As my study abroad program ended a little over two weeks ago and I am now back in the United States, I’ve had the opportunity to reflect upon my experience in Cape Town. I was lucky enough to volunteer with Teach Out for the majority of the semester and gained valuable insights that I hope to take with me back to DC. However, many of the questions I have asked myself regarding my experience have yet to be answered. One of them being, what does it mean to be doing service or volunteer work in a foreign country?
Especially in a country such as South Africa, where the consequences of colonization are still very prevalent, the topic of Western volunteerism is very controversial. While many volunteer programs are successful because they are run and managed by locals within the community they serve, there are an endless flow of volunteers from Western countries that spend just days or weeks at a service site only to leave the community waiting for the next group of volunteers. Therefore, when deciding where to volunteer I wanted to choose an organization that wasn’t temporary. Teach Out is not only a permanent volunteer organization but it is primarily comprised of South African students who are dedicated to improving public education in South Africa.
With this in mind, and after having lengthy discussions in class regarding colonialism and it’s modern day implications, I began tutoring with Teach Out with an open mind. The other American students on my program and I would often talk with each other about “White Saviorism” and what it meant for us as white, Western women volunteering in South Africa. So, in the past few weeks I’ve been reevaluating why I wanted to volunteer while abroad in the first place and whether or not I felt I was able to make a difference while there.
Service has been part of my everyday life since high school. As a member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha at GW, most of my weekends consist of helping out at food banks or with National Park Service. So to me, doing a service project while studying abroad was a given. However, the more I reflect on my time at Usasazo High School, in ways I have never done after serving in DC, I wonder if I had any right to be there. What were my intentions? Did I want to volunteer just to make myself feel good? Was it out of guilt for my own privilege?
I still don’t have a clear answer. While I would like to think my volunteer work was purely altruistic, any of these motivations could be true. And as far as whether or not I was able to make a difference by tutoring, I believe my experience allowed me to be a small part of a large influence on the student’s lives. The UCT students who make TeachOut successful and who dedicate time and effort to the Usasazo students will surely continue to make a lasting difference in their lives. And having been able to be just a small part of the bigger goal of improving education in South Africa assures me that the work we did made a difference.
I think the most valuable thing about my the service I did while abroad are these realizations. My study abroad experience would not have been the same without Teach Out. I am eternally grateful for all that it has taught me and the wonderful relationships I was able to form through the organization. And even though I may have learned much more than I was able to teach at Usasazo, I still believe it was meaningful. I now have the opportunity to take what I’ve learned back with me to GW so that I can be a better, more conscious, volunteer and do more meaningful service in DC.
Welcome to my last post, friends! Thank you to everyone that has followed my study abroad journey in Amman, Jordan throughout the past three months. There are no words to describe how much I have enjoyed my time in Amman!
I have already discussed the volunteer project I completed in the United Arab Emirates with the Al Ihsan Charity (see blog 3). On Tuesday, I will complete my final volunteer endeavor. We’ll be working at an all-boys school about 45 minutes away from my program site and the overall theme of the day will be grounds beautification. We’ll have two main teams: one for gardening and one for trash pickup. The gardening projects will include soil preparation (mixing manure into their soil), planting things, and trimming trees and overgrown bushes. We’ll also be picking up trash and hopefully installing some permanent trash cans in the courtyard area. This is a mandatory day of service for SIT students. I am happy that this is a mandatory project. I don’t think there could be a better way to leave a positive impact in the country that has so generously hosted us for three months. To be in service to others is to be in service to oneself. We will also have the opportunity to work closely with local residents of the Badia as some students from the school will also be helping us with the work. With this upcoming community service project, I do believe that I will be making an impact on the community that we will be assisting. Our program director let us know that at the school we are going going to, there are many things we consider basic that they have simply forgone. For instance, there are no trash cans at the school. It is my desire that by supplying the school with trash cans and decorating them to look more attractive to grade-school aged boys, the students will then feel compelled to throw their trash in the bins and continue to keep their learning environment clean. As I stated before, I don’t participate in community service for a sense of gratification or to feel like I am making a difference. However, I know that the students and faculty will be appreciative of the work that we are doing because this is the Jordanian way. Jordanians are extremely appreciative people and this is embodied in the way they live their day to day lives. I take solace in knowing this and having seen this culture of appreciation and gratitude for the past three months.
As I described in my first post, completing an internship or an independent research project are the final components of SIT’s curriculum. I elected to participate in a month-long internship of my choosing. Through the help of my program’s academic director, I was able to secure an internship with Former Minister of State for Economic Affairs H.E. Dr. Yusuf Mansur. Dr. Mansur is the founder of an economics based consulting firm that provides a wide range of research and consultation services for independent, public, and private sector corporations throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa region. At EnConsult, I work primarily as a research intern. Throughout the internship, I conducted research for two projects pertaining to the Jordanian film industry and the decentralization of Jordanian environmental protection programs.
