Tag Archives: international

Hosting Development

On my previous post “Finding my way through Service” (on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140917151341-42414239-finding-my-way-through-service?trk=mp-reader-card) a reader commented and his comments again brought me to reflection.  His comments were centered around the fact that my time abroad working/ volunteering has not helped anyone except me.  The reader discussed his interactions with Peace Corps volunteers over the past several years; and how he did not see much good or development coming out of such organizations.  I reminded the reader that development is not always tangible. Development can occur with knowledge and resource sharing.  Human resources are often overlooked when we think about development.  Nonetheless, his comments made me reflect if there has been an impact due to my presence in the developing country in which I reside (Burkina Faso).  As it turns out I didn’t have to look nor reflect so far or so long before the answer surfaced.

Many of you may not know, but usually when Peace Volunteers enter into a country, we are placed with host families.  These families are an important if not obligatory part of the program.  The host families help integrate the volunteer, and serves as a support among other things.  In my situation I forged a great and lasting relationship with my host family.  We shared many great and some sad experiences together.  However, the most remarkable of my time with the host family were the days and nights we were able to have “causerie” (chats/ dialogue).  It was during that time that I shared my experiences of school, and forging through tough times in my education.  It was during that time that my host brothers and sisters shared their frustrations with the education system in Burkina. It was during that time that we shared notes on similar life experiences as a student.  It was during that time in which we learned from one another.  However, I think what was most remarkable to them was the will I showed to be successful in the harsh conditions.  To endure a heat that was unimaginable to me, along with all the other uncertainties was something that stuck in their minds.  There was one host brother at the time who was not in school and was trying to make his way working.  I had many conversations with him regarding education and its importance.  I listened to him as he reminisced about being in school when he was younger.  I had no idea the impact our conversations would have on him in the near future.

About a year and a half ago, the same host brother that was out of school called me saying that he saw me on television presenting graduation diplomas.  The university is called CFPREM International and I was asked to be a visiting professor/ collaborator where I perform different activities such as judging English competitions, providing career counseling, and lecture.  Based on what my host brother saw on television, he went to the university and there he saw a photo of me with some of the professors.  He did his research on the different programs and eventually enrolled.  On October 11 I was asked to once again present diplomas at the CFPREM International graduation.  When I arrived I saw my host brother dressed in his graduation regalia.  But what I didn’t know was that he was not just a regular student graduating.  It was during the course of the graduation ceremony that I learned that my host brother was not only the class president, but also valedictorian.  He graduated at the top of his class, and won so many awards that at one point when the announcer called his name he was shocked that it was him again.  He received a scholarship to continue his studies, and an offer of employment.  He later told me as we were taking photos that our conversations served as an inspiration. He stated that no one else spoke to him about the real importance of education. Lastly, he stated that sharing my experiences of also struggling as a student in America helped him realize you can still be successful even in the face of challenges.  All he needed was a push, a story different but same as his own, and a physical example plus his will.

When I think about development, and especially my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer, it is the human relationships that come to mind.  Unwittingly my presence in this country has put a lasting effect on someone and many others just as they have put a lasting effect on me.  What my host brother has gained is beyond development as he can start to break a generational cycle of poverty.  The implications of his actions will be felt for generations to come.IMG_0297IMG_0294 IMG_0289 IMG_0286


Competition for English

Community engagement can come in various forms.  Service is one of the best ways internationalesawyer engages with the community.  Service is a vast domain and can include simple participation in town hall meetings, or formally serving on a board.  Recently internationalesawyer was asked to serve as an expert panel judge for an English competition among university students at CFPEM International located in Ouagadougou.  This is not the first time that internationalesawyer has partnered with this university.  In the past the director of the school approached internationalesawyer to be a monthly guest lecturer to business students. The objective there was to give lectures in English and organize career counseling (i.e. practice interviews) to students in fields such as accounting.

When approached to be a judge for the English competition, there was only one answer…YES! The competition included an essay and oral presentation in which competing students from CFPEM were given topics that ranged from improving the school system in Burkina Faso to the current epidemic of Ebola affecting West Africa.  As one of the 3 judges, we made the rules and criteria. The 7 candidates all had 5 minutes to present their topic, and then 1 min 30 seconds for each question.  The candidates were scored on criteria that included grammar, verbal and non-verbal communication, and dress.  This was no easy competition as the stakes were high.  Some of the prizes included scholarship money, tablets, and even a laptop.  For all the candidates English is either their third or fourth language. In some cases the fifth language they speak.  To write a 3-5 page essay on serious topics such as youth employment and healthcare is no easy feat.  The candidates all gave their very best effort which showed in the scores.  However, the judging was not easy as well.  We were objective as possible and what made it easier to be objective we did not have prior contact with the candidates. All the judges knew was their essay by number.

