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Glamour Magazine recently named DukeEngage alum Suhani Jalota as one of its 2016 College Women of the Year. The magazine annually selects ten young women who have made a serious impact in either their local communities or on a global scale. In May 2015, Jalota founded the Myna Mahila Foundation, a social enterprise that helps facilitate access to menstrual hygiene products in impoverished areas of India.
Jalota’s passion for global health has long been an aspect of her Duke experience. In 2013, Jalota participated in a DukeEngage Independent Project, which focused on improving sanitation systems and awareness in Maharashtra, India, through partnership with NGOs in the area. Jalota and the Myna Mahila Foundation have since worked to improve women’s health in the Mumbai area by selling high quality feminine hygiene products at a low cost.
The award from Glamour Magazine, along with the $20,000 grand price, honors Jalota’s ongoing impact on the welfare of women in the slum communities of Mumbai. To read the feature in Glamour Magazine, click here.
Although the DukeEngage program was introduced only nine years ago, the spirit of global outreach and education has long been a focus of the Duke experience. A newly uncovered 1962 report from Duke’s “Project Nicaragua” exemplifies the University’s longstanding dedication to civic engagement — and almost uncannily resembles the goals of today’s DukeEngage program. The similarity between DukeEngage and this civic engagement endeavor from more than 50 years ago speaks to the Duke’s enduring support of experiential education and global service. Interestingly, members of the committee that created DukeEngage in 2006-2007 had no prior knowledge of the Nicaragua program.
Project Nicaragua sought to provide Duke students with an opportunity to learn more about life in Latin American communities through hands-on volunteer service in an elementary school and hospital. Students’ time in Nicaragua was focused on providing aid to public institutions within Managua and developing a personal connection to the people who worked to keep them running. Similarly, the strong relationships formed between DukeEngage participants and the organizations with whom they partner are central to the success of each program.
Although DukeEngage offers a diverse array of service themes, those related to Project Nicaragua (education, youth services, health, and community development) are some of the most popular issues currently addressed by program participants. In addition to meaningful service work, cultural immersion plays a primary role in all global engagement efforts.
Students who traveled to Nicaragua in 1962 were in near constant contact with native Nicaraguans, including children who attended school in a building next to the group’s housing quarters. The cultural exchanges facilitated by this kind of interaction are evident in every DukeEngage program today. For example, many DukeEngage programs place students in homestays to ensure that immersion takes place alongside their volunteer work. The programs also share an emphasis on effective service, as well as student integration into each community’s unique culture.
The parallels between “Project Nicaragua” and DukeEngage expand beyond the fundamental mission of each program, as the two mirror each other in their objectives and their means of accomplishing them. The 1962 trip to Managua, Nicaragua, included eight students and two group leaders. Applicants underwent a rigorous selection process based on a diverse range of credentials, comparable to those used to select DukeEngage participants today. Students were made familiar with the culture of Nicaragua prior to their departure, in sessions that parallel the DukeEngage pre-departure training designed to prepare students for their service.
Many logistical elements of the two programs remain comparable, save one prominent difference. While Project Nicaragua required students to raise individual funds for their experience, DukeEngage allows students to travel with all necessary funding provided.
Perhaps most notable about the 1962 report in comparison to current DukeEngage programming is the common language used to describe elements and objectives of each program. The Project Nicaragua report states that students reflected deeply about life back on campus, gained new perspectives, and grew towards real independence and maturity. In a remarkably parallel fashion, the DukeEngage mission and goals highlight thoughtful reflection and profound transformation. The Project Nicaragua report also discusses specific examples of organizational and operational problems the Duke students could help solve. Recognizing opportunities to make a real impact within the community is a major theme surrounding today’s DukeEngage service, as well. Independent and group projects often tackle specific challenges with tangible, lasting solutions, such as designing curriculum, building physical structures, and advocating for the rights of community members.
