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Tue, 04/29/2014 - 2:30pm

Visiting students take inspiration from Portland home to Africa

News | International Visitors

At the beginning of April, 24 high school students from sub-Saharan Africa came to Portland as part of the U.S. Department of State Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program. The program aims to develop a network of young adults with strong leadership skills, an understanding of participatory democracy, and a commitment to fostering mutual understanding between different ethnic, religious, and national groups. While in Portland, the students stayed with host families and met with local youth leaders, attended workshops on entrepreneurship and civic engagement, and participated in service projects. Not to mention having the opportunity to see some of Oregon's highlights, including Multnomah Falls, Mt. Hood and Timberline Lodge, and the Columbia Gorge. 

The students spent nine days in Portland, the last stop during the three-week program after visiting Washington DC and Chicago. One of their main goals in Portland was to develop an action project, utilizing the skills and techniques learned during the course of the program, to implement in their communities back home. 

For example, Masona from Guinea and MJ from Gambia are tackling the problem of early marriage in their countries, a custom which forces young girls into marrying older men. Through community surveys with victims groups, youth assemblies, and community elders, Masona and MJ hope to bring new awareness to the problems of early marriage. 

To prevent domestic violence in her country of Mauritius, Selvana plans on organizing self-defense classes for women. Using her personal background in karate, she hopes to teach both self-defense techniques and raise awareness and a sense of empowerment for young women. 

Students and teachers from Uganda are organizing sanitation clubs, using student volunteers to clean-up litter, promote recycling, and secure clean water supplies for their schools. 

Students are also organizing projects to discourage smoking, promote healthy living, and support organizations working with street youth. 

Speaking about her experience, Victoria from Tanzania said, “The Portland programs and meetings were some of the best things that I have done in my life. The workshops have taught me how I can give my time to my community and my action project.” 

Dimitri from Mauritius, said “I have acquired more knowledge from the different workshops in Portland and I want to use what I have learned in a good way to improve life in my community.” 

One of the favorite aspects of the program was the opportunity for the students to connect with local citizens by staying with host families. 
“I am really grateful to the World Affairs Council for placing me with my host family…They were very kind to me and the very day I entered their house I knew I had entered a place I could call home,” said Phineas from Ghana.

As the students return to their home countries and begin to bring their action projects to life in their communities, we'll be following their progress on the Youth Program Facebook page

This was the first of three groups of students from Africa visiting Oregon through our IVP Youth Program. The next group will be visiting June 13-21. Read more or, for the opportunity to welcome a visiting student in your home, contact Andrew Neal at andrewatworldoregon [dot] org or 503-306-5216.

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