Students come to the Mary Slessor Foundation (MSF) in rural Nigeria to learn skills that will enable them to contribute to their well-being and those of their families and communities. However, many students struggle to pay school fees each month without a current source of income or someone to support them such as a parent. We were delighted when a pioneering scholarship offer came to us from Xenos Media Group, LLC, a first for both MSF and the company that will enable one promising youth to complete the entire two year training program at no cost to them.
After careful review of all applications and final selection by Antony Adolf, founder and Managing Member at Xenos Media Group, LLC, we are excited to announce that a winner for the inaugural Xenos Scholarship has been selected! Gospel Friday Etim will now complete the two-year Mary MSF Vocational Training & Skills Acquisition program in Fashion & Design through this generous scholarship. The process began months ago and involved dozens of local organizations, who assisted in generating applicants from around the region.
A key component of the Xenos Scholarship is for students to demonstrate the principle of diversity as a positive force, a theory which Mr. Adolf began developing in his book Peace: A World History and sees the Xenos Scholarship as one of many ways of putting it into practice. The following description of diversity was provided to organizations and applicants, who were asked to explain how diversity has positively impacted their personal lives, their communities, or the world in their view.
“Diversity is the principle that what makes us different from one another can make us stronger and smarter all together, presenting both opportunities and challenges. Differences include language, religion, race, culture, nationality, tribe, gender, class and generation. By understanding these differences, we learn more about ourselves and each other. With this knowledge, the gaps between “us” and “them” narrow without the destruction and disrespect of eliminating differences, making possible wider bridges of ideas and practices that improve the decisions we make and actions we take upon them. In this way, diversity empowers us to solve problems, meet needs and enjoy life in ways that would not be possible otherwise. Diversity is vital to the development of individuals and societies, education is vital to the development of diversity, and so the purpose of the Xenos Scholarship is to support individual and societal links between education and diversity.”
“MSF and students like Gospel are creating the future of small businesses in Nigeria in a sustainable, ethical way that also meets present needs,” says Mr. Adolf. “The Xenos Scholarship is a highlight in the brief history of the organization and for me personally.” Gospel currently lives with her parents and siblings in the Eseku Essien Ekpe community. She hopes to use her acquired skills in Fashion & Design to support herself and her family in the future and also to train others in the trade.
The Xenos Scholarship certificate and a yearly planner were awarded to Gospel this week at a ceremony in the school compound, presented by the Fashion & Design trainers, Alhaji and Rose, as well as by CUSO International/VSO Nigeria volunteer Christine. The scholarship will provide a bright future for Gospel and those she will touch with her skills and smile along the way. Congratulations, Gospel!
Some of the MSF graduates bowing their heads for the opening prayer.
Chrysanctus Odiong Inyene (Metal Welding/Mechanical Maintenance Department) receives his certificate from Geraint (far left), and trainers Essien (left) and Effiom (right), joined by Hilary (far right) who was our MC
Christine (CUSO International/VSO volunteer) says a few words prior to the student awards.
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“The fate of empires depends on the education of youth.” (Aristotle)
In any educational environment graduation is a significant milestone that celebrates and recognizes the hard work and achievements of the students completing their studies, as well as all the teachers, mentors, family, and friends who supported them in making this dream a reality. Many students at the Mary Slessor Foundation (MSF) Vocational Training & Skills Acquisition Centre are supported financially by one or more relatives, though some manage to pay for their own training.
Preparations for the MSF graduation began a month in advance as we planned and worked to make the day memorable for all in attendance. There were the refreshments, invitations, DJ, decorations, awards, and most importantly the graduate certificates. Over one hundred invitations were personally delivered to parents, chiefs, government officials, local business owners, and friends of the Foundation.
On the day of the graduation, we welcomed our many visitors including parents, siblings, friends and supporters from Calabar and prominent community members, some of whom were seated at the high table. This was also a good opportunity to showcase our facilities and the work of students, which stood on display for everyone to admire. The students had prepared and sang a few songs and acted in a short skit to entertain the guests.
The certificates were presented to students and three students received awards to support them in launching their careers post-graduation. A brand new Butterfly sewing machine was awarded to Margaret Edet Etim, who was the top Fashion and Design student. The two highest performers in terms of attendance and overall dedication and skill in Metal Welding and Mechanical Maintenance, Okon Ebe Okon and Etim Okon Asuquo, were awarded welding machines.
The single word that best captures the atmosphere that day is pride. Students who were incredibly proud of their certificates and achievement, parents proud of their children for completing their advanced studies, trainers beaming with pride for their students’ acquired skills, and the community proud that the Foundation that operates in their midst and is run by their brothers and sisters was graduating and propelling many young people forward.
The celebrations continued with the DJ playing danceable Nigerian beats, food and drinks being served, and congratulatory remarks that were made in honor of the graduates. Visits by the trainers to some of the students’ homes that evening, where many parents hosted their own graduation parties, included congratulatory speeches and thanksgiving.
It was a very special day indeed and one that will forever remain in the hearts and minds of those who were privileged enough to be involved.