A Horsham resident of has set her aspirations beyond the borders of Sussex by transforming young people’s lives in West Africa.
Veronique Cowan and co-founder, Savina Geerinckx, started the charity Aspyre Africa in September 2014 after witnessing how little was being done for vulnerable teenagers in Senegal.
Veronique, who has two children herself, said: “These teenagers often fall into informal, low-skilled jobs where they become increasingly vulnerable. This is why many young Senegalese men flee to Europe.”
The charity capitalises on the development of agriculture in the northern region of Senegal by sponsoring young people, many who have suffered from abuse, to go to agricultural college. Here, they are equipped with the skills to get a job or even, start their own farming business.
In Senegal, it is common for young boys at the age of 7 to be sent to a Koranic school, where they only study the Koran. To pay for their keep and tuition, they are forced to beg on the streets, exposing them to abuse and mistreatment.
Aspyre Africa is working to change all of this by working with local Koranic teachers to send their students to a vocational farming college for three days of their schooling week.
Veronique first became impassioned to fight child poverty after visiting her parents’ home in Togo. She said: “It suddenly dawned on me that even if I can make just a small contribution in my lifetime, then that’s what I want to do.”
Whilst the programme is only in its testing stage, if successful, it will become a blueprint model for transforming the lives of teenagers all over Africa. For more information visit www.aspyreafrica.org
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