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Determination, Perseverance and Achievement: Paulin Kouame’s Letter to Rainforest Fund

December 5, 2014 by Paulin Kouame

Thanks to the RAINFOREST FUND my dream is coming true.

It all started in 2009 after my Master of Science in Corporate Finance & Capital Markets, I hadn’t found the theme of my research, I then decided to pursue my studies in the Field of Environmental Management.

I wrote to more than 1500 Foundations in United States and 50 in Canada. I remember when I wrote to the Rainforest Fund, two days after my message I got a reply from the Financial Director Mr. Athos Gontijo. He told me that he wanted an acceptance document from the university; I tried to gather the documents required but it was a little complicated because in our educational system you must pay the fees and tuition before getting an acceptance document. It was tricky to explain this fact to Mr. Gontijo, with my poor English at that time but I tried in another way, unfortunately it didn’t succeed.

One morning, when I opened my e-mail address I found a message, from the Chair Dr. Franca Sciuto, telling me in French that they want to fund my education but the acceptance documents are compulsory. A few days after this message, I got the documents from one of my Directors who appreciated me a lot, I don’t know why, but after, I knew that he was astonished to see a student with a Master of Science in Corporate Finance & Capital Markets who wants to pursue his education in the Field of Environmental Management. Generally in Africa, and particularly in my country, people and decision makers don’t care about our Environment.

I just want to tell you that over more than 1500 foundations around the world that I contacted, only the Rainforest Fund gave me the funds.

I got the funds and started my 1st year Engineering Environmental Management & Chemical Pollution, what struck me is that our teachers had a solid background in Environmental Management & Chemical Pollution, from Master degree to PHD and Dean of Faculty, of course it was the only Private Environmental Management University of the country. Courses were very interesting and sometimes very complicated, sometimes my classmates asked me why I decided to choose this field, and I always replied I like environmental studies, but I noticed that they were not convinced.

Sometimes, I got good marks in assignments and during exams and I remember some of my classmates told me to reveal my secrets because I had not studied environment before. It was the same process in 2nd year and I decided to quit my education in this university because of the disorder and mediocrity. During my education, I never got my transcripts, one academic year can take more than one year i.e. more than 12 months, sometimes teachers were unavailable. I am already in touch with one classmate who tells me that nothing has changed. We were supposed to finish in September 2012, before getting the diploma of Engineer after an internship, writing a research, this process can take several years because it is extremely complicated to get an internship and the university must give you a teacher to follow your work, in this disorder I wonder if it is possible to work.

Meanwhile, I got in October 2010 when I was in 1st year Engineering Environmental Management & Chemical Pollution my acceptance Letter from the University of Toronto to start an online Graduate diploma in the Field of Carbon Finance. During more than 6 months, I searched for such a study in a renowned university, even if I did not know who would pay.

I explained to Dr. Franca and Mr. Gontijo that in my environmental management university I couldn’t bear the mediocrity anymore and decided to quit, also I wanted a scholarship for my studies at the University of Toronto. There, Dr. Franca explained to me that I got my first scholarship because of the political situation and the war in my country, she had been 3 times in my country in the resolution of the war. She has a pretty a good idea on the situation, and explained to me again that I did not fit in the requirements in getting the scholarship from the Rainforest Fund. My case was exceptional.

I got the scholarship and started my courses at the University of Toronto in September 2012, I was the only African, the only citizen from a French Speaking Country and the only non Professional, my classmates were senior advisers or Directors at the Ministry of Environment in Canada, Regional Directors in South America.

We started our courses with Environmental Finance and Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting, as a non professional, courses were complicated for me at the beginning but a little complicated for Professionals and the way the courses were conceived only people who lives in North America can work on the assignments, all were related to U.S regulations, and U.S Congress debates.

I sent my first assignment to Dr. Franca and Mr. Gontijo, Dr Franca acknowledged that to work on this assignment I must be informed on U.S Environmental Policies; Mr Gontijo told me that it was Greek for him. I reply to them that I will get a good mark, and finally I got 8/10. When I sent them my marks they told me that the Foundation was proud of me. Really, during 2 years of study at the University of Toronto all the assignments and exams were very, very complicated, in my case far away from USA, nobody around me had ever heard the courses such as Environmental Finance , Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting, Carbon Finance, Carbon Markets. Nobody can give you a strategy even at the Ministry of Environment.

The day I saw the first exam I told myself “who sent me to enroll in this course”, I couldn’t quit because I liked this field of study and I got 42/50. In Overall, in Environmental Finance I got an A, Carbon finance A-, Greenhouse Accounting & Reporting A, European Union Emission System A+. Finally I got my Graduate certificate of Carbon Finance and my Transcript in October and September 2014.

While studying at the University of Toronto I started other courses at the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute in Washington. I got 3 other scholarships with the Rainforest Fund thanks to Dr. Franca and Mr. Gontijo. I got A Certificate of Proficiency in the Clean Development Mechanism & Joint Implementation: Navigating Kyoto Project Mechanism, A Certificate of Proficiency in Carbon Markets, A Certificate of proficiency in Greenhouse Gas Information Management System, A certificate of participation in Greenhouse gas Accounting for Forest Inventories, A certificate of participation in Greenhouse accounting for Forest and Other Land Use Projects, A Certificate of participation in Greenhouse Gas Verification for Inventories and Projects.

Courses at the Greenhouse Gas Management Institute in Washington were very difficult; we were 3 at maximum in our virtual Class. For Instance, for Greenhouse Gas Verification for Inventories and Projects my only classmate was an Australian Greenhouse Gas Verifier who decided to join the course to better his knowledge in the Field. According to me, you cannot succeed in this exam if you don’t have a prior experience. What is interesting, if you have the skills in the field, you will be an international expert.

I think I am on the way to become a renowned international expert in Carbon Management and Carbon Finance even if there is a huge misinterpretation surrounding Carbon Finance.

A winner never quits, despite difficulties he is confronted, I am a winner. I plan to pursue my education to get my Master and proceed to Phd in Carbon Management or Carbon Finance, as a citizen of a French Speaking Country, I have to overcome to 2 big obstacles Toefl and Gmat tests that require lot of money.

Thanks to the Rainforest Fund I can send my CV to any company and international institution on the 5 continents and feedbacks are: “your CV is impressive.”

Today, I work as Administrative & Financial Responsible in a very small company, but little by little I will be one of the Decision Makers at the World Bank and worldwide.

I just want to thank Dr. Franca for these opportunities she gave me and for her advice, Mr Gontijo who showed me the way when sometimes I lost myself. The whole RAINFOREST FUND & RAINFOREST FOUNDATION for the betterment of our environment.


Kouame, N’goran Paulin

Ivory Coast (Côte D’Ivoire) West Africa



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