Greetings, I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with some of the Spirit of America scholarship recipients that recently graduated from Community Veterinary Tech program in Maradi, Niger. here. SoA provided scholarships were awarded a year ago in an effort to address those issues directly while simultaneously improving general livelihoods and food security through better herd/livestock health. The graduates were in Ingal, Niger, working on a Spirit of America-supported government livestock vaccination program designed to improve livestock health and food security for the nomadic and pastoral people of Niger and the Sahel. During our conversation, the graduates reflected upon their experiences and the changes in their lives brought about by the scholarships and subsequent educational opportunities. Prior to receiving the SoA scholarship and attending school, Saidi Bassani, who is married with three young children, routinely travelled to Algeria and Libya for work; a dangerous and arduous undertaking. Now he is able to work in and serve his community with his newly developed veterinary skills. This has made daily life much easier for his family and much safer for him and has significantly increased his household income as well. Ahmed Amani Abdul-Habib was a talented student throughout his primary and secondary education and planned to attend college. Unfortunately, he could not afford to continue his schooling. The SoA scholarship allowed him to further his education, but it didn’t come without additional challenges. Living in Maradi while attending school was the first time Ahmed had lived away from home. Fortunately, his family was supportive and “gave [him] the courage to study hard.” Since receiving his vet auxiliary certification, Ahmed is gainfully employed and saving for college. Ahmed plans to attend university in Niger to pursue his doctorate in veterinary medicine. Yusef Aboubacar hoped to join the Army and serve his country. Unfortunately, at 32 he was too old and was unable to enlist. As an orphan with few job prospects, this also made it hard for him to find a wife and start a family in traditional Nigerien culture. Now Yusef is happy to have a career ahead of him where he can do impactful work and earn a decent wage. Yusef told me that “the scholarship was a revolution in my life.” When meeting with some of this year’s scholarship recipients, Yusef counseled them to work hard. “The program is not easy,” he told them, “Dr Edi [the school’s director] will help you, but it will be difficult.” Programs such as this bring tangible benefits to specific individuals, but also help build stronger and more resilient communities, critical in areas such as rural Niger that are vulnerable to violent extremism and radicalization. Your continued support allows Spirit of America to work with our U.S. partners to strengthen communities, increase stability, and ultimately counter radical and violent extremism. Christopher VanJohnson Field Operations Project Manager – AfricaWorking with Nigerien counterparts in the central Agadez region of Niger, a U.S. Army team identified youth unemployment and a lack of financial opportunities as key vulnerabilities and grievances within the nomadic herding tribes in the area. We first told you about this effort
Chris is a US Army veteran having served as an Armor officer with a deployment to Baghdad in 2008-09 and then as a Special Operations Civil Affairs Officer with multiple deployments to Nepal in 2011-12.