For more than twelve years, Nations in Guyana, South America, has partnered with ABE offering ABE Level 4 or Level 5 Diploma courses. But about 18 months ago Nations expanded its field of vision when Dr O’Toole, the Director of Nations, had the opportunity to travel to The Gambia in West Africa and to Turkey to explore new collaborations and the opportunity to use education to make a positive difference to people's lives.
Through financial support from people around the world, Nations was able to enrol young people from these countries on either ABE Level 4 or 5. The lecturers and administrators at Nations gave their time and support pro bono. The 6th Formers at Nations raised a significant portion of the funds required for the scholarships. Steffi Sinclair, a member of the 6th Form student Council commented, "At Nations we are constantly reminded that it is our responsibility to do our part for humanity as a whole….we must put service over self, if we help a few the hope is that they, in turn, use what they know to help others. We, as the students of today are the leaders of tomorrow and world events each day show us the need for strong moral leaders.” Dr O’Toole, the Director of Nations added, "The fund-raising efforts by the students at Nations are helping us to become truly a school of nations."
Helping refugees access education
In Turkey Dr O’Toole met a group of 90 refugees who were forced to flee their native home to escape deadly persecution. Many had been in Turkey for as long as seven years as they tried to rebuild their lives. As one young woman, Ladan Mostaghim, explains, "I live in Turkey as a Bahá’í refugee since 2014. In my country, Iran, education at university is forbidden for Bahá’ís. I have left Iran, and I am living in a difficult situation in Turkey for the past seven years, and I am still waiting for the approval and permission to go to another country."
One of the refugees from Turkey wrote, “I’m Kimia Foroghi, a 23 years old refugee in Turkey. Going to university is a dream for most of us here as refugees. I have now lived in Turkey for about seven years. For more than half of that time I have been waiting on permission to leave for the USA. You can’t imagine how much it’s hard, and planning for the future isn’t easy. My life is still in suspense but the ABE programme has helped me to have more hope for my future and it’s helped me to be educated. Thank you so much.”
Another of the refugees in Turkey, Omid Ettehadi, said, “One of the benefits of the scholarship is that it helps me to continue my education and begin to achieve my goals. In my religion we are taught that education is of great importance, but in my country, simply because of my religion we are not allowed to attend university. These scholarships to study the ABE courses have helped many of us a lot. This ABE course offers me the possibility of a suitable job after graduation. This scholarship has also given me the opportunity to develop my personality and put myself on the path to progress and has allowed me to enter the ABE programme and I am very grateful for that."
Supporting girls in The Gambia to reach their potential
The Gambia is one of the poorest countries in Africa, but it is also home to a remarkable NGO, Starfish International, that works with young women from humble backgrounds and assists them to develop their potential in a whole range of areas. The 6th Form Student Council organized a gala dinner to raise money for the scholarships. The dinner included a sale of art-work from the students in The Gambia. One of the supporters of the scholarship programme, Dr Teressa Langness, the President of the NGO, Full Circle Learning in the USA commented, “The goal is to help young students embrace their role as change agents, to expand their characters, develop their academic excellence and peacemaking skills in service to the global human family.”
Awa Ceesay shared, "I am a mentor at Starfish International, an NGO in the Gambia, and an ABE student. Business is one of the things I grew up doing at Starfish, which aided me to be among the lucky ABE students. I am grateful to Nations for their great partnership with Starfish. Being an ABE student has helped me in my daily activities. I am hoping to do a creative business in the future so the lectures are grooming me for that. In the meantime, I have been using the skills and knowledge I gain from the classes to undertake a small business. I have also been using the skills to guide my own students in business. Thank you for the opportunity you offered me and my fellows."
Another ABE student in The Gambia commented, "My name is Isatou Sonko. I am a mentor at Starfish International and part of The Gambia ABE students. I am really grateful to be part of those that passed the ABE Level 2 and I was so excited that I was certified. I have learned a lot and I am hoping to learn more in the upcoming level too. Part of the things I did after my Level 2 course, was to start a business and I was able to get a lot of profit and I was proud of myself. Thank you for partnering with Starfish International and thank you for providing me with this opportunity."
Awa Cham added, "I am a Starfish International Mentor in The Gambia. The ABE programme came into my life at a moment when I needed it the most. So far, my experience with the ABE programme has been nothing but absolutely amazing. Through this programme, I have been able to complete the ABE Level 2 course with a Merit Pass, and I received my certificate last December, 2020. Doing this second course has helped expand my understanding of how to start up my own business and some of the important elements I need to know about running a business. Right now, I am doing the Level 4 course, and I am looking forward to learning so much more. I believe this experience will not only give me a certificate but the skills and tools I can use in other aspects of my life. I would like to thank the School of Nations in Guyana, Starfish International and ABE for opening up their doors to youth like me."
A young lady from The Gambia said, "I am Haddy Gaye. I am 22-year-old and a Starfish International Mentor. I have a lot of passion for Technology, Business, and Mathematics. ABE has been the first institution, through Starfish International, to offer me a certification programme through a scholarship. When I graduated from high school, one of my worries was, not being able to further my education due to all the challenges I was facing in my community, including financial problems to pay for my education. This opportunity to study an ABE Level 4 course has motivated me to continue doing my best. It has shown me that hard work always pays off. With the knowledge I am getting, I believe my ABE business diploma will make a huge difference in my life and that of my community. Business is one of the great ways to serve my community, and I also think I can provide for so many of my country's needs through business. I am so grateful to be one of the beneficiaries of this opportunity. Being the first girl in my family to graduate from high school means a lot to me, and having opportunities like this make me believe in myself even more. Thank you so much ABE, Starfish International and Nations Guyana for being a part of my life as I change my story to a better version each day.
Dr O'Toole concluded, "All of this was only possible because of the support of a small group of persons in the UK, Guyana, Canada and the USA who provide invaluable scholarship support to open these doors for Awa, Omid, Kimia and 40 others. Amidst the chaos of these days, it shows what pure deeds can achieve. Nor could it have been achieved without the commitment, flexibility and support of ABE – a true team effort.”