I am happy to report that I did not encounter any notable challenges, obstacles, or hindrances throughout the course of my research/internship period. This might sound unlikely, but it is the truth. Any challenges that I faced have been too miniscule for me to recall now. I can’t express my gratitude for the ease surrounding all elements of my research endeavors. For the challenges that I did encounter, I am confident that I employed the advice that I gave in an earlier blog post.
There are several things that I am extremely proud of myself for accomplishing while abroad. Last week, I had the opportunity to represent the United States as a delegate from the Young Democrats of America while I attended the 44th General Assembly of the International Federation of Liberal Youth in Barcelona, Spain. The most important things that I took away from this conference were the connections I made with individuals from all across the world. From Sweden, Germany, and Russia to Senegal, Lebanon, and Jordan, I am sure that the friendships that I developed during this conference will last a lifetime.
Another reason I came to Amman was to learn more about how Jordanian youth and youth around the world view certain principles like: democracy, liberalism, freedom, and equal justice/liberties etc. I have never been one to have an opinion about an idea, an individual, or a group of people, based solely on the opinions of someone else. I have always liked coming to my own conclusions. Therefore, I wanted to hear straight from the mouths of my peers, while I was amongst such incredible and beautiful diversity. I had the pleasure of meeting and speaking with two Jordanian delegates. Long story short, these delegates were former students of my current boss, Dr. Mansur! It’s EXTREMELY funny how coincidences work. Things like this just make me realize how small the world can be. Fast forward a week, and I had the opportunity to attend the 13th Regional Conference on Economic Freedom of the Arab World this past Friday. This conference was hosted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. The Jordanian delegates that I met in Spain work for this company and my boss was the keynote speaker for the conference. Like I said before, it’s crazy how connected things and people are to one another! Through this conference, I was able to meet politicians, scholars, and economists from Iraq, Tunisia, Oman, Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt, and several other nations.
Another recent example of one of my accomplishments is attending the art exhibition of Jordanian artist Mohanna Durra and meeting His Excellency Prime Minister Omar Razzaz. I must say I have a knack for meeting and speaking with politicians and political figures alike. So me thinking about approaching the Prime Minister was second nature. However, another unfamiliar consideration arose while I debated what I would say to him, if I got the chance to say something. Language. There has only been one other instance where I met a politician whose primary language was not English. Given that among the top reasons why I am studying abroad in Amman is to strengthen my Arabic language skills, I figured that there was no better place to flex Arabic with native speakers whom I had never met before. My confidence in this matter was at an all time high so why not, right? I approached the Prime Minister and semi-gracefully uttered “Masaa al khayr sa3adatak! Ya3tik al 3afya!” (Good Evening, Your Excellency! May God give you health!). This is all I had time to say before motioning to take a selfie (included below). Being Prime Minister, you can probably imagine how busy His Excellency is. Many people wished to speak with or take pictures with His Excellency. I am proud that I was able to articulate myself in Arabic and communicate with the foremost politician in the country. As I plan to continue in the international relations field, I presume that these encounters will eventually become commonplace. Therefore, I am so grateful to have opportunities to practice my demeanour in such instances now.
Overall, I am proud of the way that I branded myself and networked last week. To estimate, I met roughly 300 people. I hope to maintain contact with these individuals and broaden my professional network so that these connections are well developed past my graduation from GW and throughout my continued studies and career.
I could not have selected a better organization to work at and I definitely could not have picked a more experienced and accomplished individual to assist. I truly believe that working with Dr. Mansur enhanced my study abroad experience in ways that would not have been possible if I were at another institution or organization. Dr. Mansur is the one who encouraged my colleagues and I to accompany him to the art gallery where I met Prime Minister Omar Razzaz. However, this is just one example of the cool things I’ve been able to do because of him. I cannot thank Dr. Mansur enough for the wealth of knowledge he has provided me through his academic knowledge and personal life experiences. There is only one Yusuf Mansur, and I will miss him tremendously.
Upon my return to GW, I plan to continue to studying the Jordanian economy and the other political economies of the Middle East. I plan to do this through my formal coursework and through independent study. There are very capable and resourceful professors that I hope to consult to further assist me in this quest. Additionally, I plan to remain engaged in community services projects through my involvement in GW NCNW and The Pantry, just to name a few.
With this being said, I cannot be more grateful for the opportunity to speak with you all over the past three months. As cliche as it might sound, living in Amman has changed my life for the better. What I’ve encountered in Jordan, I could not and will not encounter anywhere else. Jordan is unique. Amman is rare. SIT Jordan’s Geopolitics program is a treasure that I am pleased to have found. With that being said, I am signing off for the last time. Thank you all for reading!
