Together for Burkina Faso - Alumni Story

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Together for Burkina Faso - Alumni Story

Kali is a former student (2014) whose life story so far is somewhat unusual.  Born in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in the world and one of 26 children (her father has 5 wives), Kali’s Mum works as a maid in a hotel.  As a girl from a very poor family, Kali was fortunate to be in education in her home country. It was normal for her to join her mother at work after school and at weekends.

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Alumni together for Burkina Faso

In 2007 a Swiss family started lodging in the hotel whilst working on a development project. Kali became good friends with their adopted daughter, Nadika who was born in Sri Lanka.  The two girls often played together and struck up a very close friendship. After two years, the Swiss family moved into a house and Nadika invited Kali for a first night sleepover. She ended up staying for nine months. When the family returned to Switzerland the bonds everybody had created were so strong that they asked if Kali would like to join them. She was delighted to have this opportunity, and after a long period involving many administration procedures, she was able to join them in Switzerland.  Having rarely travelled outside her home town, let alone flying to another country, this was a huge change in Kali’s life.


The family wrote to various International Schools in the Canton of Vaud, and Dr. Eigenbrot, Principal at the time, agreed that Kali could join St. George’s on a scholarship.  In September 2009, aged 13, Kali entered Y9 as a weekly boarder.  She spoke no English and hardly any French.  Initially, she felt lost in her new environment and was full of regret and keen to return to Africa. Her English teachers, Ms Schibler & Ms Veitch provided invaluable support in helping Kali learn the language and within 6 months, she was as much a St George’s student as anyone else. When in year 11 and as a member of Diana House, Kali chose to set up a CAS project to help students back in her homeland. Class sizes often exceed 100 students and school supplies were very limited.  With her English class & CAS project, Kali was able to create a grassroots association called “Together for Burkina Faso”.  She collected pens, pencils, books, gifts and sent them back to her old school in Souli.


Following the success of helping the students, Kali undertook a second project to build a well as the nearest water supply was a 5km walk away.  Fundraising began in earnest by way of school bake sales and Kali encouraged the women in Burkina Faso to make bracelets which were sent back to her at St George’s. In turn, the sale of these to students helped raise more funds. Since then, and following more fundraising “Together for Burkina Faso” has enabled the purchase of more classroom materials and the repair of a leaking roof of the school building. The culture in Burkina Faso is very different to the western world.  A woman’s place in society is precarious and there are very limited opportunities for them to make even a minimum livelihood. And yet it is often the women who keep the families going. Unfortunately, many of the men show little concern for the children’s education, especially the girls.  There is no women’s empowerment and independence.

Together for Burkina Faso

 

Kali’s inspiration was to create an association with the stated objectives and goals of supporting poor children and women with a special focus on education. One key project has been to offer small-scale grants to women to enable them to get started with grassroots entrepreneurial activities. These could be as simple as setting up a stall by the side of the road to sell fresh water. Kali knows that if mothers can make a livelihood they’ll then invest it in their children’s wellbeing – in nutrition, healthcare, and education. 10 projects are selected each year with the women each receiving CHF 50 (equivalent to CFA Fr 30,000) as a kick-starter grant. These are households that receive no other help - as the poorest of the poor they rarely have access to any form of financial support, not even micro loans.


Some of the profits are used to help other women get set up in business on the same basis.  Kali has a contact back home who supports the women by coaching them to become entrepreneurs and to provide assistance on the administrative front – many of the women do not read and write. These grants have been used to buy equipment and supplies to start street food stalls, to buy a second-hand fridge and cool box in order to sell cold drinks, to buy a small stock of fabrics to make clothes to sell at markets and to set-up a hair braiding service. Unfortunately, due to the increase in terrorism and instability in the region the project has been on hold since 2019. This summer Kali will finalise the arrangements of a new project supporting women’s commercial initiatives inside an indoor market. Sadly, abductions in the region, especially of women have increased and so the protection of a walled market is essential.


Kali’s Mother is extremely proud of her achievements, and whilst initially heartbroken when her daughter left home aged 13, she knew that she would be a child of the future.  They speak once a week and Kali returns home most years. After graduating from St. George’s in 2014, Kali earned both a Bachelors and Masters in International Relations from the Geneva Business School (GBS).  She has since been working as Office Manager & Registration officer at GBS and is now looking for opportunities relating to International Relations.
 
Thanks very much to Kali for her time and relaying her wonderful story.  We wish her the best of luck in both her career and the Association for “Together for Burkina Faso.”

School supplies Burkina Faso