Charlotte Bourdillon

Charlotte Bourdillon (Kakenya Center for Excellence – KCE): In the summer of 2009, Charlotte worked with an indigenous women's weaving group in Temuco, Chile. She received her B.A. in Community Health and International Relations from Tufts University in 2010. Prior to her AP fellowship, Charlotte also worked with a health and community-led development initiative in Haiti, called RESPE:Ayiti. Charlotte also interned at Physicians for Human Rights in Cambridge, MA. After her fellowship Charlotte wrote: “I can look at so many deliverables that I am proud of; things I am especially happy to have been able to achieve in the low-resource area I was working in."

Trying out new things in the classroom

12 Aug

Why am I worthy?

We are wrapping up our second of three weeks of “Tuition” period at the Enkakenya Centre for Excellence. The girls are technically on their August holiday from school, but in Kenya it is widely accepted that the April and August holidays are meant to include a couple extra weeks of remedial and catch up work – a sort of summer school, if you will. This time around, the Kakenya’s Dream organization is using an entirely separate set of motivated and qualified teaching staff to run an intensive remedial tutoring program. Most of the teachers we would normally have in the school are pursuing continuing education degrees during the holiday, and the government teachers are not accustomed to working during the holidays, so it made sense for the organization to step in and take advantage of the opportunity to give an extra enrichment program during tuition. This leaves me in charge (ha!), and a lot of room for innovation!

I have asked the new teachers to bring as many progressive techniques into the classroom as possible, and to promote the creative and critical thinking that is sometimes lacking in the normal curriculum (because these aren’t skills that are considered helpful for the girls perform on their end of primary school exams). These teachers have been recruited from as far as far western Kenya, and many have a variety of volunteer experience with community based organizations. The teachers are really impressing me and working around the clock – they make things run so smoothly it is as if the program is running itself. It might be helping that we have a full time teaching position open at the school and that they are all potential candidates…

There are a couple of things I love about tuition. The first is that we can use the extra class time to target problem areas for girls who have come into the school very behind academically, especially in English. These tend to be the girls we have accepted on the basis of their vulnerability (poverty, lack of familial support for education, etc.). The second is that we have time for awesome and unusual activities like the spelling bee we are hosting this weekend. I adore words, and am pretty stoked about the girls running around studying their english spelling lists! More on this later.

The third is that we have the chance to bring in leadership classes (in the future, these will be a part of the normal school activities, but we are still working on the final curriculum). Each class is having 2 hours of leadership and empowerment workshop every week, and the girls absolutely love it. For the first week, we had some visitors from the U.S. here volunteering at the school, so I put them to the task (thanks, Ellyn, Onalie, and co.!). I have also brought in a friend of mine, Caroline Ojwaya, who is a teacher at the St. Josephs school in Kilgoris (a nearby school where they support a very large number of girls rescued from forced marriages and circumcisions). She does a lot of work with girls’ empowerment and volunteers to run the Arid Lands Rural Development peer educators program. She is just an overall feisty and empowered lady, and I thought she would be perfect to run our program.

Working on Self Esteem - this activity shows how easy it is to tear a person down, but how difficult it can be to build them back up again.

Caroline Ojwaya, Leadership trainer

So far, she has brought incredible and nurturing energy to the classroom, and some very participatory lessons on self awareness and self esteem. The self esteem activity was my favorite – it involved tearing paper upon hearing negative statements to show how easy it is to tear a person down, but how difficult it can be to build them back up again. Even more exciting: this morning the girls told me that when some boys hissed at them from the road as they were carrying water, they thought about what Madam Caroline told them, kept their chins high, and told the boys, “there are no dogs here.” Music to my ears.


Music that empowers: Learning a song about how to protect ourselves and "our private parts," a critical lesson for empowering young Maasai girls.

Posted By Charlotte Bourdillon

Posted Aug 12th, 2011

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