Saturday, August 20, 2016

Earth-building, Entrepreneurship, and Education - E3

Northwestern University visit in Evanston Illinois
Homes for Sudan (HS4S) is still focusing on building, but approaching from a different angle - that of education for entrepreneurship as well as the earth-building (the superadobe building method pioneered by Calearth). Portland State University and the University of Khartoum discussed re-crafting the social entrepreneurship and leadership certificate program to be more modular with joint teaching from both faculties in the Sudan and in Portland, as well as incorporating some train the trainer programs. Academic exchanges will serve multiple purposes: one, it will give flexibility to the certificate program and eliminate the need for travel or visas for the students and two, it will enable many more students to be taught. But primarily it should set up some of the young people who graduate with the innovation and tools to either start their own businesses or lead in programs to help better their own country. In addition to applying for grants, HS4S is also raising funds for these endeavors.

This summer HS4S - with the support of a generous Mennonite Sunday school class, Northwest State Community College, and two foundations (American and Sudanese) - brought two students from the University of Khartoum to the United States to work on perfecting their English writing and composition skills - important for both international relations and for any kind of global business endeavors. A lot of good people in the US and the Sudan worked together to make this visit an educational and cultural success!! Thank you to all who contributed!

It was a learning experience for Muslim students to see the varied forms of religious life thriving in the US such as the Amish of Ohio and Indiana, and the Mennonites; and ironic to hear a hijab wearing Muslim ask why the Amish live in the same way they did hundreds of years ago..? But they enjoyed hearing all of the similarities in the stories of the Bible and the Quran, as did their host families.

The students immersed in the local cultural - observing the president of the college do his own farm and yard work, their professor do all of her own house, farm and yard work, and their tutor's husband who is a psychiatrist/MD/PhD do his farm and yard work. It is culturally frowned upon in the Sudan for university graduates to do any kind of labor. The students gamely jumped in to help out with the work!

Of their time in the US, one of the students said: “I have discovered a new culture with a different perspective of life, a culture where children are raised to be responsible, women are less seen as wives and housekeepers, old citizens are perceived as seniors in their community and play a major role in providing counseling for the younger generations. It is a place where volunteering is a duty that everyone does to help other lives to become better and more beautiful for it does not require much skill or knowledge. It can be as simple as taking care of the gardens of public institutions, where everything is facilitated for people with disabilities to carry out their lives as normal people.”

They joined their hosts in some hard work on the farms, and tedious but rewarding tasks such as picking strawberries. On top of it all, they managed to start very intensive English composition courses plus one elective course each; all the while maintaining their Ramadan fasting.

Since the summer sun sets very late in the Great Lakes Region of Ohio - they had some long hours of fasting with their long hours of course work! They were somewhat surprised to learn how difficult and competitive it is to apply for good graduate programs in the United States. We know the summer and the future social entrepreneurship certificate program will give graduating students the advantages and tools they need to make a difference in their country and in the world!

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