Sarah Hayes ’09 was recently featured in an article about the African Education Program (AEP), a non-profit organization formed by high school classmates and which she became co-president of during her senior year. Since its inception in 2005, AEP has, according to the article, “aided the education of hundreds of students in Kafue, Zambia.”
The organization’s outreach efforts include sponsorship of students to continue to attend elementary school, the construction of a youth center and hosting of breakfast for 50 or more students each day. The group plans to expand its efforts to include HIV/AIDS education, perhaps the construction of a boarding house for students and continued sponsorship of grade school students.
According to the article, Hayes is “working on developing a leadership program, modeled after one that she saw at her alma mater Hobart and William Smith Colleges, at the youth center.”
It quotes her, “These kids have so much potential to be influential in the community.”
Hayes was a member of the Herons soccer team during her first year. She earned her B.A. in architectural studies from William Smith College and minored in African studies and English.
The article notes she “plans on going to graduate school for architecture. She hopes to be able to use her knowledge as an architect to design a new center in Zambia.”
The full story about AEP follows.
Main Line Suburban Life
Local organization works to educate students in Africa
Caroline Goldstein • January 6, 2010
Giving African students the opportunity to learn – that was the vision of a group of high-school students back in 2005. Today their dream is the African Education Program, a nonprofit organization that has aided the education of hundreds of students in Kafue, Zambia.
Hillary Bridges, Julie-Anne Savarit-Cosenza and Christian Mark founded the African Education Program, or AEP, in 2005 during their sophomore year at Radnor High School. Shortly after the program’s inception, Mark left the organization and Sarah Hayes, who was in the same class at Radnor, became a co-president.
A major aspect of AEP is its sponsorships for students in Zambia to attend grade school. In Zambia, after the seventh grade, tuition is required even for a public education. Many students can no longer attend due to the cost, which is about $140 per year.
The sponsorships that AEP provides allow many of these students, who otherwise would have had to end their education, to continue to attend classes.
AEP also offers programs for students in all grades who cannot attend school for various reasons, such as inability to pay for uniforms or lack of space in the schools.
This year there were 185 applicants for sponsorships and only 100 available spots, said Marie-Odile Savarit, chairperson of AEP and mother of founder Julie-Anne Savarit-Cosenza.
“It’s a very, very tough decision,” Savarit said.
The money from the sponsorships comes from donations to the organization. Donors can choose a student, many of whom have lost one or both parents, to sponsor.
“The sponsorships allow a connection with their community and our community,” Savarit said.
AEP has progressed in its efforts since 2005. The organization’s first project was sending 7,000 books and several computers to Kafue.
In 2009 AEP was able to send 100 students to school. Last year 10 former AEP sponsorship recipients attended college.
The idea for the organization came after Bridges and Mark viewed a film about South Africa and education.
In their effort to begin this organization, AEP contacted Radnor Soccer Club coach David Chalikulima. Chalikulima, a native of Zambia, had a brother, Amos, living in Kafue, and the group then contacted Amos about making that town the beneficiary. The Youth Centre that AEP built in Kafue is named in memory of Amos, who passed away a few years ago.
One of the largest projects AEP sponsors is the Amos Youth Centre, which AEP founded in 2006. The center allows the students a place to study, engage in activities with their peers and get a meal.
“It’s a safe haven for them,” Savarit said.
The meal program AEP created is called “The Breakfast Club.” The club provides about 50 meals a day to students who may not otherwise have anything to eat. This one meal offers incredible benefits to the students’ education.
“What we see is the kids going to school a lot more,” Savarit said.
As well as educational advantages, a meal is crucial for the students who are HIV-positive or have AIDS in order for them to tolerate their medicine.
HIV/AIDS is a problem that AEP hopes to raise awareness about through programs for the students at the Amos Youth Centre.
The stigma associated with the illness is also something Savarit hopes to combat. One of Savarit’s most memorable stories is of a boy, Raymond, who is HIV-positive.
When Savarit first met Raymond while interviewing him for a sponsorship, Raymond said he did not know his HIV/AIDS status. A year later, after having formed a bond with Savarit, he told her that he was in fact positive. Savarit recalled him saying, “I cannot tell anybody because I will not have any friends.” Raymond was also worried that he would not get a sponsorship.
Savarit told him, “If I can only give one sponsorship, I will give it to you because you are the first person at the center to have the courage to tell me you are HIV-positive.”
AEP hopes to begin several other projects in the coming years. A boarding-house type of youth center where kids can sleep and study is one of the potential projects, Savarit said.
Hayes, a co-president, is working on developing a leadership program, modeled after one that she saw at her alma mater Hobart and William Smith Colleges, at the youth center.
“These kids have so much potential to be influential in the community,” she said.
Savarit said that she would also like to hire a teacher, if the financial situation allows, to come to the center for those who cannot attend school.
“With the budget we have we do so much. I think that’s what makes us so special – the people behind the curtain are so selfless… I think that’s rare,” Hayes said.
For the founders, their involvement in AEP has certainly changed their post-college graduation plans.
Savarit-Cosenza has been living at the center in Kafue for the past six months after her graduation from American University. As an undergraduate, Savarit-Cosenza had a specialization in African development and she plans on pursuing a master’s degree in public health.
Hayes minored in African studies and plans on going to graduate school for architecture. She hopes to be able to use her knowledge as an architect to design a new center in Zambia.
Kafue’s school year begins on Jan. 15 and AEP is continuing to look for sponsors for this year’s students. For more information about AEP visit its Web site at www.aeprogram.org.