepreneurship.
The project engaged over 50 participants for a five-week training program in shoe and pastry-making in July and August 2023. Through the pastry-making training, participants learned how to make cakes, samosa, spring rolls, doughnuts, and meat pies. I showed them how to bake using a stovetop since they did not have access to conventional ovens. Another group of participants learned how to make shoes, at first practicing the design and creation with cardboard, then graduating to using actual imitation leather. They were fast learners!
Our participants are already putting their skills to use. First, every participant has been tasked with sharing their newfound skills with at least five of their peers. Also, five of the pastry-workshop participants are already selling products and generating income for themselves. And five of our shoe-making participants have been asked to replicate the training for youth at an orphanage. We arranged with project’s partner organization, GGI Nigeria, to have the Almajirai children continue developing their skills at the GGI office since most of them are homeless. This will enable us to keep track of the project’s success.
I would like to thank the YES program for giving me the opportunity to share my passion with my community. Thank you to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for sponsoring this project. Thanks to my amazing team members, partner organizations, and volunteers for all their hard work.