When School of Public Health student Love Odetola found out she was receiving a Vincent L. Hawkinson Foundation Scholarship, she was more than excited.
“I think I screamed when I first read the selection letter,” says Odetola, a student in the maternal and child health program with extensive experience performing social justice and health work in her home country of Senegal.
This $5,000 scholarships honor students who are demonstrating a commitment to promoting peace and justice, and striving for it in their educational pursuits and daily lives.
“In doing peace and justice work, it can be easy to get discouraged, wondering if one is truly making a difference,” says Odetola. “The Hawkinson Foundation scholarship is an encouragement — a most-wonderful pat on the back.”
As a teenager in Senegal, Odetola served on her high school medical team and joined a local community service organization to help nurses vaccinate impoverished children.
Later, Odetola acquired a $10,000 grant to start a project in Senegal that brought potable water to a village and taught its residents about public health and small business topics.
The work led to Odetola establishing the Women for Women Empowerment (WWE), an organization that helps female high school dropouts in Dakar break the poverty cycle through occupational training and life-skills education.
“In Senegal, more than 75 percent of girls do not make it through high school; many drop out of school due to familial financial constraints,” says Odetola.
Odetola plans to use 25 percent of her Hawkinson scholarship to support a new WWE initiative called the Holistic Tailoring Project, which focuses on training Senegalese girls to be clothing tailors while developing their entrepreneurship, communication, and maternal and child health skills so that they can establish and maintain their careers.
“I believe each human being should be given a fair shot at life regardless of economic status,” says Odetola. “This project is doing just that.”
Odetola says the rest of the scholarship money will go toward paying for her own education as she completes a master’s in public health with a global health concentration, which she says will help her to further promote justice for women and children in Senegal and sub-Saharan Africa at large.
“I truly have been given so much in life, often times from individuals who themselves, have limited resources,” says Odetola. “So, why wait till I am financially comfortable to help? Why not now? This is why I strive to be active in peace and justice today.”