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An Interview with AYDA Volunteer and Travel Nurse, Yvonne Basilio

Written by Kristy Mew | Johannesburg, South Africa

When COVID-19 hit, Yvonne Basilio took the opportunity to achieve one of her ambitions: to provide medical assistance during a natural disaster or pandemic. By relocating to New York City during the peak of COVID-19, Yvonne was able to lend her expertise in a place where the conditions were some of the worst in the world.

Prior to her move to NYC, Yvonne had raised a large sum of money towards establishing the AYDA Centre in Saint-Louis, Senegal. We caught up with Yvonne to ask about her passion for AYDA and her recent experience in NYC during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interview 28 June 2020:

Yvonne, thank you so much for being willing to do this interview with us. To start, can you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure! I am 23 years old. I was born and raised in South Sioux City, Nebraska, and am one of five children. Both of my parents are Mexican immigrants. I have been working as a nurse for almost three years now. I lived in Spokane, Washington, for 13 months before I became a travel nurse. I have experience in long term care, medical surgical and telemetry. I am mentored twice a month in Spokane, and I recently joined AYDA as a volunteer.

Was there an influential experience that motivated you to become a nurseor did you always know that’s what you wanted to do? 

I decided to become a nurse when I worked as a certified nursing assistant in a long-term care facility. I really enjoyed getting to know the people I was taking care of. There is a special bond made when you get to take care of someone every day. You learn to be a good listener as you hear their stories and hardships and that helps you develop patience and compassion. That job inspired me to become a nurse, but working as one has reassured and solidified my decision that this is the right career path for me.

How did you find AYDA and what motivated you to volunteer? 

Emily Furnish, who works closely with AYDA, told me about it. I have always wanted to be a part of a charitable organisation. It’s very motivating to see all the hard work behind the scenes for this organisation, and as a mentor have a strong passion for helping vulnerable children in populations. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to get involved in while AYDA was still growing.

In what ways do you think AYDA can address the most important global issues? 

Identifying current global issues is a good start. Recognizing what needs to be done, adapting to overcome challenges, and applying that through education that AYDA would be helping to provide.

Communities are continually being weakened by issues like Ebola, Coronavirus, poor hygiene, massive waste accumulationand common diseases. What do you think AYDA can do to address these issues in the future? 

AYDA aims to advocate and create ways for youth to thrive. One major way children and adolescents thrive is by being educated. As many know, the best way to prevent spreading communicable disease is by teaching hand washing. If children are taught hand hygiene, it should help significantly in reducing the spread of disease. AYDA will be able to provide a solid foundation of hygiene knowledge and this education, plus other activities, will equip youth to create a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

From your experience in NYC, what do you think less developed countries can learn about dealing with COVID19?

Developing countries may not have access to some of the treatments we have available in the US, but by washing hands and wearing a mask, you can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Learning the basics at an early age is something that can be taught at schools and at home.

Has this experience in NYC inspired you to work in areas hardest hit by pandemics or has this made you realise that you would prefer a different route in nursing? 

I knew this was a chance of a lifetime – to see healthcare in its rawest, most vulnerable form. I never believed I would live to see a pandemic in my lifetime, but here we are! I believe if I were given the chance to go to a hard-hit area again, I would go.

You moved to NYC at the peak of the Coronavirus pandemic. What made you decide to do this and what have been your biggest challenges while working there?

It has been a dream of mine to help out with a major event. I knew that this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity would change me in ways I could never imagine. It was a little scary committing to this major change as it’s been a major sacrifice of my mind and body, but it’s something I know I will never regret. Some of the biggest challenges I’ve had were adapting and maintaining patience with myself.

It was difficult at first to get the hang of the routine at a different hospital in such a different environment. NYC is very diverse, which I’ve enjoyed, but it definitely required me to adapt to the culture they have here.

If you could live and work at one of AYDA’s offices abroad and collaborate with a community in need, what activities, classes or programs would you start with first?

As a nurse, educating people about their health is something I am very passionate about. I believe collaborating with their on-site health office would be the first place I’d want to jump into. I think it would be very enjoyable for me to get to talk to the kids about basic hygiene.

The world’s developing nations were last to be impacted by Coronavirus and have experienced slow infection rates, yet New York City was hit hardest. What is your theory on why this happened?