The discovery of the Project Nicaragua report in the Duke University Archives is evidence that dedication to civic engagement is definitely not a new concept is to the Duke community. (Our thanks to Amy McDonald, Assistant University Archivist, for sharing the report from the collection: http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/findingaids/uastuactrc/)
DukeEngage would like to congratulate the twelve Duke graduates recently named Fulbright Scholars. This year’s group of scholarship recipients includes six alumni of various DukeEngage programs, each of whom graduated last year. The former DukeEngage participants will be continuing their commitment to global outreach in countries all over the world, including South Africa, Germany, Nepal, Turkey, Malaysia and Taiwan. Carlton Allan and Inder Takhar both participated in DukeEngage in 2012, working in Uganda and Nicaragua, respectively. 2013 DukeEngage participants include Megan McCarroll (DukeEngage Kenya WISER), Reed McGinley-Stempel (DukeEngage Cape Town, South Africa), Sruti Pisharody (DukeEngage Jodhpur, India), and Anana Raghuraman (DukeEngage Egypt). The Fulbright Scholarship program allows recipients to promote intercultural exchange and mutual understanding in a broad range of international locations. The DukeEngage community is proud to recognize our program alumni for this incredible achievement. To read the full story, click here.
Two North Korean defectors recently reconnected with DukeEngage South Korea alumni to speak at Duke about their experiences living in and escaping from North Korea. The DukeEngage program in South Korea places students at the Malmangcho School to teach English. During the summer of 2105, the Duke students and the two refugees, Sam Kim and Bomhyang Lee, met and began planning this visit. The refugees’ talk was not only an inspirational story of reunion; it was also a valuable dialogue aiding in the elimination of stereotypes surrounding North Korean citizens. DukeEngage is happy to have helped bring the young defectors to campus. The Chronicle published an article about the visit and lecture (2/22/2016).
The DukeEngage community is saddened to hear of the passing of long-time community partner and friend, Elie Karma. Elie worked closely with DukeEngage students and faculty in Farendé, a north-eastern village of Togo, on community welfare projects. Under his leadership, students helped develop a cyber café by installing solar panels, batteries, and laptops in a building Elie had built with the help of his church. Participants in the DukeEngage Togo program were then able to teach computer and Internet skills to the school children of Farendé. He also led the creation of a latrine sanitation system, which aims to produce biogas, protein-rich spirulina, and algae, ultimately providing a source of electricity, nutrition, and income for his village. The range of Elie’s community projects reached far beyond his collaboration with DukeEngage. He also built and ran a kindergarten for children in his village, and aided the reforestation process by maintaining a large tree nursery.
According to DukeEngage faculty, staff and students, Elie constantly expressed the ambitious dreams he had for Farendé. “He was a visionary – he had big dreams and plans for developing his home village – and spent much of his life trying to bring those into being, despite limited resources,” says Professor Charlie Piot, leader of the Duke in Togo program. Piot also recounted that while attending the Community Partner Conference at Duke last year, Elie shared these aspirations, marveling at his Duke surroundings and proclaiming that Farendé could one day look the same. Elie inspired DukeEngage participants and leaders as he faced the challenges in his life courageously and with unwavering optimism.
Uzo Ayogu, a Duke student who worked and built a strong relationship with Elie during DukeEngage Togo 2014 noted that he “had a rare lust for life, that energy and fearlessness to dream and envision beyond what [his] reality showed.” Ayogu spoke of his own desire to follow in the footsteps of his dear friend, and someday touch and tangibly impact communities the way that Elie did. Despite struggling with sickle cell anemia, Elie persisted in working towards making Farendé a better place for its citizens, and encouraged those around him to do the same. Elie was not only deeply dedicated to his village but also to his wife, Simone, and their three children. We send our condolences to his family and community, and hope that new endeavors through DukeEngage Togo will continue his legacy of improving lives within Farendé.