UPDATE: Crossing into month 2 of studying abroad in Amman, all is well and I have my research project solidified and ready to go! For the last month I will spend in Amman, I will be interning at Envision Consulting Group. The firm is headed by the former Minister for Economic Affairs, H.E. Dr. Yusuf Mansur. I will be examining the prospects for future economic stimulation, revitalization, and growth in Jordan. Before I go into detail about my research, let me first tell you all about a volunteer project that I was involved in last month! As I mentioned in the first blog post, a major component of SIT is experiential learning. One of the methods of experiential learning that sets SIT apart from most study abroad programs is its incorporation of international excursions into the program curriculum. My program traveled to the United Arab Emirates for a week, and as you all can probably imagine, it was a wonderful and action-packed adventure.
We arrived to Dubai on Saturday, October 13th and we had SO many activities planned for our time there. The most meaningful and impactful of these activities was the day we spent in Ajman. This day was the most impactful for me because we were given the opportunity to participate in a service learning or an act of community service in the Emirate. On Thursday of that week, we traveled to the Emirate of Ajman (which is about 45 minutes away from Dubai) to spend the day with Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Ali bin Rashid Al Nuaimi. The Sheikh is known internationally for being a global leader, an active and resilient environmentalist, and a social campaigner in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (GCC), as well as throughout the Arab World. If you noticed the title “Sheikh” before his name, you’re on to something! His Highness is a member of the Ajman Royal Family (which is the ruling party of Ajman). His Highness is considered to be a change agent for Environmental Planning, and long-term strategist and contributor to sustainability efforts in the UAE. Due to his years of work in studying and advocating for sustainable energy and environmental policies, the Sheikh is also known around the world by his self-bestowed nickname, the Green Sheikh.
Our day was filled with a series of lectures, motivational speeches, activities, and a visit to Ajman Museum, which was the former housing complex of the royal family. It wasn’t until the second to last component of our day that the complete purpose of this trip was internally cemented. The purpose of our day with the Sheikh centered around service to others. Reflecting upon that day, I don’t believe that SIT could have established a better relationship with anyone else. I am confident in my saying that because the Sheikh also serves as the CEO of the Al Ihsan Charity Association. The goal of the organization is to lead effectively in the social work of the United Arab Emirates, but specifically Ajman, with compassion and effective actions. The vision and method of implementation are based on the integration of local-community efforts towards achieving a better life for the needy people and less fortunate families who look after them every day by the organization he oversees. My peers and I had the opportunity to serve the citizens of Ajman by participating in a food donation distribution. Al Ihsan routinely distributes packages of food containing: cereal, milk, juice, yogurt, cooking spices, and additional food items to members of the community who are in need. According to the organization, these individuals primarily tend to be widows, orphans, and low income families, in addition to any other members of the community that are in need. This food drive is just ONE of the twenty plus initiatives fueled by Al Ihsan.
Another area of the charity that I was touched by was the Al Ihsan Medical Complex. The center runs on donations given to the Al Ihsan Charity Association from international, regional, and local benefactors. The complex started in 2003 as one of the projects of Al Ihsan Charity Association to provide medical care and treatment for all society segments of the poor, needy, orphans and the widows, and more than 3000 families. Services offered at the center include: Clinics of Internal Medicine, Pediatric, Dental, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Sonar, Cardiology, General Nursing, Laboratory, Pharmacy and Cupping. Upon touring the complex, it was invaluable to share a few laughs and conversations (in Arabic, of course) with some patients waiting to receive treatment. The Medical Complex is extremely efficient in its intake and management of monetary, medical, and miscellaneous donations. Therefore, the impact of organization is far-reaching and all-encompassing in one way or another.
If I was not able to derive anything from SIT Jordan: Geopolitics’ day with the Sheikh, the one thing that was made abundantly clear. The Sheikh, his family, the Al Ihsan volunteers, and the people of Ajman truly understand the impact that any given individual can have on someone’s life. A towering emphasis is placed upon service in this community. I truly believe that with service etched into the forefront of any community, the only direction that the community can go is forward. I am very proud and honored to have been able to interact with the citizens of Ajman for a day.
Fortunately, I did not encounter any international or domestic issues that hindered or affected my volunteer work in any way. As my internship and research work have been approved and are scheduled to begin in one week, I don’t anticipate running into any issues in researching and ultimately volunteering with any organization in Amman.
I don’t believe that my service efforts in Ajman were overshadowed. Similar to the people of Ajman, I understand the importance of person to person interactions from the most basic to the most meaningful of ways. Being able to shake the hands and looking into the eyes of the citizens who received food packages, I am confident that we made a lasting affect in their lives. For another week, these families don’t have to worry about where the next meal will come from. I don’t do community service projects for myself. I don’t do it for the recognition and I don’t do it to receive anything in return. With this clear mentality going into our day of service, I was able to surmise that our contributions were meaningful and will continue to be impactful because of our genuineness.
Well, this was a long post! Thank you all for sticking with me on this journey! Can’t wait to talk to you all next month for my final blog post!!! P.s. Please enjoy the pictures below!
