From Drifting to Dreaming in Niger

ADRA Canada’s BRIGHT initiative is changing one life at a time.

Heather Grbic, ADRA Canada, and Adventist Review
From Drifting to Dreaming in Niger
Mariama demonstrates her sewing skills. [Photo: ADRA Canada]

When picturing a 19-year-old, the image may be of a university student, earnestly pursuing education and career goals. If not this particular image, it is likely still that of an educated youth who has options to choose from.

But that’s not always the case for youth around the world.

In rural Niger, for example, poverty forces children to drop out of school to help support their families. Unbelief in education’s value often bars girls from school and discourages boys from taking it seriously. The practice of early marriage is another obstacle. Added to this are the dangers of traveling to school in a region prone to intermittent conflict.

At 19, Abdoul and Mariama were drifting through life, lacking direction or ambition.

“I dropped out of school because I wasn’t understanding anything,” Abdoul said. “I got discouraged and left. I sat idle at home, doing nothing for six years.”

“I was sent out of school because I wasn’t taking it seriously,” Mariama admitted.

Around the time that Mariama left school, the BRIGHT project came to her community. BRIGHT stands for BReaking barriers, Improving Girls’ Education, Hope, and Totality. Through this project, with funding from Global Affairs Canada, ADRA has partnered with communities in Niger, Sudan, and Myanmar to make education more accessible.

BRIGHT is changing the perceptions of education’s value, thus ensuring more children — especially girls — go to school. It’s also building teachers’ capacities and offering support to schools, making education more appealing to students and their families. Additionally, it offers a vocational track for youth who prefer to begin supporting themselves.

Abdoul mastering welding skills. [Photo: ADRA Canada]

Abdoul and Mariama chose the vocational track. Abdoul opted for welding, while Mariama chose tailoring.

“When I heard about BRIGHT, I saw that just sitting idle at home was not helpful at all,” Abdoul said. “I found that I was actually cheating myself. I was cheating my life. So I talked to my father about getting into BRIGHT.”

Through BRIGHT, Abdoul also learned how to read and write, something he couldn’t do before.

“BRIGHT gave me what my school couldn’t: knowledge,” Mariama said. “Through BRIGHT, I have learned how to sew clothes. But also, I’ve gained knowledge — and the love of getting knowledge. These have enriched and encouraged me.”

Abdoul and Mariama now have plans. Through BRIGHT, they have the skills they need to begin.

“I want to realize something of my own with what I’ve learned,” Abdoul shared. “If I could get a shop of my own, I could realize a lot of things.”

When she attends sewing courses, Mariama is paid a small amount to make clothes. “I’ll save that money, and at the same time, I’m learning more. When I save enough money, I’ll buy my own sewing machine and begin my own business,” Mariama said. “I don’t have any plans to get married soon. I want to pursue my business.”

“I’m really very grateful for the project,” Abdoul said. “If it wasn’t for the project, I wouldn’t have learned anything. But because of the project, I have learned a lot.”

The original version of this story was posted in the July 2023 issue of Canadian Adventist Messenger.

Heather Grbic, ADRA Canada, and Adventist Review