Alexandra Falardeau Maher spent almost six months in Togo for a mandate as an Advisor in support of the Girls’ Empowerment Program with GF2D, a local partner of Crossroads International. She has worked with dozens of young girls and tells us about it.
By Caroline G. Murphy
“It is difficult at first, but you have to give yourself time, because you get used to everyone. Then the cultural differences that were obstacles in the beginning become strengths.”
If when we met Alexandra Falardeau Maher after five months in the country, the 26-year-old woman’s eyes shone when she spoke of her experience as a volunteer, she admits that she found the start a bit difficult.
“The workplace is so different from home that I had a little shock when I arrived. I had to accept that I did not understand many things and that sometimes I did not even know how to ask the questions to understand,” recalls Alexandra laughing. “It took me a while, but it went well.”
The GF2D Girls’ Empowerment Program, which the Quebecer was working on, brings together 25 school-based clubs. “On the one hand, I have created material, such as the guide used for training young people, or even monitoring tools. On the other, I went to the field to meet the clubs; I answered questions from supervisors and young people, I gave them training in collaboration with my GF2D counterpart, ”explains the graduate in sexology.
Her counterpart was Léocadie Gbenahin Adjetey, the Program Manager, who only had good words for Alexandra and Crossroads volunteers’. “We are still working in collegiality and we thank them for that. We would not have gone to 25 clubs without them. Alexandra was open and very involved in everything we do with young people. ”
Going to meet teenage girls is exactly what Alexandra preferred. She remembers a time when she gave reproductive health training to a group of 60 female students. “It was really a highlight of my mandate, I was impressed by their curiosity and their dynamism despite such a sensitive subject. I felt like I had taught the girls something very useful. ”
Before joining Crossroads, Alexandra already had three years of work in Nunavik, in northern Quebec, as a Street worker and as a professional in support of students.
“With these experiences, I learned to be culturally sensitive. I understood that sometimes there is a difference between what I would like to bring and what I can bring, and that it is correct. In Togo, I learned a lot more than I thought, and especially in terms of good manners and life skills, rather than in terms of skills. ”
Alexandra is convinced that she leaves the country with a rich background that she can use in her career. “When I start a new job, I will give myself more time. I’m going to stay open and not overlook how cultural differences can be a challenge at first, but then you get acclimated and get richer. “