During the final week of January, Duke University students were fortunate to receive a visit from 36 Chinese students from Zhuhai No. 9 Middle School. Each summer, Zhuhai becomes the home and workplace of a group of DukeEngage students; however this winter, the Duke community reciprocated by bringing its Zhuhai family to campus. After spending the week at area middle schools engaging in American culture, Zhuhai No. 9 Middle School students joined DukeEngage Zhuhai alumni at Duke for a day packed with activities.
This cultural exchange had its roots in both a global education initiative from New Garden Friends School, and the DukeEngage in Zhuhai program, which has fostered a strong relationship with the Chinese school over the past six years. This DukeEngage program encourages personal and creative growth by providing arts education and English lessons to middle school students. The visit granted Zhuhai No. 9 students and the DukeEngage alumni a chance to reunite with the friends they had made in China over the eight-week program duration.
Passionate alumni of the program worked to plan a fun day for the visiting students, including a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium, a visit to the Nasher Museum, and a variety of artistic performances. Deja Blue, one of Duke’s a capella groups, sang for the students in the Duke Gardens before lunch at the Bryan Center.
Afterwards, at the Arts Annex, Zhuhai students enjoyed a dance showcase from various dance group members, as well as a Chinese Yo-yo performance by Felix Kung, and a contemporary dance solo from Riley Reardon. Each of the performances were led by DukeEngage Zhuhai alumni and enabled the middle school students to experience as much as the University as the day would allow.
Prof. Hsiao-Mei Ku, leader of the DukeEngage in Zhuhai program, later hosted more than 90 Duke and Zhuhai No. 9 students for Chinese food at her apartment on East Campus. She recounted how amazing it was to see the huge Zhuhai family come together to learn from and laugh with each other once again.
After transportation conflicts due to snow, Sagar Patel (DE Zhuhai 2015) took initiative to quickly plan a rescheduled visit. Patel recalled his 2015 summer in Zhuhai and stated that his love for the Chinese school, his host family, and his students motivated his leadership in preparing the visit. He hoped to provide his friends and students with an enriching American experience similar to the one he received in Zhuhai.
The Duke community agrees that Patel, Ku, and the rest of the DukeEngage in Zhuhai community succeeded in this goal, ensuring that Zhuhai No. 9 Middle School students had a chance to reconnect with their DukeEngage brothers and sisters before returning to China.
Emily Hadley, a 2014 DukeEngage participant and 2015 Duke graduate, was recently selected for the 2016 Data and Policy Fellowship by College Advising Corps. The organization provides underrepresented high school students with full-time college advisers in order to enable low-income and first-generation college students to expand on their educational opportunities after high school. Ms. Hadley is one of 16 Data and Policy Fellows who will develop their skills as researchers through professional development sessions and completion of a data evaluation project over the course of one year.
Hadley spent her DukeEngage experience in Washington D.C. promoting academic achievement among students of all ages with a focus on closing gaps for low-income students. Hadley’s independent project included research components aimed at discovering success and opportunities for improvement within the education system, and presentation of these findings to community leaders and educators. Her experience involved working frequently with data, leading to the discovery of the importance of statistics in the evaluation of education policy.
Hadley’s DukeEngage trip revealed the strong link between data and policy, and inspired her to apply for the fellowship. The program allows her to explore the ways in which data can communicate the challenges that college advisers encounter on a daily basis with a broader audience. She is excited to help inspire policy changes through her work as a Data and Policy Fellow.
GlobalGiving UK annually rewards worthy grassroots organizations for demonstrating an effective influence in Eastern and Central Africa. The $11,000 grant awarded to WISER International will allow three WISER Girls to begin secondary school with complete funding for all necessary academic, health, and safety provisions. Thanks to WISER and its supporters, girls in Muhuru Bay have only recently began to qualify for university. The grant will allow the three girls to join this growing group of success stories.
The impact of WISER in improving the lives of underprivileged women is only expanding thanks to recognition from organizations such as GlobalGiving. DukeEngage students will continue to contribute to this influence as more and more girls in Kenya are directed on a path towards health, safety, and academic achievement. For more information about the organization and the award, click here.