Aside from the high population, many people travel to NYC frequently either for work or vacation. That means new people are constantly coming into contact with one another. That would be my only guess as to why it got hit so hard.

The global pandemic has had far reaching consequences that are likely to last for years. If someone asked you, “What happens now?”what would you say? 

I’m not sure; I’m curious to see how this pandemic will change healthcare in the future. I think we will be required to wear masks for some time. I believe after a vaccine is made available, it will ease everything a little, but those who are immunocompromised will have to take their standard precautions as they usually would. This is a scary virus and it will continue to be until we can understand it better and have access to a vaccine.

Yvonne is a passionate nurse who dedicates her time to helping others by not only raising funds for AYDA, but by relocating to high-risk areas during uncertain times. When she isn’t working as a nurse or as an AYDA volunteer, Yvonne enjoys spending time at home with her cat, Benji.

If you’ve been inspired by Yvonne’s passion and think you’d like to become involved with the Alliance for Youth Development in Africa, please send us an email at [email protected].  AYDA is a diverse mix of people who are scattered across the world. 

AYDA’s directors and staff are all volunteers, who work full-time in other jobs as teachers, nurses, engineers and more. We could always use more help as we build foundations together!

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About AYDA

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Summary 

Alliance for Youth Development in Africa (AYDA) Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to enabling underserved communities find pathways out of systemic poverty. 

AYDA believes youth education and empowerment are key to breaking long-standing cycles of poverty and inequality; but we also understand youth development must be addressed holistically to achieve sustainable results. 

Since our inception in 2015, we have partnered with local NGOs and community leaders in the countries where we serve to identify opportunities and harness local resources for impact in education, health, economic well-being, and other domains that affect youth thriving.

The Backstory

AYDA was first conceived in 2015 when a group of five engineering students at Washington State University decided to approach their final year project differently. They set out to validate a shared belief that sustainable design can be leveraged as a tool for social impact.

The team reached out to a nonprofit organization in Senegal which, at the time, was looking for a partner to set up a new school building. The end result was a multifunctional school facility that would serve the needs of the local community and double as the organization’s administrative office. 

We have since expanded our operations in Senegal through local partnerships, implementing a range of social programs with a focus on education and youth development.

AYDA recently attained 501(c)(3) status in the United States, an important milestone that will enable us to reach our goals for funding and accountability as we forge ahead.

Our Team

AYDA is led by a team of passionate philanthropists, comprising three directors, one project manager, five volunteer teachers, and dozens of international volunteers in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas.

What we do

AYDA advocates and creates opportunities for youth to thrive. 

We collaborate with local communities in any area of need that affects their youth, but we have historically focused on initiatives at the nexus of education, economic independence, health and wellbeing, and environmental sustainability.

In line with our mission, we have identified a number of priority areas to guide our activities over the next few years.

AYDA Centers

An AYDA Center serves as a hub for a network of communities. With an emphasis on functionality, the facility offers streamlined services and operational support for planning and implementation of programs identified by community leaders and local allied NGOs.

AYDA Centers provide the professional front and clout often required for community-led programs to gain traction, but once initiatives are activated, ownership is progressively transferred entirely to the initiating community.

Financial Sustainability 

We will ensure the financial sustainability of AYDA initiatives by leveraging innovative practices for cost efficiency and revenue generation. We will also consolidate our efforts and develop strategic funding partnerships for greater impact.

Scale Local Best Practices

We will help identify, showcase and where possible, “prototype” local best practices in school infrastructure and administration, so they can be easily scaled up or replicated.

Our Approach

Senegal will build Senegal…Africa must build Africa. This local adage captures well AYDA’s philosophy on development and our approach to community outreach.

AYDA allies with existing local programs, community leaders, and government, drawing on their experience, resourcefulness, and in-depth understanding of the challenges facing their youth, and collaborating with them to develop sustainable solutions. 

Collaborative & Allied   

AYDA allies with existing local NGOs who best understand the problems within the community and are closely aligned with our mission. We do not engage in programs or activities that promote dependence on foreign aid.

Transparent  

Transparency and accountability are embedded in our ethos. Every quarter, we publish financial reports on our website and keep our stakeholders continuously informed through our website, email, and social media.

Impact-Driven

We don’t just implement activities to check them off a list. For every project we carry out, we streamline our efforts and resources and develop revenue-earning programs that promote financial sustainability to maximize the impact of our supporters’ investment. 

