Avery received around $280 each month in stipends to cover his living expenses, in which $20 covered his apartment rent and $5 for electricity.
“Food was also pretty cheap. If I ate street food I could get lunch for about 20 to 40 cents. Buying comfort food in the capital could get a little expensive, but was always worth it to get something that tastes like home,” he said. “I usually spent most of my money on traveling because the other volunteers were so far away. I was the only volunteer in a town in the mountains with about 6,000 people. I only had three people that lived within an hour’s travel time to where I lived. Everyone else was at least three hours away so we would spend a lot of our money on travel.”
Given the nickname ‘Tsome Nanyo,’ meaning tomorrow will be better, Avery’s efforts while in Togo included establishing seven Community Development Committees and a citizen self-governing effort, was affiliated with the German embassy, leading a survey team to evaluate the World Health Organization’s anti-malaria bed-net distribution campaign, and coordinating and facilitating gender equality training conferences in support of Togolese professional women.
“In my program, we were trying to change gender norms and the perception of women in society, and helping girls secure their education to have a good life and be successful. The big problem in African countries is that women’s rights aren’t where they should be. Girls don’t get to go to school as much, they get stuck at home taking care of the household, and they have no voting rights. In some parts of the country, polygamy is practiced,” Avery said. “One of the biggest things I did there was with a program called Men As Partners. We would host a three-day training session and invite men and women from various industries and backgrounds. The common training would be to train teachers on gender equality issues, specifically covering topics on sexual harassment, reproductive health and HIV health prevention. It was a bigger challenge than your typical volunteer assignment, but the reward is so much more powerful and greater because of the difficulty.”