Though I may technically be the “tutor” on Saturday mornings at Usasazo High School, I have become a student in so many ways during my time in South Africa. Beyond my classes at UCT, in every interaction I have here I am constantly questioning, absorbing, wanting to learn more. I’ve come to realize that engaging with the community is not always about the service rendered but about the knowledge gained.
As a TeachOut tutor, I can’t help but think I’m learning so much more than I could possibly teach. In the past few sessions, we’ve worked on figurative language, debating, and poetry. Since I studied the same concepts at their age, I try my best to employ the same methods and tricks my previous teachers used to help me. But some of these efforts are to no avail as I continue to struggle to relate to the students. However, I think I am making some progress and the students are becoming more receptive to me.
On one Saturday, there was a miscommunication about whether or not there would be a tutoring session and we had only a few students in each class. This made the session less intimidating than the ones in the past and it was nice to be able to have one-on-one time with the students.
As the students were completing their worksheets and we had finished reviewing the elements of a sentence, one of the Grade eight students raised her hand. She said she didn’t understand the difference between a direct and indirect object. So logically I told her how I remembered the difference -- through a rap I learned in the seventh grade.
As I was signing “a direct object is a noun or pronoun that receives that action of an action verb,” I could tell she was starting to understand and she was able finished her worksheet without assistance. Some of the other students like the song and I was able to go around the classroom with ease, seeing where they needed clarification.
Another one of the TeachOut tutors has been tutoring English at Usasazo for almost two years now and helps guide me as to how to explain the concepts to the students. She handles the class so well and is extremely passionate about helping the students pass matriculation, which is South Africa’s version of the GED, a standardized test that students must pass in order to graduate high school. She has taught me a lot about the South African education system and about how programs like TeachOut are integral for public school students who don’t necessarily get the extra help they need in overcrowded and understaffed classrooms.
While I have been making small achievements towards connecting with the students, I’m eager to do more, to get to know them better, and to help them pass their exams. I find myself spending a lot of my time talking to the other tutors. While the students take practice quizzes, I ask them about their high schools and why they started tutoring at Usasazo. I think exchanges like this are what makes community engagement so impactful. Having the ability to talk through and compare and contrast experiences enable us to learn from each other. We are all teachers and students and should take on each role by being open to learning new things, eager to ask questions, and willing to share our own experiences.
Working with Equipe Aidons les Talibés has been very interesting but there has been a recent hiatus in the management of the organization. Because of this, program development had slowed, and I haven’t been able to work with Boukom and his team in the last few weeks. However, I knew still wanted to give back to the community and was restless to find another organization to work with in the meantime. With the help of the incredible program directors here at CIEE Dakar, I was quickly placed at another volunteer post, one I am very excited about.
Being a public health major, with a particular interest in global health, I was drawn to this program in Senegal because of the chance I would have to witness the health system in action here. When the opportunity to work at a health post in suburban Dakar was presented to me, it felt like fate (sorry that’s cheesy). This post was constructed by the Red Cross and operated by Red Cross volunteers until it was offered to the local government. Now, it is operated by two government-paid clinicians, that perform the maternal and child health functions, and several volunteer clinicians, that offer first aid and pharmaceutical services. My point of contact at the post is Cheikh Faye, an impassioned, energetic volunteer that spends basically 22 out of 24 hours a day helping the people in his neighborhood.
My first day volunteering started with a 40-minute bus drive to the outskirts of Dakar in a region called Pikine. Luckily, I was travelling with a student that had been volunteering at the post for a while, so she knew exactly where to go when our bus broke down still about 20 minutes from our destination. This wasn’t my first time on public transport in Dakar, but it was definitely my longest, with loads of traffic, standing, and confusion until we were forced to take a taxi the rest of the way to the post.
When we finally arrived, we received a warm welcome from Cheikh, then we got right into the work. The other student volunteering there already knew the ropes, so she showed me around. There are 4 offices, 3 for family health and 1 for adult consultations, 1 pharmacy and 1 research lab/classroom all on the premises. Right next door to the post is a Red Cross operated primary school and across the street is a delicious restaurant that we frequently visit after long days seeing patients. My duties that first day were to learn how everything works at the clinic and pick it up as quickly as I could.
I work with Cheikh in the adult consultation room where we check in patients for the entire clinic, perform first aid duties and occasionally do mini-surgeries for kids and adults. As consultations for children 0 to 5 years of age are free, we have a lot of newborns and toddlers come into our clinic where they are weighed and sent to the family medicine offices. That is my absolute favorite part, especially last week when I got to weigh a week-old baby, oh my goodness she was so small and quiet it was incredible. Anyways, check-ins are easy enough minus the language barrier. Because we are outside of urban Dakar, many of the clients don’t speak any French and most speak only Wolof. As I have been taking Wolof classes since my arrival in Dakar, I can ask basic questions, hi, how are you, what do you want, what’s your name, and so forth. However, it’s the responses that usually pose a problem. Sometimes they have a specific card that indicates when they should be coming for visits and depending on the type of card I can figure out whether it’s a family planning visit, post-natal or adult consultation, but other times the client assumes I speak Wolof, is disappointed when I don’t, and we just wait for Cheikh to translate.