Localized 

When we reach out to support new communities, we never claim to be the experts or have the solution. Rather, we draw on the knowledge and resources of the local community and tailor all programs to their specific set of circumstances. 

How we partner

Our volunteers are local citizens who become ambassadors within their communities.

We make it our goal not to interfere with local efforts, but to come alongside key players and stakeholders within the system in any way that will help them achieve their goals. We have adopted a 4-step approach to ensure we consistently operate within these boundaries.  

Case Study: Furniture for Schools

Identify a need: Local school teachers flag a need for new desks and blackboards in their school. The existing furniture is dilapidated and creates a distraction to learning . 

Understand the challenges:  We consult with the school to find out what has been done so far to address the problem. We explore whether there are financial resources already made available by the community, local government, or other opportunities. We discover they have not been unable to acquire the resources locally, nor obtain the support of the local and regional government.

Explore solutions: We brainstorm with teachers to explore ways the issue might be addressed and determine that crowdfunding and small grants are the quickest and most effective option presently.

Implement and measure: AYDA helps coordinate a fundraising effort to procure the new blackboards and furniture, leveraging our local and global networks. Following implementation, we monitor and share results of this initiative with the local and regional government  to quantify the problem and, ultimately, demonstrate impact.

Destroyed desks in École Nalla Ndiaye.

Case Study: Overcrowding in Schools

Identify a need: AYDA is approached by friends, allies, and their local connections regarding the problem of overcrowding in schools in a community flagged as previously marginalized.

Understand the challenges: We meet with local stakeholders to better understand root causes and influencing factors; and to determine the potential long-term impact of the overcrowding issue.

Explore solutions: We bring the matter up with the Ministry of Education and discuss plans for infrastructure expansion. [The Ministry’s budget cycle cannot accommodate expansion, but they grant consent to AYDA to build a new school.]

Implement and measure: Work with partners to build new school and track results. Based on our observations and data, we advise the Ministry on the extent of the deficiencies, make an evidence-based case for expanding capacity of school spaces, and offer recommendations on low-cost options for infrastructure expansion.

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A Look Back: Foundations for Senegal

The Foundations for Senegal (FFS) Design team met every Monday and Wednesday at 13:00 Pacific Time. It was a group of five college senior engineers who wanted to do something different than what the course offered. This project was approved as an eligible design project for the graduation course. The team began meeting several months before the course began.

FFS was an adopted project by the student organization of Developing Sustainable Communities (DSC). DSC provided access to additional resources and financial support when required.  DSC had many members from various academic areas. The team looked for non-engineers to participate as well, from all majors at Washington State University.  One student helped us by producing architectural drawing and renderings for the final product of the building.

The design team was later represented by Andrew Stephenson in Saint-Louis, Senegal for a project field visit 10-16 March 2017.  The team had to make many assumptions leading up to then, such as the soil properties, site location, material properties, and more.  While this was okay for the design at this stage, all this information had to be confirmed on-site before the final modifications to the design are made.  Activities involved the following:

  1. Visit property to measure dimensions, make approximate land survey.
  2. Perform soil testing on site to approximate bearing capacity.
  3. Meet material suppliers to inspect material properties: dimensions, weights, thus densities.
  4. Meet the city staff to find necessary work and building permits and regulations.
  5. Meet members of community concerning volunteering to construct building spring 2018
  6. Establish relationship with contractor and client on-site to continue progress on design and later fundraising.
  7. Gather more photos, videos and personal stories from children and parents in community.

The purpose of the trip was to achieve these seven goals and establish a better cultural understanding of community’s needs for the school and how to integrate the school with its surroundings.

Developing Sustainable Communities (Washington State University) made a generous donation in 2018
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Fundraiser 2019 – Inaugural

Thank you so much.

We had over two dozen supporters attend our inaugural fundraiser, and double that if you count the dozens of other customers at the brewery we recruited to our cause. (Thanks, Samba!) If anyone would let us share their photos online from that evening, please email them here: [email protected]

Our goal was to have a great time and learn more about AYDA. We hope the drinks and snacks were tasty and the setting was convivial.

In just 10 days since starting the fundraiser, we have reached $2,550. We need to reach $3,000 by the end of this week.

