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Teaching Literacy in Senegal

Tonight (March 22)  at 6:00pm in the C. Walsh Theatre Distinguished Visiting Scholar Viola Vaughn discusses her work in Kaolack, Senegal with the Women’s Health Education and Prevention Strategies Alliance (WHEPSA). 

VIOLA VAUGHN is the founder and Executive Director of the Women’s Health Education and Prevention Strategies Alliance (WHEPSA) and 10,000 Girls in Kaolack, Senegal, West Africa. She founded WHEPSA in 2001, to develop new strategies for offering health and educational services to girls in rural Senegal.

Vaughn graduated with an Ed.D. from Columbia University’s renowned Teacher’s College in New York, she acquired considerable administrative and teaching experience in health care and education, in both the U.S. (mainly in her native Michigan) and 6 different African countries, including Senegal. In 2000 Viola and her husband, Jazz musician Sam Sanders, made the decision to emigrate to Senegal with their family, to provide their five grandchildren with an international, multilingual and multicultural education.

Her personal experience home-schooling her grandchildren led to some local curiosity in their community in Koalack. One day a 9-year-old girl asked Viola to help her finish third grade. And so 10,000 girls began, with Viola partnering with the girls to tackle the huge challenge of appropriate education for village girls in Senegal.

Viola’s vision led her to work with the girls and to together create WHEPSA’s 10,000 girls innovative approach–an approach that integrates education and employment for girls in a self-sustaining program. In less than 5 years, this program has grown to serve about 1500 girls. Its two main components are:
1. education for girls at risk of failure or dropping out of school; and
2. employment and training for girls who have failed at school or never attended, in Viola’s successful entrepreneurial ventures.

With help from volunteers and early sponsors, Viola and the girls started Celebration Baked Goods (pastry shop, catering) and Sewing Workshop (producing handmade quilts, dolls, and gift baskets for export) as successful businesses to provide hands-on work experience and skills for the girls. The income is used both for salaries for the participants, and to support the education program (textbooks, tutoring, space for study).

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