CACAE Association was founded by a French entrepreneur and Santomean friends living in São Tomé city, at the heart of a beautiful island, unfortunately one of the poorest country in Africa.
In São Tomé, we are surrounded by happiness and smiling people. But it shall not hide the main problem that people are facing : lack of access to water and electricity, lack of access to education, high unemployment rate, and nutrition problems.
Most families live in wooden dwellings with no access to water; they spend hours every week getting water at the pump and washing the clothes at the wash house. Young children are often helping with chores... including carrying water !
Due to lack of birth control, the children outnumber the adults, and there are not enough kindergardens to take care of them. Therefore, instead of keeping busy in a clean and safe environment, we often see them playing in the dirt, by the road.
As we are based locally, we are in direct contact with the population.
We started our activities by accident, in 2017, just by offering a shelter to young coconut sellers who got wet by pouring rain. Then things added up... We already had a classroom (teaching night classes), so we only had to buy some color pencils and prepare some biscuits.
In 2018, we informed some families that we would welcome children and organize activities : drawing, games, mathematics classes (with a great French volunteer),.
In 2019, we officially started to sponsor 4 children and gave them full scholarships, providing financial support for school tuition, uniform, daily breakfast and lunch, clothing and extra-curricular activities.
Now due to the crisis, we have asked the children to take turn (they gather by age group and friendships). About 20 children regularly pay us a visit, stopping by to say "hello", have a cup of tea, or play a game. We take care of up to 8 children daily.
Unfortunately, we cannot yet welcome all of them at once, nor provide sponsorship for all of them. Our waiting list is longer than 20 children and we also want to open our activities to young girls (we will then need to recruit female volunteers).
We consider education in the general sense, not limited to academic training but rather as a term that covers all aspects of life.
While organizing very different activities, our goal is to open up new perspectives for the children and to have them build fresh synaptic connections, stimulating their intellect. We want to bring up happy and skilled children.
We aim to reach this goal by the following means:
-Academic studies (follow the official school program, stay in school as long as possible).
-Community living (respect the rules, behave well, be polite, develop social skills).
-Playing chess and board games (develop abstract thinking, respect the game, accept defeat with calm).
-Practical activities (woodcraft, vegetable garden).
-Encounter with foreigners (make the world accessible).
-Outdoor activities (spearfishing, boat tour, camp in the wild, hikes).
-Practice sports (physical condition, balance).
-Be responsible (after 14 y.o it is time to teach and lead the younger ones).
CACAE stands for Centro de "Apoio Cultural e Apoio Escolar" which can be translated to : "Cultural and Education Support Center". It is obviously a play on word with COCOA (named CACAO in other European languages). Did you know that São Tomé´s nickname is Chocolate Island ?