Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Help Benet go to college!

This is an initiative started by my fellow hard-working Peace Corps Volunteers who worked in Chibuto from 2009-2011. The most rewarding work we did was youth development programs. We discovered some incredibly gifted youth who had not been given much opportunity, but whom were willing to work hard to change their own lives for the better despite the lack of opportunities. And it is paying off for a few lucky ones like Benet...read below to see how you can help him go to college. Benet became involved in the youth programs when I had about 6 months of service left and I was moved to tears when I received this update about how well he has been doing for himself.

Hi Everyone!

Please take a moment to read the letter below about the scholarship
(Todos Pelos Estudos) that Alycia and I are starting in Chibuto,
Mozambique. I also encourage you to forward this to family and


I’d like to introduce you to Bénet André Mutuque. In 2011, Bénet
graduated 12th grade from Escola Secundária de Chibuto in Gaza
province, Mozambique. Bénet is an exceptional student, not only for
his academic achievement but for his self-starter motivation,
community involvement, and unwavering positive attitude.

Mid-way through his senior year, I asked Bénet what he wanted to do
when he graduated. Without hesitation, he said he wanted to go to
University. With a strong interest in technical drawing and art, he
wants to someday be an architect. Impressed with his foresight and
planning, I asked him if he would be able to accomplish this goal.
Unfortunately, he answered that the cost of post-secondary education
prohibited him from doing so. Bénet lives with his sister and
brother-in-law who had the means to support him through secondary
school, but would not be able to do so through University.

The cost for a student to attend University for 1-year is only 735
USD, which includes all costs for matriculation and exams as well as
housing. I had only to think about this for a moment before realizing
that as a returned Peace Corps volunteer and a proponent of education,
I (and by extension, you) could make a real difference in this
student’s life.

With the promise of a scholarship, Bénet has passed his entrance exams
and secured a spot at a University where he will study to be a teacher
for art/technical drawing. In a country with a severe shortage of
teachers, this is a noble endeavor, and we will do everything we can
to support Bénet and other students in the future in their pursuit of
higher education.

--How can you help?--

While we are working to establish this program as a non-profit to
allow for tax deductible donations, we have not yet achieved that
status (we need to find ourselves a lawyer!). In the meantime, we are
reaching out to family and friends to make small donations. Please
forward this to anyone and everyone; the link below will allow you to
donate directly to our scholarship through a PayPal account. Anything,
even $1 helps. All donations will go directly towards the scholarship;
the only administrative costs are those associated with PayPal
payments and the bank fee to wire funds to Mozambique.


--Who is Bénet?--

The first time I met Bénet, he showed up in our REDES room (a room
dedicated to an extracurricular program supporting girls in education,
development, and health) with an idea. Bénet loves to draw, and he
wanted to organize an art show with pieces that showcase women’s
empowerment and healthy life choices. And that was just the start,
throughout my two years in Chibuto, Bénet continuously participated
and led activities and events in the school, the community, and even
at provincial and national events.

In 2010, Bénet participated in an entrepreneurship course that
culminated in a competition to win funding to start a small business.
While the judges did not select Bénet’s business proposal, to raise
and sell chickens, he didn’t give up. He went on to submit his
proposal to an organization based in Portugal, Primeiro Passo, that
supports small business development projects that benefit both the
individual and the larger community. With funding from Primeiro Passo,
Bénet implemented his plan and has been operating his chicken business
ever since!

Bénet particularly drew our attention with dedication to peer
education and raising public awareness about pertinent health issues.
As an active participant and leader in a group called Geração BIZ,
Bénet trained as an Activista (an individual who is educated in health
topics from reproductive health to HIV). He then went out into his
community and to his fellow students to educate and support his peers.

--The Mozambican School System--

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the school system in
Mozambique, completing the 12th grade and passing the national exams,
is a major accomplishment. Secondary school in Mozambique is split
into two cycles, 8th-10th grade and 11th-12th grade. Only a small
group of motivated students are lucky enough to have the opportunity
to continue their education beyond the 10th grade, and even fewer
still have the opportunity for higher education. Upon entering the
11th grade, students choose an academic focus, either humanities or
science, and take core curriculum classes such as Math and Language
Arts as well as classes specific to their academic track. While
8th-10th grade curriculums are by no means easy, the 11th and 12th
grade curriculums are extremely difficult and often comparable to the
AP classes we are accustomed to in the US. While completing the 11th
and 12th grade is an achievement in itself, students are additionally
required to pass very difficult national exams to receive a diploma.

Beyond the 12th grade, opportunities for students are limited,
especially in the rural areas of Mozambique. While there are a number
of universities, technical institutions, and teacher training
institutes, open spaces are limited, costs are high, and often an
inside connection is needed to secure a spot. The best students from
rural areas compete with students from the capitol cities for these
spots, and often times logistical, financial, and academic
circumstances award the opportunities to the city students. Seeing
these challenges first hand, and knowing the potential of the best
students from the rural schools, Alycia and I wanted to do something
to provide an opportunity to motivated and high performing students
who would otherwise not have the means to attend University. We
decided to start a scholarship to be awarded to a student graduating
from Escola Secundária de Chibuto. Initially the scholarship will be
awarded to one student at a time and will cover the costs associated
with attending university for up to 4 years; eventually, with enough
fundraising, we would like to award one scholarship per year.


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