Peace Corps Volunteer Starts High School Girls Club in Liberia

May 21, 2012

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 21, 2012 – Peace Corps volunteer Charlene Espinoza of San Diego, Calif., recently started a high school girls club in her Liberian community to help foster gender equality and empowerment among young women. Since forming the club in January 2012, 25 students aged 14 to 25 have met twice a week to work on craft projects and attend lectures and workshops designed to teach healthy life skills and self-confidence. Espinoza is also teaching club members to sew and sell merchandise out of recycled African textile pieces.

Magnifying glass iconMembers of Peace Corps volunteer Charlene Espinoza’s Liberian girls club.“After spending time at the school, I realized that I needed to introduce the female students to something creative and different that would allow them to think outside the box and give them a fun opportunity to do something other than their daily chores,” said Espinoza, an English teaching volunteer who has been in Liberia since June 2011. “I thought teaching them to sew merchandise out of scraps was a great project because it’s authentic, original and eco-friendly.”

The sewing project started soon after the club officially formed. Once Espinoza received funding to purchase sewing machines and materials, a professional tailor from the area was hired to teach the members to sew simple bags and purses from leftover textile scraps.

Magnifying glass iconMembers of the Liberian girls club select textile scraps for purses.“I decided to name the purses ‘Bosh Bosh’ bags. This name comes from the local Liberian word for different types of African fabrics,” continued Espinoza, a graduate of the Design Institute of San Diego.

Once the young women became comfortable sewing bags and purses they decided to expand the “Bosh Bosh” sewing project to include e-reader cases. The bags and e-reader cases are now being sold to local community members and incoming Peace Corps/Liberia volunteers. Income generated by sales of the “Bosh Bosh” products goes toward the members’ school registration fees, school supplies and uniforms.

Magnifying glass iconPeace Corps volunteer Charlene Espinoza with members of the Liberian girls club.“The idea behind the club as a whole is to show the female students not only a valuable skill, which is to sew, but to build self-confidence and expand their creativity and open their minds to new ideas and avenues,” said Espinoza. “I believe that the club will benefit the girls as well as the community itself by promoting self-awareness and self-confidence within the female community members and future leaders. Several older community members have expressed how much they appreciate us introducing their girls to not only this new skill but to this new opportunity for them to blossom on their own.”

About Peace Corps/Liberia: More than 3,910 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Liberia since the program was established in 1962. Currently, 38 volunteers serve in Liberia. Volunteers work in the area of education. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Liberian English, Kpelle, Mano/Gio, Gola, Via and Mano.

About the Peace Corps: Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 9,095 volunteers are working with local communities in 75 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries. Visit www.peacecorps.gov for more information.

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