Not For Flowers - A Book for Education

Cláudia Cassoma

Until I started living, life was rectilinear.

I was still a little-girl when I first stood in front of a classroom. It was a sunlit corner in my childhood home. An old-rusty-brownish-steel-window served as the board and an insect-pen-chalk was what I used to write with. That place was always more than a roof on top of my head. The house would always be filled with family and friends: music, dance and old stories. Till this day, I hear the songs and see the happy-dancing-feet in the yard during the many parties my parents hosted; the yard where they too celebrated their wedding. School-breaks were always the favorite time of the kids in my family. They would eagerly look forward to it because they’d go over to the house and have all of that space to run around without parents to scream at them. On the other hand, I would look forward to such time because once again I’d get to be a teacher. I remember gathering the little ones and sitting them up in front of the old-rusty-brownish-steel-window. I barely knew how to read and write myself, I was yet learning; nonetheless, the desire to impart knowledge would itch constantly.

Because of the dedicated and supportive parents Life was too gracious as to give me, during my primary and secondary school years, I had the opportunity to explore and experiment many things; including: dance, theater and music. Sometime during my last year of high school, they presented the possibility of studying outside my home country. I have to admit, I didn’t immediately care for it, nor did I actually understand what it all intelled. Notwithstanding any inner-conflict, I chose a path and started getting ready. I was intrigued by the idea of being able to create aromas, so Biochemistry was that path.

I finished high school and a year later I found myself outside the Dulles International Airport experiencing snow for the first time. I wasn’t thrilled at all. I wasn’t one of those people that would give everything to be under the seasonal icy crystals even if just for once; in fact, I couldn’t get enough of the savage sunbeams coloring my skin. So, adjusting was baffling. Being away from everyone and everything I knew, was one of the hardest things to which I had to adjust. However, I was completely aware of the great opportunity before me.  

I started my academic journey at Montgomery College. Those were some life-changing years! The process went smoothly, until it didn’t. In 2015, my home, Angola, was hit by a draining economic crisis: that was the moment life started zigzagging, it no longer was linear. In that same year, a professor suggested I apply for a scholarship in women's and gender studies. On my essay, I recall speaking passionately about the importance of education for women. I wrote things I had no idea I thought about and that’s when I earned The Gustavus D. Griffin Award. Such was the moment I surely knew education was my path. As the financial difficulties arose, I found myself constantly having to redefine my ways. By the time I enrolled at The University of the District of Columbia I had no doubt I was born to be the best educator I could ever be, and a special educator, for that matter. Heretofore, I’ve faced hunger, housing and financial instability and challenges I’m yet to find courage to address. Regardless of any personal dilemma, I’m still expected to keep a perfect performance, to be the best student. But, how can I?! I wish I knew how I actually manage to do that. Considering the amount of roadblocks, I fear being unable to reach my goals. Surprisingly, that same fear keeps me grounded, keeps me moving forward.

In the midst of the hardships it has been astounding to note the legion of tireless people constantly watching over me and working vigorously to ensure my progress. Real life heroes taking the toll of my struggles over their backs, losing sleep, investing money and doing so much more. Even if one day I’m able to put every cent back in their pockets that’d still not going to be enough. Every smile, every hug, every kind and reassuring word, every prayer, every greenback, everything; it’s all priceless. In spite knowing I’ll never be able to repay these generous people, I still would like to do something.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve been sure of my call to serve. In 2016, I finally started SmallPrints, an organization focused on the holistic well-being of every child operating in education, recreation, culture and social action. I had a million plans for it, but no funds to execute them. The fundraising process wasn’t going as well as I wished; perhaps I wasn’t doing it as well as I should've, yet I knew I had to keep working. I was already contemplating the publication of my second book when I thought: why don’t I harness my talents for the good I want to do, for the good I want to see?! From that taught, the DO GOOD READING MORE was born, a project with the purpose of encouraging reading while promoting and supporting practices of social and community interest. Today, I have five books and three social causes assigned to them. I’m still not where I would like to be, I’m still not doing all I wish I could do; however, I believe more and more in the possibilities, in the power of me.

Not For Flowers is the newest addition to my literary repertoire and with it one of the grandest causes yet: Sustainable Development Goal 4, Target 4B. It will be part of an already established Ahetu Project where 80% of the proceeds from my books published under the theme of 8 March (International Women's Day), for a period of 80 days (8 March - 26 May), goes to a cause benefiting women. Like the first book under this project gave life to the Ahetu Small-Business Grant, Not For Flowers will give life to the Ahetu Scholarship For Girls. My desire is that this particular book aids a girl and eventually girls in developing countries in their academic journey. Being someone who has been benefiting from scholarships awarded by individuals and institutions I can attest to its significance. Not having to worry about where the next meal is coming from, or how to pay next semester’s tuition, or even if earning the degree will be possible at all, is a peace of mind that allows for way more than just sounding nights. It allows for a sure future!

There’s a girl I’ve known my entire life. She’s brilliant, beautiful and the bravest. Last year, financial difficulties prevented her from enrolling in college. That broke my heart! Since then, I’ve been crafting ways of helping her and other girls facing similar situation. Now, I’m proud to disclose that she’s the inspiration behind the scholarship idea, so I taught there wasn’t a more perfect way to take this project off the ground then to name her the first recipient of the award. She was born and lives in a country classified as least developed. The plan is not to take her away from her home, but to offer her a Full-Tuition Scholarship to the best institution within the country. By doing so, I hope that we not only promote local colleges training qualified professionals but provoke the improvement of the others ones in these countries. However, none of this will be possible without YOUR HELP. Please, I urge you to join in.

Save the date! In 8 March 2019 the book Not For Flowers will be released on amazon and all you have to do is acquire a copy (or more😉) and invite others to do the same. In order to award the girl the full-tuition scholarship we would have to raise 10,000.00 (ten thousand) dollars. Since she wants to study medicine, that amount would cover the six-year-tuition at one of the best universities in her country. And, to accomplish this goal we have to sell about 2000 (two thousand) copies of the book. I know we can accomplish it, so let’s do this!

By 26 May, provided we raise the full amount, I’ll do all so you guys can get to know more about this marvelous girl I’m yet to name by having her tell her own story. By dedicating 80% of this book towards this scholarship I not only hope to partake in the progress of the SDG4, a goal I live for, I hope a girl goes to school without worrying about money to pay for it; I hope a girl isn't part of the 44% of college students who don’t earn their degree in six-years and end up dropping for good, I hope a girl feels unruffled enough to run after her dreams; I mostly hope to do something that assures a brilliant future for at least one girl, this girl!

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