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A Spring in a Sun-Scorched Land

Dorcus House teaches young women to succeed

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The Lord will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.

Isaiah 58:11

Ines, just 16 years old, was sweeping and sifting rocks to earn a meager living in Burkina Faso, West Africa. Since her father’s death two years earlier, she had to help her mother provide the household income. The youngest of five children, Ines had only a third-grade education—all her parents could afford to give her. Then, her mother heard about Dorcas House.

Dorcas House, a residential center operated by Alliance national church members, is among the grassroots solutions bringing hope to young women in Burkina Faso. In this small, landlocked country, among the world’s poorest, only 15 percent of teen girls graduate from high school. According to statistics gathered for the UN Millennium Development Goals for 2015, this percentage is the lowest in the world. In Africa, girls from poor families or those who are orphaned or abandoned often are socially marginalized. By providing opportunities for education and vocational training, Dorcas House staff are enabling its young graduates to become change agents in their homes and communities.

It began nearly a decade ago, when a group from Burkina’s Association of Alliance Women wanted to start a transformative educational center for teens and young adults. In partnership with American women who also shared their vision, Dorcas House, just outside the capital of Ouagadougou, opened its doors to 14 young women in 2008.

The students who entered the program that year have now returned to their villages empowered to make a difference. Young women like Suzanne, Rebecca and Sara have done the hard work of returning to their homes and becoming tailors while living out the spiritual truths they have learned and are teaching to others. Each year, about 20 young women (aged 17–27) have made Dorcas House their home. Through the development of a two-level, two-year program, it has been possible to bring in a minimum of 10 new girls each year. In 2014, 28 young women from almost every region of Burkina Faso were enrolled. Currently, 43 graduates have completed the program. As the Burkinabé staff work hard to teach, mentor and share their faith, they model a new way of life for the residents of Dorcas House.

Young women who have never been to school are given lessons in reading, writing and basic business skills, as well as gardening, dyeing fabric, sewing both by hand and on a treadle sewing machine and making shea butter soap. (Shea butter is a natural resource in Burkina Faso.) The residents also learn animal husbandry, and the pigs they raise, as well as income from a flour mill on the property, help to bring income into the center.

Honorine, who lost both parents, reached age 20 with only a sixth-grade education and no opportunity to reenroll in a school. Dorcas House provides her a continuing education in life skills and French literacy as well as a chance to hear the biblical worldview of how valuable she is to God. Honorine has found new life and hope and is grateful to her uncle, a boutique owner in the market, who brought her to the center.

Families from other religious backgrounds have been eager to send their daughters to Dorcas House. Salimata, age 21, had a job selling medicine in the market when her parents asked if she could come to Dorcas House. Sali never went to school in her life and has five siblings. She is now looking forward to becoming a tailor.

Ines, the teen who once sorted rocks, is in her second year at Dorcas House. She loved the opportunity to learn how to sew on a treadle machine, which she will be given when she graduates in early January 2015. An even more precious gift, a Bible, is presented to each of the young women upon completion of the program, which has given them an enhanced ability to read and understand it.

My husband, Steve, and I have had the blessing of working with Gnagali Traore and her team since the inception of Dorcas House. Steve and I are now serving at Nyack College but continue on the Dorcas House board and return as often as we can to be part of the project. Over the course of a week during our recent visit there, I taught special sessions on women of the Bible, and the girls performed skits and sang songs as we had full days together doing many different activities. All 28 were able to recite more than 20 memory verses in unison. It was a blessed time of seeing how God is working in raising up women of excellence.

We were moved by a delegation of Muslim and Christian women who came to thank us all for the blessing that this tiny oasis has been to the community. Martine, age 20, is finishing her second year. Her mother and grandmother were in the group and told us that the entire family is grateful for the change they see in their daughter. Young women learning new skills and empowered by a fresh perspective on their lives by the Word of God—this is what Dorcas House is all about.

Each year, Great Commission Women from the United States have made significant investments in this project by praying, going and giving. The Alliance family has partnered well with Dorcas House, and the Association of Alliance Women of Burkina Faso send their deepest gratitude.

Let’s believe God together for years to come and uphold the Burkinabé staff in prayer as they minister life, skill and love every day at Dorcas House. We return these young women to their villages as living evidence of God’s transforming power.

Thumbnail image for Dorcas House: Esther’s Story

Dorcas House: Esther’s Story

September 2012

Burkina Faso

2:40

A young woman in Burkina Faso was ostracized by her family and forced into prostitution. Through the ministry of Dorcas House, she was able to abandon her old life and receive and extend grace.

Past Alliance Life Issues

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