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The new DukeEngage in Togo program, largely by virtue of its leader, Duke cultural anthropology professor Charlie Piot, is already making headlines. Duke Magazine recently profiled the program and its creator. Here's an excerpt:
For the past five years, Piot has leveraged his contacts and experience in the region to arrange for a handful of undergraduates to accompany him to Togo each summer. Students live with host families (mostly personal friends of Piot’s) and complete research or service projects of their choosing. In recent summers, students installed a solar-powered Internet café, developed a health-insurance plan at a local clinic, and investigated the efficacy of traditional healing methods.
The principal focus of the DukeEngage program this summer is youth migration. Perceiving few economic opportunities at home (“Home is not where the action is,” says Piot), young Togolese leave their villages and seek out work in neighboring countries like Nigeria and Benin. For many, the reality of going abroad does not live up to the hype. Men frequently come home empty-handed while women often resort to sex work and return having contracted HIV.