Community College Initiative (CCI) Program alumna Philomène Kouakou, a Business major from Côte d’Ivoire who studied at the Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus from 2014-2015, has officially opened The Children’s House in Fresco, Côte d’Ivoire. The Children’s House is a play and learning space that Philomène created while studying in the U.S., and is designed to provide a safe educational and play space for local children.
When Philomène “Koffi” Kouakou entered the Community College Initiative (CCI) Program at Miami Dade College’s Wolfson Campus for the 2014-15 academic year, she knew the opportunity would help prepare her to better serve her community in Africa. Specifically, Philomène had an interest in helping underserved children in her hometown of Fresco, Côte d’Ivoire—she wanted to design a children’s community center. Working hard and capitalizing on every opportunity at Miami Dade helped her dream become a reality.
Philomène first showcased her community center concept, The Children’s House, at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) in Coral Gables, Florida. The CGI U proposals had some tough criteria: proposed projects had to be viable and have a demonstrable impact on a humanitarian problem that addressed one of CGI U’s five focus areas (Education, Peace and Human Rights, Environment and Climate Change, Poverty Alleviation and Public Health). Philomène knew her idea of a safe educational and play space for local children met the criteria and would make an impact in Côte d’Ivoire, but she had to convince those at the CGI U to make it a reality. With a series of posters and an outline of a proposal for her children’s community center, she presented her project and won the opportunity to become a Resolution Project Fellow and funding for her project.
A little over a year later, on Friday, September 2, 2016, The Children’s House hosted its official launch ceremony in Fresco. Attendees included representatives from The Resolution Project and UNESCO and the Mayor of Fresco. Three other Ivoirian CCI alumni also attended the opening and gave a presentation about the CCI Program, sharing details about their experiences and opportunities. The opening ceremony was packed with speakers from the community as children looked on with anticipation, eager to explore their new getaway.
The Children’s House is a play and learning space designed to respond to former President Bill Clinton’s call to take action and make a better world for our world’s youth. The once run-down building of The Children’s House now boasts bright purple walls, hand-painted mottos like “Dream Big” and “Read!” and a sprawling yard. But the real star of The Children’s House is its library and computer courtyard which gives children the ability to play and learn at the same time.
Despite the successful launch, the road from earning the Fellowship to opening the school was not easy. Upon returning to Côte d’Ivoire, Philomène needed to establish a venue and set up the space. Fortunately for her, her project had garnered so much local attention and support that even children from the neighborhood volunteered to help set it up. Together, they repaired and painted walls, readied furniture, and tended to the yard. Meanwhile, Philomène worked to receive a grant for the computer courtyard from the U.S. Embassy and she collaborated with UNESCO to stock the library with books. Finally, The Children’s House was ready for its launching ceremony.
Three other Ivoirian CCI alumni also attended the opening and gave a presentation about the CCI Program, sharing details about their experiences and opportunities.
Fellow CCI alumna Axelle ‘Stephanie’ Amani wrote about attending the ceremony on her blog: “It truly was a beautiful testimony of selflessness and perseverance. [Philomène] showed us that with belief, hard work, and motivation, everything is possible; every dream can come true!”