African Delegation Observes Mid-Term Elections in Louisville (Plus An Interview with WFPL)

Eight delegates from seven different African countries arrived in Louisville on November 4, 2018. Prior to their arrival, the group had traveled extensively across the United States – to Washington, D.C., Annapolis and Baltimore, Miami, and Colorado Springs – learning about the U.S. electoral process, election monitoring, and effective campaigning. But no amount of travel was going to wear down the group’s excitement for the big day: November 6th.

While in Louisville, the group met with several organizations, candidates, and constituents. For a compare and contrast, the group met with both the Jefferson County Clerk’s Office and Floyd County Clerk’s Office to explore the differences in election day preparation, laws, and management of polling stations. Mr. James Young, Co-Director of the Jefferson Co. Election Center, met with visitors to discuss the amount of preparation that goes into managing Kentucky’s most populated county and how residents must visit their assigned polling stations. In Floyd County, IN, the group learned from Floyd County Clerk Christy Eurton that polls are run a bit different just across the river. In Floyd County, visitors were exposed to the idea of Election Centers, where residents of Floyd County are able to vote in any Election Center and are not tied to one specific polling station.

Our group also met with local candidates of both parties. First, visitors met with Mr. Kent Hall who ran as the Republican candidate for Metro Council’s 7th District seat. Mr. Hall had previously worked in the Jefferson Co. Election Center and had a wealth of knowledge to share having help prepare for elections and now as a candidate himself. Later in the day, visitors met with Ms. Nima Kulkarni, the Democratic candidate running for State Representative in the 40th district. Ms. Kulkarni shared her drive to run, major issues, and the grassroots support for her campaign as the first Indian-American elected to Kentucky’s state legislature.

Dr. Rhonda Wrzenski, Associate Professor of Political Science at Indiana University Southeast, gave a presentation on the predictions for the Mid-Term elections and reasons for the historical turn-out of women candidates in this year’s election cycle. Students of IUS sat in on the discussion.

Bill Burton of 89.3 WFPL News met with the group to discuss the importance of transparency and media coverage during elections. Not only did the visitors have a wonderful discussion, but Mr. Burton interviewed two of the participants, which played on WFPL the morning of November 6th! You can hear the interview in the audio file below.

Interview by Bill Burton, 89.3 WFPL News:

 

A delegate from the Central African Republic shares a traditional song with trivia contestants!

The group had wonderful experiences with two volunteer home hospitality dinner hosts! They also joined WAC’s special “Election Edition” Global Trivia Night at Gravely Brewing Co. to watch results pour in. One of them even gave the crowd an impromptu singing lesson!

You can view the Facebook Album for all photos here!

 

This project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) and implemented locally by World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana in partnership with World Learning.

Green Energy in Pamplona | Summer studies with the Hershberg Scholarship

 

Every year our Hershberg Scholarship provides funds of at least $1,500 to promising research trips abroad. This past summer one of our recipients, Darby Brown, a senior at the University of Kentucky, spent the summer in Pamplona, Spain, learning about renewable energy infrastructures. An account of her stay, in her own words, is below.

Hershberg Scholarship applications are currently open until February 15, 2019. For more information about requirements and to apply, visit our Hershberg Scholarship webpage.


A wind farm in Spain, El Perdon

The Navarre region of Spain is a world leader in renewable energy usage and technology. Thanks in large part to the World Affairs Council, I had the opportunity to study in Pamplona, Spain, a city within Navarre. My studies exposed me to an array of technologies and gave me access to industry experts in each field. Just as important as the learning done in the classroom was that done outside of it. Staying with a host family immersed me in Spanish culture, pushed me far out of my comfort zone, and taught me lessons that I will keep for the rest of my life.

Upon my arrival in Pamplona, I was greeted with a warm welcome from my house mom, or ‘Mama Zubi’ as she had us call her. Nervous and weary, I rang the buzzer for her apartment. A voice came on the line and started speaking to me in hurried Spanish. I managed to get the door open and lug my suitcase halfway up the stairs where she met me with hugs, kisses, and excitement over her new “chiquitita”. She fed me a grand Spanish lunch complete with local cheese, chistoro, and pimientos, and showed me around my new home. Mama Zubi rushed through her house excitedly showing off everything from her fresh herbs to her book collection—a tour given entirely in Spanish. I tried to keep up with her but Spanish 101 and the Duolingo app had only gotten me so far. In the end, we got through it with a little Google translate and a lot of charades.

