By Samantha Biastre
Megan Soucy spent part of her summer working in Togo, Africa with AGERTO. Soucy is a senior communication studies major from Basking Ridge, N.J. AGERTO is a non-profit/non-governmental organization devoted primarily to the task of reducing extreme poverty. Two of the biggest problems that Togo faces are a high unemployment rate and poor education.
The organization trains Togolese youth in entrepreneurial crafts like sewing, woodworking and any other essential skills that a young adult in Africa would need to help them make a living. Togo is a small West African country between Ghana, Burkina Fasco and Benin, bordering the Gulf of Guinea. AGERTO has four sites located in Togo.
Soucy found out about AGERTO through a friend she met two summers ago at the Oxfam of America Change Initiative in Boston. Soucy’s friend called her last November to tell her about the non-profit job opportunity in Africa. Soucy then applied for the Gilman Scholarship, which is offered through the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to help fund her trip. “The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program offers grants for undergraduate students of limited financial means to pursue academic studies or credit-bearing, career-oriented internships abroad,” according to PASSHE’s website.
Over her four years at KU, Soucy gravitated towards community service and any projects or initiatives that had to do with social justice and poverty. She took advantage of the opportunities provided at KU to do community service projects. Being able to go to Africa was something that Soucy always dreamed about.
When Soucy and the other workers arrived in Africa they stopped in Ghana, and traveled around on the coast for one week doing touristy things. After that week, they drove to Togo and started their jobs. Soucy and the other workers then worked at different organizations in Togo. One of the organizations in which Soucy worked helped children with mental disabilities. She then spent the rest of her summer at AGERTO.
Aside from training young adults in entrepreneurial crafts, Soucy also helped the organization translate their French website to English, since most of the non-profit’s outreach is in German or French. Soucy and some of the other workers also designed and painted a mural on a large wall of an education building on the land where AGERTO is located.
Describing her experiences in Africa, Soucy said, “Everyone should have the chance to experience another culture at some point; it’s very eye opening.” After graduation next May, Soucy hopes to work with a non-profit organization.