I also had to quickly learn how to clean and wrap wounds, which is simple enough but more than anything, I had to get used to seeing open wounds and blood without reacting too harshly. Though most cases have been mild, occasionally we’ll have to remove a birth control implant which involves making a deep incision into the client’s arm, squishing out the plastic implant and picking it out from the inside of the arm with some forceps. I wouldn’t say I'm rather squeamish, but that definitely shocked me watching it for the first time, especially as the procedure was done with several other patients waiting in the same room, very little anesthesia and relatively little light. In fact, conditions in the clinic are adequate for the needs of the community but insufficient compared to standards most of us are used to. When the other student first arrived at the clinic, there were no gloves for any of the clinicians in the office, meaning wound cleanings and procedures were done with bare hands. The bed is ripped up and the scale is very outdated; the tools used are limited and reused from patient to patient; and the clinic only provides antiseptic and the cleaning gauze used, so patients must buy wrapping gauze, ointments or any other necessities at the pharmacy next door.
What the clinic lacks in supplies, though, is made up for by the incredible staff that work their butts off every day to ensure the health of their neighbors. Cheikh and his colleagues are at the clinic as early as 8 am, work there until 2:30 to 3 pm, afterwards do home visits for clients that can’t make it to the clinic, then go home to their own families but are usually still on call for any emergencies. My first home visit, we went to the home of these women that are taking care of their elderly father/husband. He had fallen from a flight of stairs and has unable to walk since, but he was also experiencing severe decay of the skin on his left foot. Cheikh explained the likely cause of this necrosis as a result of the fall creating a sort of paralysis and the lack of movement decreased blood flow to his extremities. Since that first visit, Cheikh has made himself available everyday to remove the decaying skin, perform physical therapy to increase blood flow and do routine cleanings to stimulate skin regeneration. Other home visit clients include the family of a woman who unfortunately died after one of her procedures. Cheikh still visits the family members to check in on them and keep in contact as often as he can. Though I haven’t spent as much time with the other clinicians, so I am unaware of their schedules, but I know it takes a really courageous heart to do the work they do and take care of not only their neighbors, but many of these clients have become their friends, further indicating the quality of their care.
I have taken this opportunity to focus more on what I can obtain from this experience rather than analyze my impact on the community. Because I’m learning so much every day and I’m very naïve when it comes to the field of health administration, I doubt I can have much impact other than the occasional help I offer on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. I stand to gain a lot of knowledge not only on health practices, but also on the health system in Senegal, diseases in the region, maternal and child health routines, world perspectives on health, cultural aspects of medicine and so much more, all information I can use in the future to then help make an impact on the international health community.
As I discussed in the last entry, this semester I will be volunteering with Bokoum Djibril and his organization called Equipe Aidons les Talibés (EAT) in order to improve conditions for orphaned students of the Quran. These children are known all over Dakar as everyone is approached by at least one each day. When I asked my host family about their opinion of the issue, they were equally as distraught as I was but at the same time disillusioned because they felt helpless in finding the right solution to save these children from their unfortunate situation.
One of Djibril’s main goals is to change the way in which people view Talibés. Obviously when you see children begging in the streets, you are likely to view them as sad, helpless, and powerless. This perspective is heightened by their soot-covered clothes filled with holes and their bare and dirty feet. However, Djibril firmly believes that people should not see them as depressed and helpless, but rather focus on their hopefulness and potential as children to get out of their situation. Additionally, we should recognize the strength these kids have that brought them all the way to Dakar without their families and spend each day on the street just to get an education. For these reasons, Djibril has focused his organization on providing opportunities for Talibés to experience their childhood like so many other more privileged children.
In order to do this, EAT reserves full days with children of some Daaras in order to allow them to spend time with other Talibés learning, playing and eating, rather than begging. My role in the organization thus far is to help program fun activities for the children along with another American volunteer. Two weeks ago, that meant choosing and organizing games that we would play all together during a day that we had reserved with them. Though this sounds simple enough, we had to account for the language barrier when considering how to give instructions for the games. We are both proficient in French, but the Talibés have only just begun their French lessons, so communication is either in Wolof (of which we are both novices) or gestures. This cut out a considerable number of games we could play, especially games that could help their learning.
Eventually we settled on a couple games that required little instruction or ones that could be easily translated. A crowd favorite was Duck, Duck, Goose, though the Wolof words for duck and goose were very long. In this case, we settled for “Muus, Muus, Xaj” which translates to cat, cat, dog. After a few demonstrations, the kids were running around, ducking their heads, and having a blast. For the rest of the day, we helped with general logistics, serving food, practicing French and having a good time with the kids.
