In Ghana, 28.5% of the population lives below the poverty line (CIA World Factbook), and, given that even today 32.5% of students in rural communities do not even complete their basic education (UNICEF), there is little hope for rural populations to break free of the vicious cycle of poverty. With rural literacy rates below 63% and more than 30% of residents of rural communities never even setting foot inside a classroom, children born into rural communities are at an extreme educational and economic disadvantage (2010 Population and Housing Census). On top of that, many adult women face economic challenges that affect their entire families. The majority of houses headed by women fall into the poorest 20% of households in the country (Overseas Development Institute). The inability of women to grow their businesses contributes to the cycle of poverty that plagues rural Ghana.
The Yonso Project is working to improve this situation. We are a grassroots NGO founded in 2006 by six American students in partnership with our current director, Kwabena Danso (see Our History). Our mission is to break the cycle of poverty in rural Ghana by providing access to improved educational and economic opportunities. In order to achieve these goals, we create programs that adhere to our four main pillars– education, community empowerment, innovation, and effectiveness. These pillars drive our organization to make a real difference in the communities which we serve.
The three main programs of the Yonso Project include Reading for All, the Yonso Project Scholarship Fund, and our microfinance program. The Reading for All program seeks to combat low rates of literacy in rural communities by building libraries as well as inspiring demand for reading materials through an innovative training program called the Reading Project. Furthermore, the Yonso Project Scholarship Fund distributes scholarships to brilliant, but economically disadvantaged students, providing them with the resources and support necessary to achieving their academic goals. Finally, our microfinance program provides women the opportunity to grow their businesses.
The Yonso Project also works closely with its subsidiary organization, Booomers, which is a social enterprise also founded by Kwabena Danso. Offering an opportunity for employment to disadvantaged rural youths, Booomers builds and sells bicycle frames made out of bamboo, which is a self-replenishing and eco-friendly material (See Booomers website). 15% of Booomers’ profits are donated to the Yonso Project every year.