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Empowering youth as agents of social change

Cabo Verde
Dates June 10 - August 5
Program Focus

Working with local nonprofit organizations to improve the lives of at-risk youth in underserved communities.

Curricular Connections: While all students are welcome to apply, this program may be of particular interest to students studying Education, History, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, African and African American Studies, Romance Studies, International Comparative Studies, or Political Science. (See below for additional details about connecting this program to your academic work.)

Program Leaders
Service Themes
  • Children & Youth Services
  • Community Development & Outreach
  • Health & Human Services
  • Previous study or knowledge of Portuguese or Spanish encouraged, but not required.

DukeEngage-Cabo Verde Overview

Through strategic partnerships with local NGOs, this program aims to improve the lives of at-risk youth and families on the island of Santiago in Cabo Verde. In partnership with the Instituto Caboverdeano da Criança e do Adolescente [Cabo Verdean Institute for Children and Adolescents], participants will run a summer enrichment program for youth who have suffered from neglect, abuse, trauma, and domestic violence. Additionally, under the auspices of Education-USA and the United States Embassy in Cabo Verde, students will run an intensive SAT training and college readiness camp for public high school students. DukeEngage students will work to empower youth; promoting literacy, access to education, positivity, and inspiring youth to become agents of change in their families, communities, and country.

Student Learning Objectives/Outcomes

The goal of DukeEngage-Cabo Verde is to empower students to become globally competent thinkers, with the capacity and sensitivity to understand diverse perspectives and communicate effectively across cultures in order to promote change and social justice. Through their service, students will gain an in-depth understanding of the intersections of poverty and social inequality and their impact on the nation’s youth and families. Moreover, Duke students will learn how they can work on both an individual and collective level to combat these issues during their tenure in Cabo Verde and in their own communities upon their return.

Partnership Opportunities

Students will volunteer at Centro Lém Cachorro designing and implementing community outreach for at risk youth. DukeEngage students will work closely with the Center director and staff to design activities that best address the myriad needs of the Center’s students. In 2018, projects included organizing activities with the children; teaching English language classes, martial arts, dance, and theater; assisting with classroom painting and renovation; helping to prepare meals; developing a sports program (soccer, basketball, volleyball); and painting murals; and writing and performing a play with students at the end of the program. DukeEngage students will also contribute and propose ideas for activities based on student interest.

In partnership with Education-USA Cabo Verde and the U.S. Embassy students will also run an intensive SAT training and college readiness program for rising juniors and seniors in local public schools. Students will be in charge of designing curriculum, teaching, and working with students to prepare them for the exam and to apply to U.S. universities.

Program Requirements

Language: Portuguese is the official language of Cabo Verde; however, Krioulo, a Portuguese-based creole influenced by West African languages (Mandinka, Wolof and Temne) is the native language of the entire population living on the islands.  Students with knowledge of Portuguese or background in a romance language are strongly encouraged to apply; however, no prior language training is required. Students will have Krioulo language lessons throughout the two-month stay in Praia.

Coursework: Students admitted to DukeEngage Cabo Verde will be required to sign up for Professor Aidoo’s spring course, “Brazil and Portuguese Africa,” which will provide students with a thorough introduction to the history and culture of Cabo Verde and other Portuguese African colonies from slavery to decolonization and an introduction to the Krioulo language. Admitted students will be provided with readings that will be discussed during the pre-departure meetings.

Personal Qualities: DukeEngage-Cabo Verde seeks to recruit students who are respectful, open-minded, hardworking, committed to social justice and change, able to work well in a group and in an unfamiliar environment, possess the ability to problem solve, and, above all, are dedicated to improving the lives of local youth and families in Cabo Verde.

Curricular Connections

Because a key imperative of the DukeEngage Cabo Verde program is to actively integrate academic knowledge with service-learning for social change, program participants will meet with Professor Aidoo before departure and throughout the course of the program to brainstorm ways of integrating their service-learning work with respective majors and future career goals. This program will be especially beneficial to students with interests or majors in the following fields: Education, History, Cultural Anthropology, Sociology, Psychology, African and African American Studies, Romance Studies, International Comparative Studies, and Political Science.

After completion of the program, students will also work with Professor Aidoo to organize a symposium on Cabo Verdean history and culture in which program participants will speak publicly about their service-learning experience to the Duke community.

Program Details

Description of Community: Cape Verde (Cabo Verde) is an archipelago of ten volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Located 570 kilometers west of the Cabo Verde Peninsula in West Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometers. DukeEngage students will be in Praia, the capital city of Cabo Verde. Praia is an urban city located on the island of Santiago and is the nation’s largest city. The island of Santiago is the birthplace of Cabo Verde and the first of the ten islands to be colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The island of Santiago became a major trading post and market place for slaves captured by the Portuguese. Captive slaves would spend a few months on the islands, where they were christened, instructed in basic Portuguese, and taught a trade before being shipped to work on South American plantations.

The population of Santiago is close to 300,000, with nearly half of the island’s people living in the city of Praia. As the country’s capital city, Praia is urban, developed, and rich in history and culture. With two volcanic mountain ranges surrounding the structure of the island, Santiago boasts beautiful and diverse landscapes. The climate in Praia is warm and arid throughout the year, with temperatures ranging from 70-85 degrees.

