“She is a pretty special person, she grew up here, and she still finds time to come here,” Houpt said.
Melching enjoyed coming to DHS to speak to the students.
“When you are in high school, you never imagine that one day you could be given special recognition and have your picture up on a ‘wall of fame’. It just seems so impossible,” Melching said.
Melching continues to live in Senegal and devotes her time to leading Tostan’s efforts to reach thousands more villagers who have never had access to basic education. She is still the executive director of Tostan, and in the last few years, the organization has expanded with the implementation of activities and the Tostan Community Empowerment Program in eight African countries.
This year she has been working with communities and Tostan to implement innovative new additions to the Tostan program such as peace and security initiatives in communities and working with partners on regional peace-building activities.
She also has been involved in the new Reinforcement of Parental Practices module which is in 232 communities in Senegal and helps parents and communities prepare their children for success at school.
She is working with Tostan’s Generational Change in Three Years campaign which aims to partner with 1,000 communities across West Africa to effect social change. With the focus on six countries, the campaign will help build momentum for the abandonment of female genital cutting and child/forced marriage. It will also support programs that empower women leaders, promote girls’ education, teach literacy and numeracy, and lay a foundation for sustainable development.
“Sometimes people seem surprised that someone who is doing what I do in Africa grew up in a quiet and friendly, middle-sized town in a middle class family in the middle of the United States,” Melching said. “But I always answer, ‘Well, maybe that is why I am able to do what I do.’”
For information about Tostan, visit the website, http://www.tostan.org. For information about the book, “However Long the Night,” visit http://www.tostan.org/however-long-night.