Since 2014, Ball State has hosted students from various countries in Africa to help further develop their leadership and community engagement skills. The is a leadership exchange program that brings together African students and adult mentors for three weeks. According to , the goal of the program is to strengthen the students’ understanding of civic duties and responsibilities, respect for diversity, and the importance of community engagement.
“I think it's a natural thing. I knew I was leader from the beginning, you know how some people can be shy sometimes, I’m not. I question everything like my parents sometimes I always asked why,” said Shaun Adams, a native of Namibia, who is one of 15 students in the program. The students in the program are from Malawi, Namibia, Zambia, and other various countries on the African continent.
“I was the headboy in my primary school, I was in Model UN [United Nations] and in my school now I’m involved with my debate team and I assist the first lady of my school. So those positions and the people helped me become a leader,” he said. “I know that parents were very influential as well. My mother she’s involved in business management and my father is in charge of businesses and I would go with him and just watch how he gave orders.”
The program lasts for three weeks. Last week, the students visited Atlanta, Georgia before coming up to Indiana. One of the stops during their trip in Atlanta was Ebenezer Baptist Church. It’s famously known for its significance during the Civil Rights Movement and was the home church that Martin Luther King Jr. served as co-pastor until his assassination.
“We’ve had so many sessions with speakers that were good but the one that left a mark on me was at the church,” he said. “It’s one thing to just learn about him [Martin Luther King Jr.] and his leadership you know. But it’s another thing to be in the place he was.”
For the next two weeks the students will be volunteering at Second Harvest Food Bank, participating in speaker sessions, and visiting various cities in Indiana such as Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. “I just only wish this was longer, almost a year there’s so much I want to learn,” said Chimwemwe Jussa. “I’ve been learning so much about American culture and I don’t want it to stop.”
The trip will conclude with a celebration and a service project based around the issues they want to fix in their countries with the skills they’ve learned. Students such as Jussa already have an idea of what problems they want to tackle.
“The problem is sanitation and there’s needs to be rules in place. We’re trying to promote proper sanitation. For example the market, it can so dirty. They may clean it in the morning but by the time it’s 10:30 it’s dirty again. So people don't have a good sense of ownership and belonging. This new generation it’s up to us to mobilize and make things better. Forming the sense of ownership and becoming aware of the community so we can inform people of this.”
Jussa is from Malawi. Within the past week, the country’s death toll from cholera rose to 30 and 893 people are infected with the disease. According to the Ministry of Health the disease spread quickly this year due to drinking contaminated water and poor food hygiene practices in the affected areas. Prepared foods have now been banned in markets until cholera is in under control.
“If the bathrooms and other surroundings are not kept well, when it rains and everything it forms cholera and it spreads. That’s what I want to get out of this program. Use skills to help better and find solution. I come here and I’m like oh my god everything is just so clean.”
The students believe that this opportunity will better guide their future once they graduate secondary school.
“The networking here I love it and how they think about life and what they do. I get to learn about other people and how they live their life and they get to learn about mine. Today I just met two new people today and it’s great,” said Tulcika Andrea, one the PAYLP students.
“I also realize one thing too, it inspires me to also study in my country. There was philosopher who spoke to us and he felt like he should’ve been apart of the change because he spent three decades away from home. So I thought why don’t I stay and help them here? My country has one of the best medical schools in Africa and I plan on attending. I really love this program and it has given me the chance to network enough that I know that the people I met will help me and my plans.”
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