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The only new DukeEngage program launching in 2018 isn’t waiting until summer to get started. DukeEngage-Cape Verde has already begun developing roots on campus this semester.

The program’s director, Lamonte Aidoo, wanted to prepare participants fully for the experience — to offer them important social, cultural and historical contexts — so he arranged for the students to take his course, “Brazil and Portuguese Africa,” this spring.

Aidoo, who received his PhD in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies from Brown University in 2012, is the author of soon-to-be released Slavery Unseen: Sex, Power, and Violence in Brazilian History, a book published by Duke Press that explores many of the same concepts the group will learn about during the upcoming summer.

Aidoo was inspired to facilitate a DukeEngage program by the memory of a similar immersive service experience he had during his junior year of high school. With that program, Aidoo worked with an organization in Ghana and lived with a host family. It was a life-changing experience for young Lamonte, who had not previously traveled outside the United States. He spent three months contributing to a team that was building a school, teaching English and helping cook meals for children. “It left an indelible impact on me,” he says. There was a sense of giving and growth that came alongside the experience, he explains.

It is this type of collaborative impact that Aidoo is now aiming to achieve in his DukeEngage project. The value of DukeEngage, he believes, comes from the aspects that encourage a “two-way street” dynamic. Seeing how the Duke students and the children interact with one another is one aspect of the summer that Aidoo is most looking forward to. Listening to, and learning from, the youth of Cape Verde is a core concept in the program’s mission.

Headshot of Professor Lamonte Aidoo
Professor Lamonte Aidoo

“The way I imagine it is not just a group of students going over there and helping and then leaving. I envision it as having a sustained impact,” he says.

Within his spring course, the students participating in DukeEngage-Cape Verde have been working to develop ideas for projects that “speak to students’ interests,” while leaving space for flexibility so they can evolve and respond to the needs of the community.

In addition to their work with local youth-oriented nonprofits, the group will explore a wide-ranging NGO scene in Cape Verde, addressing various social issues, including domestic violence, emerging LGBTQ support, and the political participation of women. Aidoo hopes students will learn about what local organizations are doing on the ground to bring awareness and recognition to these issues as well as how the organizations are working toward solutions.

By Carmela Guaglianone