Last week Helen was invited to be a part of the HALI Imbaba conference in Zimbabwe, held by Yale University and an NGO called Education Matters. This three-day event was the first of its kind and brought together representatives from 21 organisations dedicated to providing mentorship and guidance opportunities for high-achieving, low-income students across Africa. The name of the conference derives its name from the acronym HALI – short for ‘high-achieving, low-income’ – and ‘indaba’, widely used in Africa to mean ‘gathering’.

The organisations involved are collectively supporting 871 African students through the college process. During the conference, leaders from these organisations discussed topics such as program design, selection criteria for the programs and how to write strong letters of recommendation for colleges in the US.

They also spent time getting to know each other, and their journeys and experiences – ‘the people I have met are all doing extraordinary things’, Helen says, ‘and I feel really honoured to be a part of the event.’ ‘We all got on so well and we had so much in common, it reinforced everything Our Moon is trying to achieve and I learnt so much’, Helen reflects.

Whilst all of the organisations vary in the nature of their support to students, with some providing long-term mentoring opportunities and others focusing on intensive SAT preparation and college applications advice, they all aim to prepare students for their transition to life at an American college. Most of these organisations’ programs are extremely competitive for students to get on to, and much more funding is needed to reach out to all the students who need help.

After a very productive conference, Helen headed for a flying visit to Hillcrest School in Livingstone, Zambia, to meet two of Our Moon’s HALI scholars, Kate and Tony. Helen wanted to see how they have been getting on since they began their A-Level studies there. She was thrilled to see that they have settled in well, have made good friends and love being in Livingstone, a stone’s throw from Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Wonders of the World! They both said that the teachers at the school are very helpful and make themselves available whenever needed

Our Moon will be back at Hillcrest in July 2016 to work with more students and teachers so Helen spent time with Charles Mulenga, the head of A Level education in the school, mapping out the topics we will be covering in an intensive week’s programme. The focus will be on the opportunities for students to apply to universities abroad, as well as how to apply and what it might be like for them when they get there.
They will have the chance to practice writing personal statements and CVs, and develop their interview skills while the teachers will learn how to write good references. We also hope to have some guest speakers to inspire the students.

One of the issues which became clear to Helen was that the students’ textbooks are very old – in some cases 20 years out of date! This means students are revising for exams from textbooks with the wrong syllabus. One of our urgent priorities is to provide the school with newer textbooks.

This is where you can help: if you have access to second hand textbooks for GCSEs (all subjects) and A levels in maths, science and English, please do get in touch. Do you have any local schools you could approach to ask for their old text books to be donated as students finish their exams in June? You could make a HUGE difference to these students who so desperately want to succeed in their education and set themselves on a positive path.

We are very excited and proud to be involved with the Hillcrest National Technical School and we are excited to see this relationship develop. Helen would like to say a personal thank you to the staff there for being so welcoming to her and Our Moon’s HALI award students.

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