CAMEROON — In March 2017, Jake Moore, co-founder of ScholarShop Africa, a civil service, nonprofit aimed at improving the state of education in Cameroon, embarked from Seattle, Washington on his BeachFlyer bike and didn’t stop riding for a very long time.
Riding to Fund Education in Cameroon
The ride was for more than exercise. Moore was riding his bike as a fundraising effort to raise $25,000 for ScholarShop Africa. When asked how long he rode, Moore told The Borgen Project, “Forrest Gump ran for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours. I biked for 3 months [and]two weeks.”
Though Moore didn’t quite ride as long as the famous Tom Hanks character ran, his efforts did yield nearly $20,000 for his African-based organization. Moore said he lived on a 6,000-8,000 calorie per day diet, consisting mostly of fast foods, and consumed about 5 liters of supplements each day. Moore documented most of the trip via a blog and Facebook live updates.
ScholarShop Africa came about after a conversation Moore had with his co-founder Sean Grey and their Cameroonian work partner, Buba. “After Wabash (Moore’s alma mater), I joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Cameroon as an agriculture volunteer. All charity comes from a good heart, but often times it does more harm than good,” Moore said. His work in Cameroon with the Peace Corps inspired him and his co-founder to find a way to help children succeed through education.
ScholarShop Africa Helping Children
After Moore’s time in the Peace Corps ended, he realized there was much more work to be done to help aid education in Cameroon; he was right. Cameroon only sponsors education for students up to the age of twelve, leaving the country with an average literacy rate of around 80 percent.
That’s why Moore and Grey developed ScholarShop’s model. It’s a 10-week business and entrepreneurship curriculum where students are able to earn school supplies through civic engagement, healthy lifestyles, and academic improvement. Moore says this makes their students socially conscious of their surroundings and urges them to take ownership in bettering their communities.
Through individual and collective efforts, the program’s constituents earn “ScholarDollars,” which they then redeem for items such as school supply kits, notebooks, tools, school uniforms, school fees, textbooks, backpacks, solar lamps and other goods that help to provide the children in Cameroon with opportunities to continue their education. In their pilot program alone, ScholarShop students performed a combined 1,449 hours of community service in just eleven weeks.
ScholarShop Africa and the Community
The program does more than provide students with items. In their pilot program alone, ScholarShop saw parental attendance of PTA meetings increase by more than 50 percent, student knowledge of their own HIV status increase by over 75 percent and ScholarShop students visited the disciplinary council over 30 percent less than the previous term. The organization also operates a community garden and farm to help feed the students and community.
Aside from civic service, ScholarShop pays its students for their successes in the classroom as well. Students earn ScholarDollars for good scores on quizzes and exams, having their parents attend PTA meetings, tutoring their fellow students, having perfect classroom attendance for a term and even having their parents attend business and entrepreneur workshops. ScholarDollars are also given for students whose marks improve from term-to-term, incentivizing students to continue to work toward progress in the classroom.
Additionally, ScholarShop is helping its scholars through their innovative conditional supply transfer program. They are currently translating their manual into French and adding two new programs: agriculture and health. ScholarShop is adapting its program to include a summer semester to allow more one-on-one time with scholars, which culminates in a graduation for their students and giving out school supplies for the start of the new school year.
Moore raised $4 for every mile he traveled on his BeachFlyer, but he reminds the world that there is still work to be done in Cameroon. The country is amidst a crisis and the schools have not been operational for around two years now, but Moore and ScholarShop are still working hard to improve educational opportunities for the youth in Cameroon. However, they need your help. If you can, check out their website and donate if at all possible.
– Nick Hodges