MAINE, Maine — Auburn native Joanne Bollinger was the president of Wise Zambia and now serves as secretary for the program's U.S. board of directors.
The Mainer said the project is an effort to provide scholarship money and resources to students who otherwise would not get an education past seventh grade.
The program is primarily for women.
"The kids from remote villages who have no way to come to school beyond seventh grade because you have to pay," Bollinger said.
Bright, energetic, hopeful students who leave seventh grade and typically would not continue their educational paths now have a chance.
The program began in 2005. Besides scholarships, it provides critical resources such as transportation, books, and tutoring.
Bollinger said she does it to give back and help those who are a lot less fortunate. She said many of these students have to walk for two hours to get to school, then when they get home, there is no electricity for them to do their homework. Bollinger said many of these schools are not conducive to education, but the students are committed to learning.
To support the education initiative, Joanne and a team in the United States have tried to give the program visibility by explaining to nonprofits and individuals what their efforts are all about so that people can donate.
All of the money donated goes straight to Zambia to fund the scholarships and other resources needed to keep the program up and running.
Bolliger said the program supports about 350 kids across 18 different schools.
"These are really people who would not be going to school without support like ours," Bollinger said. "It's wonderful to see those women [and] the light coming into their eyes when they realize, 'I could get an education now. I was forced into marriage when I was 14 or 15, I have four or five children now, but I can do better.'"
Bollinger is in Zambia for a few weeks, providing hands-on support for the program.
Evan Hagland is the current U.S. director of Wise Zambia.
"Every student should come out with the ability to not only earn a living but give back to their families and communities, their country, and, hopefully at some point, the world," Haglund said. "We make sure they have all the resources to succeed."
"Being on this scholarship has been of great impact in my life. I have come to realize that school is important," Christine Mazuku, an 18-year-old who received a scholarship, said.
"I will try by all means to help others and encourage them to be like me," he added.
The educational initiative could not be possible without a small-but-mighty group of leaders in the U.S., including Bollinger.
"And then later, they are expected to give back to society," she said.