One Woman’s Inspiring Journey to Provide Access to Education for Children in Nigeria

by | Jan 28, 2022 | Heartivist Of The Week

The Beyond the Classroom Foundation, an incredible volunteer-driven nonprofit working to improve access to education for children and reproductive health education for girls in marginalized communities in Nigeria, was founded by Raquel Kasham Daniel. When varying time zones presented a challenge to having a face-to-face, online conversation, we chose to write to one another. The result is this inspiring interview where Raquel shares the powerful story behind the creation of the Beyond the Classroom Foundation, her passion for helping children and the one wish she has for parents and guardians when it comes to caring for their children. 

TPP: Thank you so much for sharing your story with The Pollination Project, Raquel. Let’s begin by sharing where you are located in the world and how long have you been doing this work?

Raquel: Thank you so much for having me on this platform. I am from Nigeria, currently living in Abuja, the capital city. I have been doing this work for almost 11 years. It started when I was in my second year at the University of Lagos. I’ve been at it since then.

TPP: Tell me, what inspired you to create the Beyond the Classroom Foundation?

Beyond the Classroom Foundation was inspired by my journey growing up. To understand it, I would have to tell you a story. So, I lost my Dad at 16 and was going to be married off by my family because we had no money, but I ran away. I ended up living on the street and in a brothel for about 2 years cleaning the brothel, and practically living from my backpack. I eventually started my business, saved some money and left. At 19, my Mum passed and I almost lost hope of ever going back to school but what kept me going through those years of hardship was something my Dad said about wanting me to get an education beyond high school because no one in my family had done that before. It was a long journey from my Dad’s passing to getting into University but when I got into school, a part of me was drawn to helping other children get an education. So, I started visiting schools, donating socks and school supplies, sanitary pads and mildly used clothes to keep children in school and inspire them to excel and graduate. One year later, the Beyond the Classroom Foundation was born.

TPP: Your determination and heart is tremendously inspiring. What problem are you looking to solve with Beyond the Classroom and who are you hoping to impact?

Raquel: I literally saw how education was transforming my life and I knew that there was no way I would sit back and not help other children, especially girls. So I started removing the barriers that would prevent children from enrolling, staying, excelling and graduating from school. You would find me providing sanitary pads for girls to enable them stay in school or providing free books to children in and out of school to inspire them to either get enrolled or complete their education.

TPP: As you think about your project, is there a particular story that stands out?

Raquel: My current project is the Community Empowerment Against Violence and Abuse. It is focused on educating the children at one of the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in Abuja on abuse, molestation, rape and all sorts of abuse they could encounter at home or at school. We have worked with these displaced children for over three years and right after the lockdown when schools were resumed, we visited their camp and noticed a few girls were pregnant. Some confided in us that they were abused during the lockdown. The majority didn’t even know they were abused. The painful part for me is that these girls didn’t resume school last September. I started to think about what they would do differently if they knew more about abuse and how to keep themselves safe or call for help if they are ever molested. Thinking about them and how much we can help them helped me design this project to not only educate them but their parents and teachers as well.

TPP: What are your greatest hopes for your work?

Raquel: Wow! I actually think about this question a lot and I always come to the same answer: to see more children enrolled in, staying, excelling and graduating from school. My life’s greatest joy is seeing the children, despite the hardship in the families, completing their education. It is both my hope and a joy.

TPP: You are having such a powerful impact upon these children, how has this work changed you?

Rachel: In many ways, I would say. I have become more empathetic, kinder and attentive to others. I’ve never prided myself on being a great listener but because of this work, I have to do a lot of listening and that has helped me so much. A funny thing you should hear about how this work has changed me is that I now do thorough math calculations before spending my money. When I see something really nice I like, I imagine how many books and children the money can help and how I might not really need whatever it is I want to buy and sometimes, I don’t buy it. It can be a pain to my family and friends sometimes but most have learned to live with it.

Overall, I love the person I am because of this work and I count it a privilege to be in the position to help others.

TPP: Your work is truly heart-centered, it’s beautiful. What was it like to receive the Pollination Project grant? 

Raquel: The project was simply on paper before we got this funding. I recall jumping up and dancing when I got the email. My heart went to the children. I was excited that 200 children would be armed with the information necessary to keep themselves safe from abuse and molestation and able to report should anything ever happen to them. I am excited and grateful.

TPP: How will this funding help you to further your work?

Raquel: This funding will help us to educate and make 200 children safer and smarter. Besides educating the children, parents and teachers on all forms of abuse at home and at school, we are also training 10-15 volunteers who will work with us on this project. Basically, I see more than 200 beneficiaries and the more people we are able to reach, the more we will get the word out there. This funding is timely and greatly appreciated.

TPP: Tell us about an accomplishment within this project that you are proud of. 

I am working on a fun, and educational book that the children can take home with them after the project as a resource to always read and refer to. Children love books and most of them love to read, I believe they will love it. I once read that books will go where the author might not, so I am very proud that more than 200 children will be impacted by this project because the book will travel through their schools to other children.

