2015/2016

African Scholars Program  

Amherst, Massachusetts

ARHS’s African Scholars Program was founded by three faculty, including natives of Senegal and The Gambia. The program is dedicated to increasing access to African studies at ARHS, expanding awareness of Africa in the community, and building personal connections through student exchanges. The program has offered after-school African Studies classes, prompted addition of African History and African Literature to the curriculum, sponsored community events with African themes, and developed an exchange with an urban school in Senegal and a rural school in The Gambia, and established a relationship with a local NGO in The Gambia.

ARHS students and advisors visited West Africa in 2013, and a group from Senegal made a reciprocal trip in 2014. A Gambian group scheduled to visit Amherst that spring was denied visas. A second cohort of ARHS students planned to travel in 2015, but the outbreak of Ebola in nearby countries forced postponement until February 2016. After two years of preparation, including practice in local languages Wolof and Mandinka; reading/ viewing contemporary African literature and  film; and study of relevant topics in history, current affairs, religion, arts, and science, the group will attend classes at host schools, participate in home stays, visit cultural sites, and do community service.

The ultimate goal of these activities is to create a sense of joint purpose and accomplishment among students of different cultures. Lisle funding will allow ARHS to incorporate the inclusion of host students into our program. §

Nepali Youth Development Project  

Chitwan District, Nepal

Girls in Nepal face a mountain of cultural, economic, and social risk factors, imped- ing access to education and economic success. Overwhelmingly, data show that compared to boys, girls attend school at lower rates, work more outside the home as children, work less outside the home as adults, and enter into marriage as children. These disparities are even greater for girls in lower social castes compared to girls in higher social castes.

According to 2006 data, the percent of Nepali women who had never received any education ranged from 33% among Newari women to 85% among Dalit (low-caste) women in the Terai (Bennett, 2008). The Nepali Youth Development Project (NYDP) is a young, ambitious edu- cation program headed by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer living in Seattle, WA.  NYDP participants range in age from 16-25 and represent six major caste and ethnic groups in the Terai region in Nepal. They face gender and cultural disparities every day in their educational programs.

NYDP intends to augment its successful scholarship program in Chitwan District, Nepal by implementing a new program for its participants: a week-long Intercultural Leadership Workshop. The Intercultural Leadership Workshop is designed to facilitate intercultural learning while building concrete leadership skills. The workshop will be facilitated  by an experienced Kathmandu-based organization with roots in the Chitwan community.  A participatory planning model will be used to  finalize workshop topics, by including NYDP graduates in the planning process.

Additionally, local female leaders will provide relevant, local examples of the possible career paths available to workshop participants. Through provision of intercultural activities, the workshop will promote principles of social justice. §

Bukavu Youth Action Center Bukavu 

D.R. Congo (DRC)

With a difficult history of war that started in 1994 with the Rwandan genocide, followed by intermittent conflicts in eastern DRC which has cost the lives of more than six million people, and continued militia activities by FDLR from Rwanda and FNL from Burundi, youth have developed negative stereotypes and attitudes that have made youth relationships in the region problematic. Despite efforts by humanitarian organizations such as Search for Common Ground which uses radio storytelling to encourage dialogue among youth of the three countries, there is still a gap in terms of providing spaces for youth relationship-building and healing of the wounds left by extended instability in the region, and in envisioning a future of peace and unity.

Bukavu Youth Action Center (BYAC) does youth leadership development through arts and communication. In 2015, BYAC successfully organized the  first edition of the Pamoja Tujenge (a Swahili phrase meaning “Let’s build together”) Arts Festival and challenged more than 500 youth from Congo, Rwanda and Burundi — through the soft power of dance, music, painting — to stand united for peace and development in the region. BYAC now seeks to reach to 1000 youth from Rwanda, Burundi, and Congo with the same message through a three day event that will attain the following goals:  Share messages of peace and development among youth in the region through arts both visual and performance; Promote tolerance, acceptance and appreciation of one another’s cultural richness, and challenge negative attitudes and stereotypes through arts among youth; Discuss avenues for future collaboration among youth organizations for sustainable peace and development in the region. §

Social Action for Value Education 

Chennai, India

Lack of proper housing, basic amenities and struggle for daily bread are the everyday problem of the slum dwellers of Chennai. Slums are divided into Hindu, Christian and Muslim religions with caste divisions, and there has been a traditional hatred between these groups. The ag- gression of the religion and caste differences has a strong influence upon youth in the slums, who are also more easily manipulated by religious political parties. Often these disputes will escalate into gang violence, which can result in serious injury or even death.

Due to lack of proper education and the problems of alcohol abuse and smoking, many slum youths – ages 18-25 – also become involved in gender-based crimes like eve teasing (sexual harassment) and verbal abuse. The police record says that the majority of youth serving jail terms fall into this age category. Slum youth do not have the opportunity to experience and understand the values and beliefs of other religions. This lack of understanding is especially seen during festivals and rituals within the different faith communities. This attitude creates a traditional enmity among the slum youth. Hence the project aims to bring Hindu, Christians and Muslim together.

The project consists of different activities that construct the capacity of 200 youth boys and girls aged 15-25 years. The project will cultivate learning opportunities for the youth to break barriers in realizing the values of religious harmony, humanism, caste, gender leadership, togetherness and advocacy skills. Their active participation will enhance their capacity to regain their rights. §

Inside Development 

Yaounde, Cameroon

Cameroon is a country of destination for many migrants from neighboring coun- tries, such as Chad and the Central Afri- can Republic. The instability and crisis situations faced by some of these states and the porous borders have fostered a migration increase. These migrants need to be integrated into the socio-cultural aspects of the host country.

In 2007, Cameroon hosted a total population of refugees and asylum seekers of approximately 97,400. As of April 2013, refugees in Cameroon consisted of 92,094 Central African Republicans, 1,591 Chadians, 3,223 Nigerians, 830 Rwandans, 456 DR Congolese and 394 other nationalities. Women represent the majority of immigrants, yet they encounter more difficulties in access to social rights, health, and participation in public activity. This is a challenge for immigrant do not always have the opportunity to adapt and integrate easily into our society.

This project aims to promote intercultural exchanges between 10 women migrants identified in the Central African Republic and Chad communities with 10 Cameroonian women living in Yaoundé and involved in local associations. The project team will identify participants from local voluntary associations and migrant communities and will coordinate socio-cultural activities, workshops and discussions during four months. Women are invited to participate in creative workshops and exchanges, opportunities for dialogue that will allow them to express themselves, relating their stories, sharing, and learning the di erent codes of each society.

The impact will be to bring understanding, listening and en- couraging mutual support among these women to achieve commons purposes. This project will also be an opportunity for these women to learn more about each culture, talk about non-discrimination, inclusion and diversity. This will be reinforced by role playing and practical exercises. Sports tournaments and a picnic will also be organized to help create a dynamic of social solidarity.