Caccavo Brings Yonso Project to Vermont

Everyone wants to help make the world a better place, but in college finding time can be difficult. UVM senior Nick Caccavo decided that instead of talking about how to help the global community, he would take action. Caccavo, who had been active in ROTC, was feeling lost during his junior year and looking for a new direction. He decided to spend a senior fall semester abroad, in a unique location: Ghana. The African country, situated on the Ivory Coast, is better off than most countries in West Africa, but it is still a poor state. While attending a university in Ghana, Caccavo met a fellow student who was the organizer of the Yonso Students Union. The non-profit group had been formed one year prior by university students from the African village of Yonso (about the size of a small Vermont town). The organization worked on community AIDS awareness, held local soccer competitions, and rewarded the children of Yonso for doing well in school. While visiting Yonso, Caccavo found the main source of funding was from private patrons. Since secondary education is not free in Ghana, the patrons funding mostly goes toward tuition to secondary schools and for some students, college. Realizing the need, Caccavo thought to himself “we have plenty of money in the United States.” He began to work with other U.S. students attending the university in Ghana, to see how they could help. Unfortunately, they didn’t make as much progress as planned. But they did produce a documentary explaining the educational situation in Ghana. After returning to the states, Caccavo discussed the Yonso Students Union with his girlfriend. Always involved in activism, she urged him to start a Yonso Project at UVM. Caccavo made his main goal to provide the Students Union with funding. Through donation drives he has raised $1,300 dollars so far. Then Caccavo learned that the newly built library in Yonso was in desperate need. Since secondary education isn’t free, the Ghanaian government’s limited funding tends to go to urban schools. Basically, “rural schools get shafted,” says Caccavo. The Yonso Students Union had completed construction of a library, but the shelves were empty.Caccavo started a book drive in Vermont to stock the library in Yonso. The English books needed are those 12th grade reading level and below, encyclopedias, story books, and intro level French books. Donations can still be made since shipping alone costs four to six thousand dollars!Graduating this spring, Caccavo hopes to expand the Yonso Project. By reaching other university students in Ghana, new student unions can be formed. He hopes it will become “as big as we can make it.” Caccavo has been looking into grants and funding in order to make the US half of the Yonso Project a solid organization. In the future, he wants the project “to live on without me,” as he moves forward with other goals. Caccavo hopes to make UVM students aware, interested, and involved in the Yonso Project. He encourages people to volunteer in something of interest to them. As it says on his website, “Everything you do in life makes a difference. Make it a good one and get involved in something that benefits the community.” And as Ben & Jerry said, “How you make your profits is more important than what you do with them.” To make a book donation or get involved contact Nick Caccavo through email ([email protected]). Visit his website, http://www.yonsoproject.org/ for more information on the outstanding Yonso Project.