  • $100 Donation = Free AYDA Tee-Shirt
  • $200 Donation = Invitation (1 guest) to December 14th Wine & Tapas Soirée (plus Tee-Shirt)
  • $300+ Donation = Invitation (2 guests) to December 14th Wine & Tapas Soirée (plus Tee-Shirt)

We thank you again for your continued support. This school won’t happen without this collective effort. We are going to chip away every week to accomplish $6,000 to begin school construction this December.

Stay tuned as we steadily update the website with project progress, photos, and more information at AYDAF.org

Thank you again for attending our fundraiser. This was our first trial. 192 Brewing Co. was a fun – and boisterous – venue, in fact, we are still receiving questions about our mission, goal, why we are fundraising, and/or how to donate.

We have summarized our answers to your questions below:

About us: Alliance for Youth Development in Africa (AYDA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization registered in Washington state. Our mailing address is: P.O. Box 82234, Kenmore, WA 98028

Vision: AYDA envisions the Senegalese government to strengthen the Ministère de l’éducation National (National Ministry of Education) to prioritize schools, community sports programs, health education clinics, and other programs that support effective youth development to reduce systemic poverty. Senegal is one of most stable, peaceful, and developed nations in West Africa, yet still suffers from an extremely high poverty rate, therefore Senegal plays an essential political and economic role in the spotlight for its neighboring countries. Investments in education and youth development programs not only make an impact in Senegal, but even in other developing nations across the continent.

Mission AYDA repairs and supports existing and neglected infrastructure that will provide youth the skills and confidence to excel in school and continue education.

Core Values: Firstly, we prioritize aiding existing local nonprofit organizations managed by communities in Senegal. Secondly, we target our aid towards underprivileged and neglected communities without local schools. Thirdly, we support accomplishing our mission while simultaneously seeking environmentally-friendly alternatives, advocating for female leadership and empowerment, encouraging entrepreneurship, and youth education on health and hygiene.

Strategy: We first started by repairing the walls, roof, and blackboards of two existing schools which serve thousands of students from underprivileged families. Now that we have established our AYDA Office in Senegal, we can continue to network with these local schools to best understand how to make the biggest impact. Meanwhile, we will continue operating the new Training School which just opened and has already taught young students how to raise chickens to provide eggs for food and income.

Objective: While we continue to operate the Training School for poultry farming, and get settled into our new AYDA Office, AYDA plans to finish School fundraising by Thanksgiving in time to begin construction this December. This new school will be operated by a local nonprofit in Senegal, named Association Chance for all Senegal (ACS), managed by Fina Senghor. Her organization can be found at http://chanceforall-sn.org. She leads an ambitious goal to provide academic opportunities to girls and boys equally, from underprivileged families in the most neglected communities in the country. They have a mission and an army of teachers and local supporters to combat systemic poverty and give local youth the critical skills to succeed.

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FFS Design team information

The FFS Design team meets every Monday and Wednesday at 13:00 Pacific Time.  Calling us during these hours is welcome if arranged beforehand by contacting us a [email protected] or calling us at 530 346 3058

If you’re interested in joining the affiliate FFS project under the student organization of Developing Sustainable Communities, please also contact us to learn more about how even non-engineers can get involved!  We are looking for students in all majors at Washington State University.  One student has begun helping us by producing architectural drawing and renderings for the final product of this building.  Another student, also a civli engineering major, has become involved and has several options such as ecological design, which could involve finding solar panels to power the building, or designing a recycling process at the building.

Whether you’re in the arts of sciences, you could design the academic curriculum, explore power-less ventilation designs, or design the murals for the courtyard walls.  It’s up to you!

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Welcome & Bienvenue

Welcome to Foundations for Senegal!  We are excited to see how far this grassroots engineering non-profit will go as this design team begins research, testing and design for the potential two-level kindergarten for ASPE to base its permanent home.  The mission of ASPE is to continue providing education to young children that would otherwise start schooling later in their youth and struggle.  In order to develop an emerging generation of better educated children, the most vulnerable youth must learn verbal and written communication, physical education, foreign and domestic cultural knowledge and other areas of learning to which unsupported children are not exposed.  We look forward to updating this blog bi-weekly at maximum and monthly at minimum.  While we further develop this website, contact us at [email protected] to learn more!

Bienvenue sur le site de l’association Foundations for Senegal qui est basée à Washington State University. Le contenu sera bientôt disponible en français! En attendant n’hésitez pas à nous contacter par e-mail: [email protected]