Sunday, October 9, 2011

Connecting human rights acvists in U.S. & Sierra Leone

Two groups of students have forged a new relationship: human rights students in Sierra Leone and in Mississippi. It holds promise for new understanding between them. The Sierra Leone students formed a group called Project 1991 at the end of our nine-month stay in Sierra Leone 08-09. Some of my human rights students there had very interesting life stories and wanted to share them beyond just in class. Betty collected them and put them on a web page at of the University of Southern Mississippi. They are survivors of a decade-long civil war that began in "1991."

When they were in my classes in Freetown, SL, they carried out my community service assignement: teaching about human rights for ten hours in local schools. They did a very good job. So they wanted to continue that, and they have, some of them are still doing it. Hence Project 1991 is an on-going program of public education about human rights by a group of these students.

Betty and I met with them in the summer of 2011, two years after we had lived in SL. They had been teaching human rights in public schools, at sports events, and want to expand their work. While we were visiting last summer they elected officers and planned some future events.

Meanwhile at the U of Southern Mississippi, where Betty and I teach, students in the USM Center for Human Rights and Civil Liberties decided to make fund raising for Project 1991 one of their projects for fall 2011. The campus group Students for Human Rights is taking the lead in this. And two of the Sierra Leone students are on the USM Center for Human Rights facebook page by that name. A dialogue is beginning.

I am proud of my former SL students for carrying on this important work and with minimal funding over the past two years. If anyone wants to contact them directly, they can find the names of Abdul Lebbie or Alpha Barrie on the facebook page above. Ideally they would like to share stories and experiences with other suriviors of civil wars and other human rights challenges. If you want to reach them, they have their own facebook page at "Project 1991 Promoting Human Rights"