Creating Opportunities Through Education
Story and photos by Jehojakim Sangare
When Nourou Bonkoungou stopped attending school because of his low grades, he felt like a failure and had little hope for his future.
"My school grades were very low, and I was discouraged. I didn't want my parents to waste money because I must repeat the class. The future looked uncertain to me as I didn't know what to do to provide for my needs and change the situation."
Youth unemployment is a crucial issue in Burkina Faso. According to the National Statistics Institute, 8.6% of 15- to 24-year-olds are out of work. To combat this statistic, Compassion and local churches work together to fight the effects of poverty among the youth. Teenagers receive teaching, training, and tools at child development centers, learning how to contribute to their families and even their country.
In an impoverished neighborhood in Ouagadougou, tutor Jean Baptiste works tirelessly to coach and encourage young adults like Nourou.
"When Jean Baptiste shared about God's amazing plans for me during the weekly activities at the project two years ago, I was confident that I can still do great things, despite my poor scores at school. He encouraged me to do what I like the most because every career has value" — Nourou
Jean Baptiste says helping students to identify and focus on their strengths is the key to their future success and is gifted at discerning what these talents are.
"My role is to help the youth identify their God-given talents, and skills that will help them become responsible and productive adults,” he explains. “I realized that Nourou was passionate about decorations at the project during Christmas celebrations and church events such as weddings. I told him he can succeed and earn a living from the decoration business as long as he likes it.”
Nourou was excited about the idea. Even when he realized it was unlikely that he would find employment at an interior design company, he wasn't deterred. He decided to find his own way by just doing what Jean Baptiste told him: starting his own decoration business at 20 years old. At his Compassion center, he was trained in entrepreneurship and developing a business plan. The skills gave him confidence to found Bonour 2J Décor just months before he graduated from the CYD Program in July 2019.
Much to his excitement, he received his first contract shortly after, decorating a company's venue. For the last two years, his new enterprise has steadily attracted customers due to the excellent quality of his service. Nourou even secured a contract worth more than a million franc — the equivalent to US$2,000.
"I am happy to exit the program at age 22 and be able to provide for my needs and support my family because I own a business that is growing well," he says.
"Though I was not a brilliant student, the project has given me a life-changing education. Now I can witness the amazing plans God has in store for me."
Nourou's business isn't only changing his own life: he is using it to change others’, too. He is currently employing more than 10 young adults from the CYD program, training them in interior design as they work for Bonour 2J Décor to help support themselves and their families.
His dream for the future is to continue to give back to the project by training others in interior design. He wants to share his passion with the youth to help reduce the rate of youth unemployment in Burkina Faso.
"I trust that the sky is my limit and will aim to open new branches in Burkina Faso and even worldwide."
Sponsorship: Youth Development
Compassion Africa works with over 330,000 youth (ages 12-22).
Youth development is a major area of focus for Compassion Africa. We know that young adults make critical choices that can impact their future in powerful ways. When a young person attends Compassion’s child development center, caring tutors and mentors are dedicated to helping them think about their future and identify their personal skills. Funding also provides vocational training and assistance with school fees.