The English competition was held on a Friday October 10th.  The results were strategically released at graduation the following day.  Out of the 7 candidates the first 5 took home prizes.  Nevertheless, those who did not win a physical prize, still won as they gained experience in oral presentation, essay writing, and the spirit of competing.

Invite to Influence

I am excited to have been invited to be an influencer on LinkedIn. My first post is featured and can be accessed at http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140630150029-42414239-from-crisis-to-unemployment?trk=object-title

International Students

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Internationalesawyer’s work in the community gets recognized and is asked to collaborate on different projects.  One such project that internationalesawyer was consulted to organize was Springboard for Higher Education.  This is a collaboration that started more than a year ago in 2011 with a simple statement followed by a question: “I like your dedication and leadership in community organization.” “Are you interested in a youth development project?” I swiftly said thank you and of course I am interested.

The project would later be revealed as Springboard for Higher Education.  Springboard for Higher Education is an organization that mentors, coaches, and prepares students pursuing all levels of higher education in the United States (bachelors, masters, doctorate degrees).  Springboard for Higher Education or S.H.E. is goes beyond the casual education advisory.  They thoroughly examine the client to match them with the best possible institution that not only addresses their academic needs but their long term goals, talent, geographical preference, cultural and community interests.  S.H.E. provides services that include document translation, English language preparation for ESL tests such as TOFEL and IELTS, applying for scholarships, and many more services that apply to the application process for attending university in the United States as an international student.

Internationalesawyer was asked to facilitate in the information sessions, provide English preparation, and advice on overall program implementation.  S.H.E. has partners in the United States and is organizing a team of volunteers that can serve as extra support to international students once they land on American soil. This initiative is to encourage, inform, and support international students in navigating the educational system of the United States.  One major concern of international students that I hear is they do not understand the process and become intimidated by the application demands. S.H.E is created to address these concerns by demystifying the entire process.

Please enjoy the photos of the first S.H.E. information session.

Contact information: shelearningfaso@gmail.com; +226 78 82 13 65/ +226 66 99 43 21.

English leading to bright new futures!

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Once a month I am invited to have leadership discussions with university students in English (Burkina Faso is a Francophone country).  The school’s dean invited me so that the students can have extra time practicing their English with a native speaker, and getting used to the American English accent.  Moreover, the dean sought out someone who had interest in education, leadership, and international affairs.  When I was invited to provide these services I was delighted.  April makes the 4th month in which Internationale sawyer and the International Formation of Bilingual Professionals University have had this partnership.  Furthermore, on March 16, 2013, I was invited to their graduation ceremony here in Ouagadougou.  In addition to attending I was given the honor of presenting an award to a distinguished teacher.  This was my first university graduation ceremony here on the continent of Africa. What made it more impressive were all the graduating students started with little to no English; and all of them took their well -deserved diplomas with full proficiency in English.  One aspect of the graduation that I noted was all the students that gave speeches were deeply moved. They all cited God, family, and the extreme hardships of obtaining a college diploma.  They battled illness, injustice, gender inequality from within their own family, poverty, and financial instability.  I couldn’t help but to reflect on my own college graduation, some of those same emotions were shared.  One key difference was these graduates fought for their right to education, while some in other parts of the world mistreat education and take that right for granted. I guess this is because our ancestors already did the hard part, while these present day students are still in the period of civil rights.

You scream, I scream, We all pick up trash!

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International Day of Nelson Mandela brought several volunteers out to fulfill a request by the South African Embassy.  They requested that in celebration of International Day of Nelson Mandela (July 18), local groups and other embassies gather members to go around selected locations and pick up trash for 94 minutes (the age of Nelson Mandela).  In Ouagadougou we had more than 100 participants gather at Ouaga 2000 (one of the selected locations for trash pickup).  There I participated with members for the Burkinabe Fulbright Alumni, the Embassy of Japan and the Japanese volunteers of JICA, a small number of United States Embassy workers, local schools, and individual participants.  The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze.  We started at 8 am in the morning and finished around 12 noon.  The opening speech was made by Siaka Gobe the assistant of operations at the Embassy of Japan.  His speech was followed by the current Ambassador of Japan Tsutomu Sugiura. Mr. Sugiura gave great words of encouragement and inspiration as he connected our small act of picking up trash to the great community service Nelson Mandela gave to us all (time spent in prison for the freedom of his country). Our small act was seen by many that morning and a great stride in simple humanitarianism.  There was great banter among the participants. Everyone was in good spirits. Together we gathered more than 20 large rice sack sized bags of trash. At the end of the 94 minutes a local bakery served sandwiches and drinks. Afterwards the bags of trash was collected by the city waste management and taken away.