Through two generous grants from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis Project for Peace Foundation and the Gelfman International Fund, my partner Princess Aghayere and I were able to launch a pilot summer vacation basketball camp and girls’ empowerment program. We entered into a partnership with SOS Children’s Villages Liberia in order to implement the five-week education and empowerment program which consisted of basketball clinics, personal development workshops, and educational outings. The primary objective of the project was to address obstacles to female education in Liberia such as teenage pregnancy, traditions such as early marriage, poverty, peer pressure, and female disempowerment among others. Our aim was to promote the importance of female education first through personal development workshops, and second, through basketball clinics which would help to boost confidence and morale as well as serve as an encouragement and incentive for girls to stay in school and become confident leaders in their communities.
Before the start of the program, my partner and I arrived a week early in order to take care of logistical matters for the successful implementation of the program. We first helped to renovate the basketball court at the SOS CV location. For the duration of the program, the basketball clinics were implemented every Monday and Wednesday and the four workshops were implemented once a week on Fridays. Participants received basketballs, basketball jerseys, and basketball shoes during the duration of the program. The basketball equipment was donated by the Penn’s Women Basketball team. The participants also received hygiene kits, and books among other giveaways at the culmination of the workshops which focused on topics such as sexual and reproductive health, accessing opportunities, leadership, career goals, and staying focused. 30 adolescent girls attending junior and senior secondary levels from 15 schools around Monrovia partook and benefited from the program which nurtured and enhanced their skills in basketball as well as provided key information and skills to empower them and help them make smart choices.
The project exceeded our expectations in every way possible. I learned that the dual aspect of the project (sports education and personal development through workshops) for empowering young Liberian females proved to be extremely complementary. I strongly believe that without the two components, the project would not have been as successful as it was. The workshops served as a safe space for group learning and open dialogue to occur surrounding sensitive topics such as sexual and reproductive health. Through experience sharing, the girls were able to foster strong relationships with one another and learn from each other as well as from other female leaders who were invited to speak as panelists. The participants were able to learn about the game of basketball and learn and improve upon key skills over the duration of the program. This allowed them to show improvement overtime while learning in a fun environment which fostered teamwork, strength, and sisterhood.
We received widespread support and appreciation from the community and our partner as a result of the strong community engagement we were able to foster. The basketball tournament and the closing ceremony were open to the community to learn more and support the participants in the program. This project gave me firsthand experience into what it would be like to run a nonprofit organization starting from the conception of a potentially impactful idea to the implementation of the idea. I learned that community support and engagement is one of the key aspects for a program like ours to be more impactful. Although this project was a pilot program, my partner and I have decided to apply for P.E.A.C.E to become a 501-C non-profit organization in order to sustain the project and to return to Liberia and other countries to implement similar initiatives for youth, especially adolescent females.