A field trip to Lizarraga, a town that powers all of its public spaces using a solar photovoltaics/hydropower system and connected microgrid.

No, my house mom did not speak English. At times, it was overwhelming to live with this communication barrier. Never before had I needed to communicate with someone and not been able to. However, it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever experienced. Thankfully, my program began with two weeks of intensive Spanish language courses. From the first day, I became acutely aware of how important those Spanish classes would be in order to communicate in my own home.

Mama Zubi was an invaluable part of my language studies because she encouraged me to practice speaking at home. She was patient and held many conversations with me similar to those you might have with a kindergartner as I learned. She not only encouraged me to learn the language, but to be fully immersed in her culture. Her encouragement and inclusion empowered me to dig deeper, ultimately delivering a more complex understanding and appreciation of life in Spain. I immersed myself in many aspects of the culture that I would otherwise never have experienced. Among these were dancing the bachata and the jota with locals in the Plaza del Castillo, making friends with the bartender and becoming a regular at my favorite pintxo bar, and conversing in Spanish with the families of the friends I made abroad.

Living with a host family enhanced my understanding of renewable energy and conservation, as well. I observed firsthand the Spanish lifestyle at home. I noticed how she kept lights off, opened windows rather than blasting the AC, and moderated her hot water consumption. She had no car and walked anywhere she needed to go. Small things like this contribute to the low average energy consumption per capita in Spain—nearly a third of what it is in the United States. I expected to learn about renewable energy in Spain, but the necessity of a sustainable lifestyle was a lesson I did not expect. Becoming energy and waste conscious is the first and most important step in creating a sustainable world.

Darby’s farewell lunch from Mama Zubi.

The issue of sustainable living that started with cool showers at home extended into the classroom. The American students compared our individual energy consumption to our Spanish professors’ and talked about alternatives like biofuels that can be easily implemented in your own home. These professors were usually working professionals, and experts in their respective fields. Each professor gave an inside look into their industry and challenged the class by offering insights that we would not have encountered in the United States.

Being in Spain gave me access to much more information than I would have had in a traditional classroom. Some of the technologies we studied, my favorite being the Oscillating Water Column, have not even been introduced in the US yet. We took field trips to see all of these technologies in action. In our field trip to an Oscillating Water Column test facility I experienced firsthand how much energy can be harnessed from a single wave. That is one wave I will never forget.

Darby, Mama Zubi, and another student Rose at the San Fermin Festival.

Studying abroad enhanced my learning in so many ways, but just as important is impact it made on me personally. Living abroad, especially with a host family, host family was a huge test of patience and a testimony to the human spirit for both parties. Certainly, there were times when we got frustrated. There were times when it took 5 minutes to communicate a single sentence before we finally gave up and used google translate. There were times when Spanish television, Mama Zubi on a phone call in Spanish, and foreign music were simply too much and I hid in my room just to get a break. There were also times, however, where I laughed harder than I can ever remember with her. There were times when her hugs, just like a real mother’s hug, made everything okay. I am amazed at the bond we formed and the love I feel for her despite our language barrier, and I know she feels the same. While I was certainly made aware of the importance of verbal communication this trip, I learned to appreciate nonverbal communication and natural human connection even more so.

My time in Spain was priceless for the amount that it improved me personally and prepared me to better serve my community as a young professional. I am so thankful to the World Affairs Council, my professors, advisers, and family for making this experience possible. I learned so much while studying abroad and will carry those lessons with me for the rest of my life. I would recommend studying abroad and doing a homestay to any student, especially those with curious minds who want to make an impact in our increasingly global society. One day, I hope to pay it forward and host an international student just like Mama Zubi. For now, I would encourage anyone who is able to consider hosting an international student. The experience is truly unique and endlessly rewarding. And we, the students, appreciate you more than you know.


For opportunities to host your own international students, visit our Host Family and Volunteer page.

