Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Project Education: Scholarships that Transform Lives

By Laura Hopps

Mennonite Central Committee Volunteer Greta Tom has been busy interviewing the over 200 scholarships students of the Center to match their profiles with supporters from the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Cincinnati. In addition to scholarships are for internal courses, there are 150 external scholarships to help young people attend primary and secondary school, as well as university. The following is an interview with Greta in which she reflects on the stories of scholarship students:

“I have really enjoyed being involved in Project Education because it has given me the opportunity to get to know people in the community and to hear their stories,” she said. “Courses at the Center provide people with skills to help them earn income on their own. Women sell cakes from their homes or set up a natural medicine clinic, which helps to supplement their income.”

“Among external scholarship students,” she said, “I have seen how investing in education, in giving young people opportunities and promoting their self-esteem can help prevent them from following in their parents footsteps.” The parents of many scholarship students never had the chance to study and now work selling bread and other goods in the street or other low-paying, “informal sector,” jobs. Investing in the scholarship students’ education opens opportunities for them to have more secure futures, to reach their dreams of becoming teachers, doctors, artists, psychologists, anthropologists, and other professions.

“Equally important as the practical skills they gain,” noted Greta, “ is the therapeutic nature of many of the courses. Many people (adults as well as children) have difficult home lives, and to have a few hours a week to learn painting or handicrafts helps them to release stress and express themselves creatively in a positive environment.”

The Center recognizes that education must be integral—that students come not only to learn practical skills, but to explore their own abilities and creativity, to increase their self-esteem, to share with others in a positive environment and discover their human rights.

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