Housing and Meals: Students will reside in a centrally located guesthouse/apartment, sharing rooms with other program participants. The residence is located within walking distance to Plateau (downtown), shops, restaurants, and the mall. All rooms are equipped with air conditioning, single beds, a private ensuite bathroom, internet, desk, and armoire.

Monday through Friday, breakfast and dinner will be provided at the residence. A small stipend will be provided for lunch – either to either purchase food and prepare a lunch, or purchase lunch at the work site. On the weekends, breakfast, lunch, and dinner will be provided at the residence. The group will occasionally visit local restaurants and experience the nation’s rich culinary tradition.

If you do not eat certain types of food for cultural, religious or personal reasons, please contact the DukeEngage office,, to discuss whether or not your dietary needs can be reasonably accommodated at this program site.

Transportation: DukeEngage provides or arranges transportation to and from service placements and all scheduled program activities. Students will be met and dropped off at the airport by the Program Director and Site Coordinator. A private bus will be the primary mode of transportation to and from the worksite and for all excursions and program activities. For additional unplanned local travel, taxis and buses are inexpensive and readily available at all hours of the day.

Communication: Students will be provided with a basic local cell phone for program-related and emergency communication. The residence hall is equipped with Wi-Fi, which is also available for free in all public plazas throughout the city.

Local Safety and Security; Cultural Norms, Mores and Practices: DukeEngage strongly advises all applicants to familiarize themselves with the challenges travelers commonly encounter at this program site in order to make an informed application decision. We recommend starting with these two resources:

Opportunities for Reflection: The entire group will convene on a weekly basis over a meal to discuss project development, debrief after the week’s work, and brainstorm for the following week. This will be an opportunity for students to think critically both individually and as a group about their work, challenges, and how they can improve. A group blog/vlog will be kept, and each student is responsible for making entries representing their first impressions, learning curve, and final thoughts. Collectively, the group will also have an Instagram account through which students will post pictures throughout the eight weeks in order to document various moments of their stay. Students will also record a short YouTube video upon their return reflecting on their work and experience in Cabo Verde. Organized gatherings with Professor Aidoo will be arranged after the program to provide a space for further deliberation. Students interested in remaining involved with the work in Cabo Verde will receive advice and support.

Other Opportunities: While working to improve the lives of children and families, students will also be given the chance to learn about the rich history and culture of Cabo Verde and the island of Santiago. Anticipated group activities include:

  • Visiting “Cidade Velha,” the UNESCO World Heritage site — the first European colonial settlement in the tropics and the Pelourinho—the primary site of the slave trade on the island
  • Hiking in the Serra Malagueta National Park
  • A trip to Assomada, the birth city of national freedom fighter Amílcar Cabral
  • Visiting Tarrafal, where students will visit the old concentration camp once used by the imperial Portuguese government to house political dissidents during the 1960s and ‘70s and learn about the nation’s fight for independence from the Portuguese
  • Visiting local African markets
  • Attendance at music festivals showcasing famous Cabo Verdean musicians from all of the islands, the U.S., and Europe
  • Meeting Cabo Verdean novelists and poets and attending a reading
  • Touring the local universities
  • Meeting with leaders of local NGOs
  • Learning about traditional Cabo Verdean music and dances (batuque, funaná and coladeira) and getting a chance to practice dance moves

Open water swimming will not be a sponsored activity in any DukeEngage program.

More Information

Bibliography and discography on the history and culture of Cabo Verde:

  • Eduardo Alberto António Andrade, American Caboverdeano: The Life and Times of a Cape Verdean Activist (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2012).
  • Luís Batalha and Jørgen Carling, Transnational Archipelago: Perspectives on Cape Verdean Migration and Diaspora (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press).
  • Katherine Carter and Judy Aulette, Cape Verdean Women and Globalization, the Politics of Gender, Culture and Resistance (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
  • Patrick Chabal, A History of Postcolonial Lusophone Africa (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2002).
  • Patrick Chabal, Amílicar Cabral: Revolutionary Leadership and People’s War (Trenton: NJ: Africa World Press, 2003).
  • Manuel E. Costa, Sr., The Making of the Cape Verdean (Bloomington, IN, AuthorHouse, 2011).
  • Kesha Fikes, Managing African Portugal: The Citizen-Migrant Distinction (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009).
  • Marilyn Halter, Between Race and Ethnicity: Cape Verdean Immigrants, 1860-1965 Africa (Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2002).
  • Ana Mafalda Leite, Cape Verde: Language, Literature, and Music (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth: Tagus Press, 2002).
  • Richard A Lobban, Jr., Cape Verde: Crioulo Colony to Independent Nation (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1995).
  • Nicolas Quint, Let’s Speak Capeverdean: Language and Culture (London: Battlebridge Publications, 2015).
  • Clare Andrade-Watkins, “Some Kind of Funny Porto Rican:” A Cape Verdean American Story, SPIA Media Productions, 2006. (DVD).