When we saw the large groups of organized youth showing up to support our festival last November–all dressed alike–Sidi and I had an idea. If we provide them small loans to pursue whatever activity they choose they will be able to make a start and this might be enough for them to stay home and become productive members of their communities.
We announced the meeting and chose three communities with which we have worked for years and in whom we have confidence of the success of the program: Aboye, Fidouk and Ehalgene. We loaned $2.000 to each community: 9 members of the association to receive $200 each with the stipulation that it be repaid in 6 months and given to another candidate. The remaining $200 is split between the youth organization president as a management fee and our own follow up costs.
The presidents of 8 youth associations came and we explained to them that our annual festival at Tamesna will be the time and place to present their applications to be a part of this program in the future. In only a few days we were learning the implications of this small gesture. The word is out and I have confidence that just the knowledge that there are other options for them will have an enormous impact.
If this pilot program succeeds we have hopes that Rotary International and USAID, both of whom have expressed interest will fund its expansion to the largest number of youth possible.
In welcoming the group, I told them how sad it was for me not to be able to visit their camps and families as I once had, but because of the lack of security and need for expensive military escorts I could no longer afford it or was simply not allowed. If ever peace and stability is to return to their region it is in their hands.because surely it is they who know better than any military presence, every stranger who enters their territory and usually why.