Moving forward, I plan to be an ambassador of EAT, selling merchandise to people that want to support the cause and raising awareness of the organization. This way, we can fund more activities for the kids and implement more programs to help the children. One program I am particularly interested in is the mentorship program Djibril has just started drafting. This program would pair each Talibé with a volunteer who would vow to provide clothes and food. Each day that the Talibé would work the street, he would work in the direction of his mentor’s home, meet him or her there and they would provide a meal as well as anything else necessary before the Talibé returns home.
Right now, this program is being designed but it is facing a few difficulties because of logistics and lack of volunteers. In order to implement the program, we need to work out an adequate system to register volunteers willing to participate, ensure quality involvement, establish contractual agreements to confirm length of participation, as well as get enough funds to kickstart the program. As a team, we are working together to develop this initiative, brainstorming appropriate regulations, contracts, and potential blueprints for the plan of the program.
Additionally, the EAT team has been working on establishing more structured French lessons for the Talibés with teachers for each level. This has also been challenging to implement because of logistics and lack of resources. Such resources include certified French teachers for each level, space for lessons, practice material and so forth. It has also been difficult to ensure that the children would retain the information, as these lessons would only occur the few times a month EAT is allowed to work with each of the Daaras. Though there are many challenges to overcome before implementing these lessons, at EAT we know education is one of the most powerful tools these kids can be equipped with, so we are doing everything we can to make it possible.
All in all, there is a lot to do to change conditions for the Talibés of Dakar and I look forward to providing any help I can. If anyone is interested in this organization, visit their Facebook page for more information (https://www.facebook.com/Aidonslestalibes/)!! Also check out their merchandise if you’d like to support the Talibés of Dakar!
اهلاً وسهلاً اساحبي، (Welcome my friends,)
كيفكم؟ (How are you all?)
I hope all is well! I’ve officially been in Amman for over a month and I am STILL in love! Holistically, SIT Jordan Geopolitics could not have been a better fit for my learning style and my current academic interests.
This month’s topic is about the research and volunteer work that I plan to participate in while I’m abroad. As I mentioned in the previous post, I will be pursuing a research project centered primarily around economic development throughout Jordan. My research/internship will be solidified by the next post. So get ready for A LOT of details next month! Before starting any research, I believe that by partnering with a Jordanian institution I will have the opportunity to contribute to the preexisting body of research about the future of Jordanian economic policy. I want to begin researching this topic with the prospect of offering a new or fresh perspective on the subject. If I am able to answer the questions I have, and pose new questions from them, or lead someone to think about something in a different way, I will feel like I am making a genuine difference.
Although, at this particular moment my research project is not finalized, (therefore I have been unable to start) I do anticipate running into a few challenges. For instance, the fact of the matter is although I have been taking Arabic for the past two years, I am still new to this language. Being a non-native Arabic speaker, I can anticipate running into some challenges translating and comprehending some of the high-level or more specialized Economics vocabulary. However, I have to keep in mind that any challenges that I might encounter are not unique to Joy. These challenges can stem from anywhere and it is my responsibility to be persistent and work towards overcoming them. Another challenge I anticipate running into is the time period for which I will be in Amman. Of the places I’ve reached out to, some establishments have expressed hesitation in offering research positions for someone who is only able to work for a limited period of time. Like any other obstacle I might encounter, I will work closely with SIT, determine the most feasible organizations moving forward, and develop and readjust my path of research as needed.
Another very important issue that I don’t believe is emphasized as much, is the importance of maintaining a realistic budget. Managing the weekly stipend that I am allotted has been difficult to maneuver around. Realistically, 50 dinars (approx. $70 USD) can last a week, but it can very easily last just one or two days. In order to not blow through all of the money that I saved up over the summer, I decided to assess how much I was spending in a week, what I was spending it on, and how many of these things were complete necessities. I was able to decide that I don’t need to buy a Mini Chicken Makers Meal from Burger Makers (think Jordanian Chick fil-A) every. single. day. After some trial and error, I realized that if I didn’t spend all of my money on monetary wants, I will have more money left for necessities. Then I could purchase my splurge items and not feel guilty about it! If you’re reading this and you may be considering studying abroad, don’t let this discourage you! During anytime in your life and throughout any situation, I’m positive that you will be able to find a solution that will work out in your favor! Even if it doesn’t seem that way at first! Keep pushing and keep fighting! I’ll be doing the same, only halfway across the world!
I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Take care and talk to you all next month!
The first time I volunteered as a tutor with TeachOut, it was my first time going to a South African township. I should mention that the night before my first tutoring session, I had also just spent the night in Camps Bay, one of the nicest (and wealthiest) beachside neighborhoods in Cape Town. A girl on my program was celebrating her birthday so we all decided to rent an Airbnb for the occasion. Since the exchange rate is about 14 South African Rand to 1 U.S. Dollar, it seemed like a steal for us to be able to stay in a beachside mansion for a night.