TPP: What you’ve created with the Beyond the Classroom Foundation has the power to change the lives of those you serve and – just as you mentioned with the book – continue to touch more lives than you could ever imagine. Thank you for sharing this work with the world. Is there anything I have not asked you that you would like to share?

Rachel: If there is one thing that I would like to share concerning this project, it would be that parents and guardians need to be present in the lives of their children. They need to talk to them about their body safety, parts of their bodies, abuse, molestation and the likes, very early. Parents have a responsibility to keep their children safe and even though they can’t be with them everywhere, the least they can do is equip them from home with the necessary life skills they need to survive, be confident and stay safe.

To know more more about this project, please, visit their website https://btheclassroom.org/

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Call for our Spanish speaking followers 👇

🐮🐷🐔🐣 ¡Te invitamos a unirte a la octava edición del Retiro de Meditación para Activistas por los Animales! 🧘🏻‍♀️ Este evento gratuito, dirigido a activistas hispanohablantes, se llevará a cabo los días 4 y 5 de mayo de 2024 a través de Zoom, y estará guiado por nuestro facilitador, Tashi Nyima.

❔ ¿Por qué participar? Sabemos que muchos activistas por los animales enfrentan desafíos emocionales que pueden afectar su capacidad para seguir adelante. 📣🆘

✅ En este retiro, aprenderás valiosas estrategias de autocuidado para fortalecer tu mundo interior y hacer que tu activismo sea más compasivo y efectivo. 🫶🏼✊🏼

INSCRIPCIONES GRATUITAS EN: https://lu.ma/retiromayo2024 

¡Ayúdanos a difundir esta invitación entre tus contactos comprometidos con la causa! 🌱💚

#activistas #animalistas #meditacion #derechosanimales #animalrights #animalactivism #heartivism
🌟 Empowering Through Play! 🌟

Nature Trust (Tamilnadu, India) launched the project, "Enhance the Skills of Children with Disabilities through Play," supported by one of our seed grants 🎉✨ Timed with World Autism Awareness Day 2024, this initiative resonates with the theme of "Empowering the Autistic Voices."

In particular, the grant allowed Nature Trust to provide specially curated play materials to 20 remarkable children with diverse disabilities. These tools were thoughtfully selected to ignite their development and unlock their potential. 🧩🎨

At the distribution event held on March 31st, the atmosphere was filled with joy as children and parents expressed gratitude for the newfound importance of play in their lives. 💖👦👧 The presence of local leaders underscored the significance of inclusive initiatives like this one.

Beyond distribution, Nature Trust volunteers engaged with the children, creating lasting connections and memories. 🤝 

Through the power of play, Nature Trust is fostering a more inclusive world where every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. 🌈 

Let's continue spreading joy and empowerment through play! 

#EmpowerThroughPlay #InclusiveCommunities 🌟 
#childrenwithdisabilities #autism #supportchildren #kindness #heartivism #India
It's Volunteer Month! 🌟 🌟 🌟 Today we celebrate our grant advisors working on Economic Development focus area.

By meticulously selecting projects for our seed grants, they're not just funding ideas—they're empowering communities and sparking transformative change. 

Join us in celebrating their invaluable efforts and the positive impact they're creating together!

🔸 Eric Anorrey (Ghana)
🔸 Mariam Nakiryowa (Uganda)
🔸 Jean-Marie Zihalirwa (DRC)
🔸 Emily Logiron Asekon (Kenya)
🔸 Georgia Bernbaum (USA) 
🔸 Herve Tsoala Kuete (Cameroon)
🔸 Jackson Bizimungu (Rwanda)
🔸 Okumu Dickson (Uganda)
🔸 Samuel Litunya (Kenya)

@ericanorrey 
@mayanja_mariam 
@g.bernbaum 

#volunteermonth #volunteer #heartivism #economicdevelopment #change #empoweringcommunities
The Green Earth Initiative (#Cameroon) is a project dedicated to educating and empowering students about climate change, sustainable development, and environmental challenges, that has received a seed grant from The Pollination Project in 2023. With a focus on fostering environmental protection and conservation, the initiative establishes Eco-clubs and Environment Clubs in schools, providing students with the tools to learn, engage, and take action in their communities.

Since receiving the grant from TPP, the Green Earth Initiative has expanded its reach, now encompassing 9 additional schools across two regions/cities, surpassing its initial goal of 5. 
This expansion was made possible by the overwhelming interest from school authorities and the growing number of volunteers and team members.

Through the support of TPP and other partners, the project's environmental education programs, awareness campaigns, and initiatives have impacted over 8000 students in two cities of Cameroon. Additionally, the initiative has planted over 600 trees, launched 5 Environment/Eco Clubs, and distributed over 150 adapted waste bins produced from recycled plastics, contributing to proper waste management practices.

The seed grant from The Pollination Project has been instrumental in catalyzing the growth and success of the Green Earth Initiative, enabling it to make a tangible difference in the lives of students and communities, while fostering a culture of environmental stewardship and sustainability. 

@isec_cameroon 
#environmentprotection #seedgrant #heartivism #environmentaleducation