Meet Your Neighbor: Katie Hatch, Executive Director Of Advancement Of Girls Education – For Africa

By Carol McCracken

It’s hard to imagine an educational non-profit based on the Hill that serves teenage girls as far away as Africa, but that’s exactly what Advancement Of Girls Education (“AGE”) does. Katie Hatch lives on the Hill and is executive director of AGE. It’s primary constituency is teenage girls in Africa well qualified to receive a good secondary education and are unable to afford one.

Much of Africa has universal primary education education (“UPE”) says Katie. “That’s good as far as it goes,” she says. But when teenagers get to their high school years, there is a charge to go to school. Many students who are well qualilfied to continue on are unable to do so because they can’t afford the cost of an education, uniforms and all that it entails.

AGE was founded last year to “support bright and extremely poor” teenage girls in Malawi who otherwise would not receive an education beyond the eighth grade. Currently AGE supports 17 teenagers there. They attend academically stimulating classes and are given a small amount of pocket money and the opportunity to decide spend how to spend that money. Making those decisions can be an educational experience in and of itself for teenagers who’ve never had spending money. The program has been so successful that by January ’09, the program expects to almost double in enrollment. Malawi is located on Lake Malawi in South Africa. It’s a beautiful area called the “warmheart of Africa” says Katie. By the way, she has traveled to about a dozen countries in Africa out of the hundreds of countries there.

At the same time, AGE manages a home for 20 children who have been orphaned or abandoned in Uganda. It’s called the Malayaka House and is named for the child who was the first abandoned child to occupy this special home. An American, Robert Fleming, who Katie credits with the idea of the House, lives there and is responsible for the physical management of the House. He also coordinates activities with many other orphanages in the area. Another half dozen or so are expected to take up residence at the Malayaka House in the near future.

Back in 2004, Katie negotiated a contract with the United Nations. She became a contract employee for the High Commission on Refugees. The concept of working with a“marginalized population” has always appealed to her, so this was a perfect fit for Katie. She worked in Uganda near Lake Victoria in the educational field. And the rest is laid out above.

Late next month Katie will return to Malawi where she and a team of graduate students from the Fletcher School of International Development at Tufts University. They will begin to develop a new mentoring program for teenage girls at the Providence Girls Secondary School there. She’ll return to the U.S. in late June with a teenager who will be attending Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire on full scholarship for the summer.

Grants and individual donors keep his program financed. AGE also does fund raising events in Washington, D.C., New York and Boston.

Katie plans one day to return to graduate school to get her master’s degree in global public health. She has a degree in American Studies from St. Michael’s College in New Hampshire. “I love my life,” she says. Originally she’s from Windham.

It may be hard to imagine AGE up here so far away from its constituents and it’s likewise hard to imagine anyone better suited and more dedicated than Katie Hatch to direct AGE.

Please visit the web page www.ageafrica.org for more details to see how you can contribute to this non-profit.