I mention this because it was the first time I was confronted with the gross inequality in South Africa. Despite having just spent the night in a beautiful extravagantly furnished home (did I mention it had a full pool?...amid the water crisis...AND heat?...a true rarity in cool Cape Town winters), the next morning I was on a minibus to Khayelitsha, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the city.
From what I had read before coming to Cape Town (and imagined from Trevor Noah’s accounts) I thought I had known what to expect entering a township. However, per usual, my expectations were off.
I pictured the townships as fenced-off, secluded communities away from the city. But as soon as I flew into Cape Town International and drove away from the airport, I realized this wasn’t true. In Cape Town, you can literally happen upon a township by taking a few wrong turns. There are fences (twenty year old remnants of apartheid) but they’re broken down, panels missing, giving the inquisitive passenger driving by a peek into a mini city.
There aren’t many of what an average American would call “homes” in the townships. They’re more like shacks, rectangular buildings held together by pieces of scrap metal and wood. Some with additional rooms added on, some stacked on top of others, some closed off with barbed wire fences. As we drive further in toward the school, we pass barber shops, food stands, braai (which is barbeque in Afrikaans) grills, and preschools. Goats and stray dogs mill around, digging through the trash on the side of the road.
Our tutoring sessions start early, around 9:00 am and despite it being Saturday, the streets in Khayelitsha are always busy with people milling around, kids running and chasing after each other, shop owners attending to their customers or rearranging their products. Once we get to the high school, we can usually see all the students in their uniforms hanging out before classes. My favorite thing about Khayelitsha is the strong sense of community you feel even just driving through it.
On the first day, I decided to tutor the English classes (as I haven’t taken a single math class since junior year of high school) and we split the students up into Grade 8 and Grade 9 sessions. Myself, along with another new tutor, took Grade 8 students first. When I walked into the classroom, I was first shocked by how many students were there. Though there were maybe only 10 or 15, it was crazy to me that high schoolers would willingly come to school on Saturday mornings just for extra math and English practice.
I remember once in high school when we had had too many snowdays and the superintendent was considering making us go to class on Saturdays to make up for the lost time. Everyone rebelled. Looking back, education is just another thing I’ve taken for granted my entire life, something I’ve seen as more of a chore or obligation rather than as an opportunity. Yet these students welcomed an extra chance to learn.
Our lesson plan for the day focused around sentence structure and identifying things like the subject, predicate, direct object, etc. Some of the kids seemed familiar with this already, so we took the opportunity to quiz them as a review. They were a little hesitant to participate at first, but I attributed that to typical high schoolers being “too cool” to be a teacher’s pet. However, it could also have been that they couldn’t really understand my accent when I asked a question.
One thing I’ve learned is that there is no one “South African accent.” In a country with over eleven official languages, a defined accent just doesn’t exist. However, most South Africans are taught British English and thus have very different pronunciations than Americans. To these students, who mainly speak isiXhosa at home and only learn English in school, my American accent was funny, something some of them only hear watching shows on TV. Although I enjoyed making them giggle and smirk, I instantly became aware of my foreignness, my whiteness, my alienation.
At this point, my biggest challenge as a tutor is making connections with the students. I think this stems primarily from language. It’s hard to feel like you are making a difference when you are not entirely sure the dozens of eyes looking up at you understand what you are saying. There are some tutors with TeachOut who live in Khayelitsha, who know isiXhosa, and who can show them that, yes, one day you too can go to one of the top universities in Africa. But for someone like me, who’s had a vastly different background, it’s difficult to find things in common.
In the next few tutoring sessions, I hope to work on this challenge a little bit more. By just putting in more effort to get to know the students better, to learn their names (and how to pronounce them correctly), and to learn where I can best help them academically I think I will have a much greater impact.
Hello, peace be upon you and welcome! These are three widespread and standard greetings in the Arabic language. These, along with “my name is…”, were the first Arabic phrases I learned when I began studying the language over two years ago. I am currently enrolled in a study abroad program with the School for International Learning (SIT). The name of my program is called SIT Jordan: Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East. The primary focus of this program is for those enrolled to learn about the Middle East’s politics, shifting power configurations, and efforts to promote peace and global security from Jordan, a peace broker in the region. The program-led extracurricular activities are tailored to accompany the efforts within the classroom. This semester, the program accepted 30 students from universities across the United States.