How are our GCCP students after one year in the program?

It’s been one year since we implemented our Global Citizenship Certificate Program (GCCP), a program for high school students that encourages them to seek out and engage with different cultures in their community. We wanted to know what new experiences the program was creating for our students and what it was inspiring them to do next, so we had one of our summer interns, Ian Johnson of Centre College, conduct a few interviews to check in.


GCCP Student Isha Chauhan on a service trip to Uruguay.

Since her sophomore year in high school, Isha Chauhan, now a Junior at Oldham County High School, has been participating in the Global Citizenship Certificate Program, an educational curriculum and community engagement program for high school students offered by the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

“It’s been really fun,” said Chauhan. “Me and my best friend do it together so being able to go to lectures and different competitions together has been really eye-opening for the both of us. The academic requirements mostly focus on taking away the big picture.”

Now entering its second year, the GCCP was created to help students reach the three goals of the Kentucky Board of Education’s Global Competency program: investigating the world and other perspectives, communicating with diverse groups and applying learnings through positive action. With 1 in 5 jobs in the state directly tied to international trade, global citizenship and competency are becoming necessities for ensuring that students are workplace-ready, both internationally and locally. The GCCP makes Kentucky just one of 11 states and the District of Columbia in the U.S. that offer global education certificate programs to high school students.

Still, Kentucky continues to face challenges in global education. Currently, just 17% of Kentucky K-12 students are enrolled in a foreign language course and financial barriers remain high for many students from low income backgrounds seeking international experiences. The GCCP aims to increase the accessibility of global education to students of all backgrounds – there is no fee to participate and the application process is simple. Students complete a simple online application form and is invited to participate based on their interest. The value of the certificate is in its completion, not just participation.

GCCP students are required to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language. For Chauhan, this has meant taking Spanish courses, which influenced her decision to participate in a youth exchange program in Uruguay this past summer.

Learning Spanish and being immersed in a culture with my host family was such an amazing experience,” said Chauhan. “My interest in doing the program only increased when I joined GCCP because it pushed me to become an advocate.”

In addition to coursework, students participate in international academic competitions, lectures, local cultural events, service projects or internships and complete a self-designed capstone project

Student Ramy Khodeir at a Ramadan food drive at the Muslim Community Center of Louisville.

at the end of the program that involves students’ individual interests.

“I would like to examine the language and cultural divide within Louisville’s Hispanic community by making an educational video,” said Juli Gomez, another participant in the program and a junior at Sacred Heart Academy.

“Coming from a Hispanic background, diversity has always been an important factor that I have sought throughout my life. The Latino population throughout the U.S. is on a gradual rise and it’s essential to understand the struggles that a vast percentage of our society faces.”

While Gomez expects to complete the program by her senior year, students may move through the program at their own pace over 2-4 years.

Both Gomez and Chauhan say they would recommend the program to other interested students.

Enjoy yourself and bring a buddy,” said Chauhan. “I think many people are intimidated by the requirements but to me they are just guides to the new experiences I can have, the new people I can meet and the new food I can taste. I never would have learned the things I have if it were not for GCCP.”


Applications for the program are currently being accepted by the until October 15. The application along with more information about the program may be found at worldkentucky.org/certificate.

International Visitors explore policies to address drug use in Louisville and the Philippines

From June 27-July 1, a group of four Filipino officials and professionals from different sectors including the federal government, local government, non-governmental/private organizations and law enforcement visited Louisville to learn about Kentucky’s efforts to reduce demand for illicit drugs and improve rehabilitation programs for addicts.

Visitors spent two days attending meetings with various organizations and officials, including the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness where they discussed a
newly implemented, long-term program aiming to address the root causes of drug abuse and
reduce addiction in the Louisville area. Visitors also attended a roundtable discussion to explore
ways the Philippines can improve drug rehabilitation programs and reduce illicit drug use in the
country. The roundtable included professionals from CenterStone Rehabilitation Center, the
Morton Center, the Healing Place and other local organizations.

