Fifteen years ago, School-to-School International was created to realize a dream:
If we provided kids with support in education, health, and community engagement simultaneously, they could thrive in their early years and thus have a greater chance at success in life.
We started in Guinea, West Africa in 2002, in schools most of us would barely recognize: dilapidated buildings, overcrowded classrooms, broken furniture, few books, and no electricity, water, toilets, or food. Teachers came and went, many holding second jobs to make ends meet. Students struggled to access and engage in their education.
Dear School-to-School International supporters:
Three years ago, I met a fourth-grade student named Fatoumata Diouf at STS’s partner school in Filimia in the Boke region of western Guinea. She was an ideal candidate for the girls’ scholarship program. In addition to meeting all the scholarship criteria, Fatoumata showed exceptional promise and enthusiasm for learning while also facing a particularly difficult home life. Fatoumata is one of these special cases.
Dear Girls of Guinea,
I write to thank and congratulate you and your families for your commitment to continuing your education and learning.
I know that school itself can be challenging, and that finding time and space to do your homework and study for exams requires hard work and creativity every single day. Finding the money to pay for school fees or uniforms can make enrolling and staying in school difficult. Finding the time to do your homework can be difficult when you need to take care of your brothers and sisters or when there’s housework that needs to get done.
Dear STS Supporters,
As a member of the STS Board of Directors, I have a special place in my heart for education and providing opportunities for youth who are so often overlooked. My passion stems both from my experiences as the son of an English teacher and from my experiences teaching high school English as a Peace Corps volunteer in Lezha, Albania.
I had the privilege of teaching some amazing, highly motivated students who were so eager to learn English from a native speaker. My experience was challenging, yet so rewarding. I recall outdated methodologies that promoted rote memorization over free flowing conversation, students huddling together in the winter in unheated classrooms and grading tests by candlelight during power outages. Those experiences have in part shaped who I am today. They’ve given me an immense appreciation for education and the impact it has on our children.
Spending money on curriculum development and teacher training is an ineffective way to improve outcomes if students are regularly ill from drinking unsafe water.
A recent study published by an English university underscores the importance of students having access to clean water. Researchers investigated whether giving clean water to select schools in Cambodia boosted attendance rates. As this article reveals, the results were undeniable. The research found that during the dry season, “children without access to clean water were about 2.5 times more likely to be absent from school than children where water was provided.”
Our Whole Child Model brings together the critical resources children need to learn and stay healthy so they can succeed in school. To date, School-to-School International has reached over 8,000 girls and boys, over 300 teachers, and thousands of parents and community members in Guinea with its integrated package of support focusing on education, health, and engagement.
More than 10 years ago, the borehole dried up at the school in the Guinean village of Wonkifong. Whenever students got thirsty, they had to leave class to fetch water.
Residents of Limbita used to drink tainted water from traditional wells because they had no access to clean water. Students missed class because they suffered from diarrhea, cholera, and other waterborne diseases.
Water, sanitation, and health are central components of a successful school. As part of our holistic Whole Child Model, School-to-School International ensures that students have access to clean water and sanitation facilities at their schools and that communities are empowered to maintain them. The wells and latrines we have helped to build have transformed schools in Wonkifong, Limbita, and other villages.
As we remember Nelson Mandela, let’s recall one of his greatest quotes: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” With our holistic Whole Child Model, School-to-School International is doing its part in arming children with the knowledge they need to succeed.
“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.” — Pierre Corneille, French playwright
With the holiday season approaching, you may soon begin your annual hunt. You may scour catalogs and websites. You may sift through retail store racks and shelves.
Your elusive goal: To find the ideal gift. Something thoughtful. Something personal. Something memorable.
The gift of education fits all of the criteria. You know you are making a difference. Your gift will touch the heart of your loved ones and enrich a child’s mind.