There are four core components that make this program unique to SIT and particularly appealing to students of all academic backgrounds. It was these very components that constituted my decision to study abroad in Amman. The courses in the program couldn’t be a better fit for my specific course of study. I am currently a junior studying International Affairs with a concentration in Security Policy and a minor in Arabic Studies. The following classes are being offered in the Fall 2018 curriculum: Geopolitics, International Relations, and the Future of the Middle East, The Psychology of Peace, Beginning, Intermediate, or Advanced Modern Standard Arabic or Colloquial Jordanian Dialect (3 or 6 credits), and Research Methods and Ethics. The number of Arabic credits that a student elects to take determines whether the student takes the Psychology of Peace course. This brings me to the most important reason why I decided to pick SIT. Transfer credits. I can transfer Geopolitics, Research Methods, and (potentially) Arabic. Because Arabic at GW is 4 credits, I have opted to take the 6 credit Arabic course so that I don’t run into any complications when transferring credit back. The courses encourage interaction with local Jordanian citizens to some degree. I can tell that these interactions will be an invaluable portion of the program from what I have already experienced.
My program will be traveling throughout the United Arab Emirates in order to learn more about the history of the Emirates, the expat work force, and geo-economics and international business in the Gulf. Additionally, we will visit upwards of 10 historically/culturally significant sites throughout Central and Southern Jordan. Both of these visits are a part of SIT’s efforts to provide diversified immersive experiences for participants.
The homestay is believed to be the most integral part of the SIT experience. Within the first two weeks of being in Amman I have become a member of a local Jordanian family of Palestinian descent. I have shared meals with them, joined them for special occasions/gatherings, spoken with them in completely in Arabic (emphasis on completely), and experiencing Amman as they do daily.
Students have the opportunity to either create and conduct their own research projects or participate in an internship with a local community organization, research organization, business, or international NGO for a four-week period. I have decided to do an internship, but the location is still undetermined. Once I finalize my internship site, you all will be the first to know!
While in Amman, I plan to engage in a series of volunteer/research efforts that involve economic development (economic stimulation efforts) that will uncover or contribute to strategies aimed at bolstering Jordan’s economy. Although I don’t know the exact organization that I will be interning at, I know that the research I plan partake in will be a part of my internship. If I choose to further my research or volunteer work outside of my internship, I am more than able to explore these avenues. With my specified yet broad area of research, I believe that I will be able to comply an equal amount of qualitative and quantitative results.
All in all, I am excited for what the future holds for me and my research in Amman! I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and I look forward to writing next month! Until then, please enjoy these photos of the Queen Alia International Airport, the Roman Theater, the Amman Citadel, me on a camel, and me attending a traditional Jordanian/Greek/Syrian wedding (on my birthday – September 12th) which by far has been the highlight of my trip!
مع السلامة ولك حقا، (Good-bye and yours truly)
جوي كيودي (Joy Kayode)
Deciding where to study abroad was HARD. I knew this was my chance to finally to go overseas and leave the U.S. for the first time so I had high expectations. The thought of living in a foreign country for over four months was so exciting. A part of me got caught up in the possibilities of just earning stamps on my passport by going somewhere in Europe where I could travel every weekend. Having taken Spanish for seven years, the GW Madrid program was a logical choice. The opportunity to become comfortable in the language and experience the different cultures of various countries throughout Europe was appealing.
But another part of me, the part that always tells me to not do what everyone else is doing, said ‘Brielle, this is your chance to do something different.’ I thought of a seventh grade project where my teacher had us act as the heads of state of different countries. I represented South Africa and since then had read whole library sections of books on South Africa, wanting to learn everything I possibly could about its environment, culture, and politics. As a tribute to my younger self, I felt that moving to Cape Town would be a way of coming full circle.
However, my indecisiveness kicked in and I went back and forth between Spain and South Africa for months. It wasn’t until my mom surprisingly advocated that I go to South Africa that I was able to make a decision. Despite her concern over safety and distance from home, she knew it had always been a dream of mine to travel to Africa. Afterall, when else in my life would I have the opportunity to live there for four months?
So I applied to CIEE’s Arts and Sciences program in Cape Town, South Africa where I would be able study alongside South African students at the University of Cape Town (UCT). When searching for programs I knew I also wanted to be able to continue to do service. As a member of Epsilon Sigma Alpha, GW’s community service and leadership sorority, my weekends back in DC are usually spent serving at soup kitchens and elderly homes or picking up trash on the National Mall. I knew I wanted to make service and integral part of my abroad experience so I made sure CIEE had community engagement opportunities that I could participate in to better learn about the community I would be living in.
However, during orientation, a UCT student group presented a few opportunities for semester study abroad students to join community engagement projects. It was through them that I discovered Teach Out, a UCT student organization that travels to different schools in local townships almost every day of the week to tutor students.
Entirely student run, Teach Out operates as a non-profit and provides transportation for UCT students to the schools. Additionally, UCT students on the executive board of Teach Out create math and English worksheets and answer sheets for the tutors to provide for the students.
While Teach Out operates in different schools in different townships in Cape Town for all ages of students, every Saturday morning, I tutor Grade 8 and Grade 9 students in English at Usasazo High School in Khayelitsha. While I have already participated in a few tutoring sessions, I am excited to continue to build relationships with the students and fellow tutors throughout the semester.
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