The United Nations’ International Youth Day has been recognized each August 12 since it was first observed in 2000 and designated to draw attention to a given set of cultural and legal issues surrounding youth.

The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, which highlights the success of such a global effort will not be achieved without the meaningful participation of young people.

Previous years’ themes have included “Youth and Mental Health,” “Youth and Civic Engagement,” “Youth Building Peace,” and in 2019 the theme was “Transforming Education” to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth.

At Bread and Water for Africa® transforming youth through education is something we do every day by making education – the dream of most every child and youth in sub-Saharan African countries – a reality for thousands every day in countries including Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

For example, in Kenya and Sierra Leone, in recent years we have constructed school buildings and expanded capacity by adding classrooms as well as constructing labs and cafeteria and kitchen space.

Currently, through our school fees assistance program we are enabling hundreds of children and youth attend classes – something that would be out of the realm of possibility for them without this assistance – as well as ensuring they have the mandatory school uniforms, school supplies, and other necessities.

While all of the beneficiaries are extremely grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to go to school and get the education, they need to lift them from a life of dire poverty, perhaps it is those students in Chad who are most in need of our support.

The country is ranked by the United Nations’ Human Development Index as the seventh poorest country in the world with 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line which longtime Bread and Water for Africa® partner Esther Ndichafah, CEO of Hope Services, describes the country she knows well as “a sub-Saharan nation ranked among the poorest in Africa, ruined by war, poor leadership and environmental extremes.”

Esther, who oversees our school fee support programs in Cameroon and Chad, notes that it’s not just the 200 students in Chad who are benefiting but “the whole community has been salvaged by this program,” adding that the entire community is supportive and appreciative for her efforts in making it possible for their children to attend school.

And nothing pleases Esther – and all of us at Bread and Water for Africa®– to witness the transformation of a child into a successful young adult with a life full of promise ahead of them.