Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Human rights Project 1991 July 30

Two years ago when I was teaching human rights at Fourah Bay College in Freetown, I sent students in both my classes (a total of about 250 students) out on a community service project to teach human rights in local schools. They did it; and they did well, according to their reports and m follow-up contacts with their supervisors.
Today, two years later, some of my students are still teaching human rights in local high schools, passing out leaflets at some sporting events, and conducting a radio program that has expanded from one to now two hours a week. I am impressed with their volunteer spirit and dedication to human rights education.
It’s the longest-running community service project I’ve seen students do anywhere, except for a few of my students at the University of Southern Mississippi who kept tutoring Hispanic children in English more than 18 months after our class in Latin American politics ended.
The students here in Freetown call themselves Project 1991, named after the year the civil war began (it ended in 2002). It started when Betty Press selected some of the accounts my students had written about their wartime and peacetime experiences. Many said they wanted to be human rights activists; and they study in the Peace and Conflict program here. They are survivors-turned-activists.
We met on campus with a dozen of the most active members of Project 1991. For three hours they discussed progress to date and plans for the future. In discussions that at times were heated, they adopted three principles: transparency, democracy, and 50/50 (male-female leadership in the group). They plan to transform from a recognized campus organization to a national “community-based organization,” and plan to carry on their volunteer education efforts.
They need modest funding, however, for local transportation, human rights t-shirts, placards, and possible renting an office. They have a Facebook page (Project 1991) and an initial web page (www.usm.edu/humanrights then click on Project 1991).

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