West African communities with educated citizens who are able to use their own talents and strengths to address the social and economic challenges their countries face.
A Place in the Sun Foundation works to improve the quality of education in West Africa by developing early childhood education curriculum and teacher training models for children ages 3-6. Through our programs and initiatives, we aim to give communities essential tools to realize their full potential.
Hello. My name is Marisa Conway. My husband Michael and I spent two years in West Africa as Peace Corps Volunteers. Our experience living and working in small communities in Guinea and Mali inspired us to launch A Place in the Sun Foundation. Our goal is to train aspiring young female preschool teachers in early childhood education programming. Through this training, we hope to empower a generation of women and to equip preschoolers with the cognitive skills they need to learn to read and write in communities where literacy rates are the lowest in the world.
In West Africa today, over 65 million people, or 40% of the population, can neither read nor write. Of these 40 million are women. Without basic skills to read and write, it is no wonder that this is the poorest and most troubled region in the world. But it doesn't have to be.
We believe education and women's empowerment are the keys to turning the tide against poverty. Yet, finding solutions to education delivery must include interventions at the earliest stages of children's cognitive development. In Mali today, less than 4% of children attend any type of early childhood education program. Through A Place in the Sun Foundation, we seek to fill this gap through community based programs that rain rural women to provide early education services to children ages 3- using culturally relevant content and materials.
We are fundraising to launch our pilot program: a 6 week preschool camp in a rural Malian village to be held in July and August of 2013. Our Curriculum Director, Katharine Needham will run the pilot. Katharine is a former Basic Education and Literacy Volunteer for the Peace Corps who has successfully created two village school boards and facilitated the construction of a primary school in Mali.
Katharine is supported by a Curriculum Team that includes Daniell Hull, a senior at Harvard College studying Government and African Studies who has spent a semester in Bamako, Mali's capital city, witnessing firsthand the need and potential for education reform in the region. Sameera Anwar, who holds a master's degree in International Education Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, works with us to help internationalize our curriculum.
My husband, Michael, serves as the executive director of our organization. He has seven years of international development experience, has served as a graduate consultant for Oxfam's educational programming in Mali, and has served as the Co-chair of the Africa Caucus at the Harvard Kennedy School, where he is pursuing a Master of Public Policy. Michael is supported by Lorraine du Peloux, a MBA candidate at the Harvard Business School, whose work structuring our finances is quite light in comparison to her experience structuring financing for water treatment facilities in Hong Kong, China, Japan, Korea and Australia.
Nick Birger, Danny Gaynor, Alex Greenberg, Nate Maslak and Teddy White work through an initiative called Sweat2Solutions to support our institutional development and advise our short- and medium-term strategic decision-making.
I am the team's Technical Director, where I structure the programming and logistics for Place in the Sun Foundation. Thank you very much for your interest in our work and any support you might be able to provide!