We are honored to announce the creation of the Ann Jensen Scholarship Fund to honor REAL co-founder Ann Jensen.
When Ann taught mathematics as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ethiopia, only 10% of her 9th and 10th-grade students were girls. Almaz, her brightest student, was forced by her very poor parents to quit school and get married. Almax begged Ann to help her, but there was nothing she could do to help Almaz stay in school. Ann never forgot Almaz and resolved to find a way to help girls like Almaz realize their dreams of an education.
In 2004 Ann had the good fortune to be a mentor to Tsehai Wodajo, then a graduate student in Social Work at Augsburg University. Years earlier Tsehai had been helped to stay in school by Eva Nordin, a Swedish volunteer in Ethiopia, and like Ann, Tsehai had resolved to help African girls complete their education. Ann and Tsehai collaborated to form the structure of REAL and in 2004, they traveled to Ethiopia to explain the REAL program to a congregation in Nedjo, Ethiopia. They recruited prospective committee members, trained the mentor, and by the fall of 2004, the first REAL site was ready to be launched. But they needed financial support.
Back in the United States Ann and Tsehai made presentations to church groups, Rotary Clubs, and other organizations so that by 2010 REAL had 9 sites in Ethiopia supporting 135 girls—an amazing accomplishment in a short time! Ann personally inspired many of our early sponsors to support a REAL girl.
In the last 17 years, 426 girls have entered the REAL program, 205 have completed the program, and 120 are currently being supported. Ann frequently reminds us that the lives of girls who were unable to complete the program were significantly helped by being able to stay in school for an additional 1, 2, or 3+ years. REAL has made a real difference in the lives of those girls and young women!
It is fitting that we create the Ann Jensen Scholarship fund as we continue our REAL Africa Growth Initiative that will nearly double our impact. Girls sponsored through the Ann Jensen fund will be notified that they are an Ann Jensen Girl, supported in recognition of Ann's role in the creation, development, and expansion of REAL.