Bukina Faso (MNN) — Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly half the population living on less than a dollar a day.
For those who can't eke out a living on the farm, there's the reality of human trafficking. Burkina Faso is now considered a country of origin, transit, and destination for forced labor and forced prostitution.
That darker side facing poor young women and children stands in direct contrast to the promise of the nation. Burkina Faso translates into "Land of Honest People" or "Land of Upright People." However, the people can be resilient and innovative, given the tools and resources. They just need a chance.
Christian World Outreach (CWO) Vice President Greg Yoder says that's exactly what they're doing with the Village of Opportunity (VOO) in Burkina Faso. They started with vocational training in borrowed classrooms. In 2010, a new facility allowed them their own space, but it was clear that demand for their program was growing.
Last week, CWO dedicated Phase 1 of the training center. The project changed and has grown into a girls' boarding school with 29 students. "We wanted to build quality, not quantity. So we started slow and added girls each year: girls that are aged about 15 to 25. We have the capability, with the dormitory, to house about 60 girls now."
Part of the reason for anticipated growth is because the VOO runs counter culture in Burkina Faso. Girls are taught from a young age that they are second-class citizens, and this causes many girls and women to have a very low self worth. CWO strives to help girls and women realize their God-given dignity and self-worth. It starts with Biblical education, explains Yoder." They get up at 5:30a.m., have a devotional, sing, and pray. It's exciting because they pray for the rest of the world; they don't just pray for themselves."
The rest is vocational training. The Village of Opportunity offers classes in sewing and agriculture, with classes in cooking, cosmetology, and event planning to be offered in the near future. Yoder explains that the 3-year program culminates with courses in small business to help them learn to manage their skills and work within the business world.
Then what? It'll be new territory for both the young women they're helping and CWO, Yoder thinks. They're all looking at the future. "How are we going to help the young ladies once they graduate? There's a lot of discussion now on being able to come alongside them as they start a new business, and then if there's possibility, for micro-industry loans. We're in the beginning stages for that because next year will be the first class that will graduate."
Providing for a family is not the only obstacle the graduates face. There are spiritual ones, too. "Pray for these young ladies," Yoder asks. "They are going back into villages where there are animist practices, or there are Muslims. They've accepted Christ, and so they're going back into ‘enemy territory' in some ways. Pray for strength and wisdom for them that they might really change the lives of people in their villages."