At the state capitol in Frankfort, another meeting was attended by the Executive
Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP), Van Ingram, as well as Dave Hopkins, the administrator of the Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting System (KASPER), which tracks prescriptions of controlled substances and medications throughout the state. Also in attendance were officials from the Kentucky Medical Licensure Board and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. During the program, the breadth and complexity of the drug epidemic in Kentucky was addressed along with the historical causes of the opioid epidemic. The ODCP also addressed the ways that the epidemic was being addressed by various departments and organizations in Kentucky, with policies including prescription limits, “Good Samaritan” laws and education on the use of Narcan (Naxolone)—a medication used to treat drug overdoses. Kentucky has also become the state with the second-highest number of safe syringe exchange programs in the country, reducing both Hepatitis and HIV transmission and providing a space for addicts to get help.

Visitors from the Philippines also educated local officials about issues with illicit drugs in the Philippines and the efforts made across government and private facilities to reduce addiction and drug  production. They discussed the framework of a rights and evidence-based approach in the Philippines to treat addicts and explored ways that policies from the U.S. and Kentucky could be adapted for the Philippine model.

Overall, the visit was a very exciting look into the drug epidemic both in the U.S. and
Kentucky as well as the Philippines, and introduced ways that the countries can learn and work together to tackle the transnational issue of addiction. The trip was concluded by an active day at the historic Mammoth Cave National Park and the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park.

Wahhibism and the Spread of Global Extremism

On April 26, we hosted acclaimed author and Middle East cross-cultural consultant Terence Ward, who discussed the development and spread of Wahhibism, the conservative Islamic sect that provides the ideological basis for ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

In the talk, Ward also examines Saudi Arabia’s recognition of Wahhibism as the official state religion and what this means for the gulf state’s relationship with US as well as its regional neighbors.  Ward’s third book, The Wahhabi Code: How the Saudis Spread Extremism Globally is available this October.

 

DuPont Manual Places Sixth in National AWQ Competition

Congratulations to duPont Manual High School, who placed 6th in this year’s national Academic WorldQuest Compeition. The competition was held on April 28 in Washington, D.C., and featured over 250 students from nearly 50 high schools nationwide, making this no small achievement. On the team were Aditya Mehta, Agharnan Gandhi, Mark Raj, Jake Powell, and Pranav Senthivel. Manual previously placed 3rd in 2017 and 1st in the 2015 competition.

We would also like to thank D.D. Williamson, Inc. for partnering with us and helping send these students to Washington D.C. at no cost them. Thanks to DDW, we were able to provide airfare, lodging, and a per diem to be spent on meals and cultural activities. Without them such an enriching academic and cultural experience would not have been possible.

 

Hershberg Scholar Kaitlin Henning on research trip to Mexico

Kaitlin Henning is a undergraduate at the University of Kentucky studying anthropology and international studies. Last year she became one of our two 2017 Hershberg Scholarship winners with her proposal to travel to Oaxaca to study social justice. A reflection on her experiences this past summer in Mexico are below.


This summer, thanks in part to the Hershberg scholarship, I spent two amazing months in the Southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. These eight weeks were filled to the brim with experiences and adventures which have forever changed my perspective. As a student of the SURCO organization (University Services and Networks of Knowledge in Oaxaca) my classmates and I took classes on the effects of neoliberalism as well as experienced the beauty of one of the most biologically and ethnically diverse regions of the world through first hand field work. For the first half of the trip, our group took weekend trips to different parts of the state to speak and visit directly with activist groups and cooperatives who were experts on individual topics we would spend the week before learning about in class. These weekend trips took us from hundreds of meters up into the mountains to meet with indigenous communities struggling with land reform in the north to Afro-Mexican communities navigating identity politics on the southern coast.

One of my favorite trips was to the Vida Nueva women’s weaving co-op in the nearby town of Teotitlan del Valle. These women, varying in age but all members of the Zapoteco indigenous community, were defying traditional gender roles by weaving tapestries and making other weaved crafts and selling them themselves in the Oaxaca markets. Traditionally, the practice of making and selling these items were considered men’s work but to preserve the tradition after men in the community relocated due to labor migration, women in this community took over the trade. They use the money they to earn to buy supplies as well as execute an annual community project. After making us a delicious meal, these ladies showed us how they cleaned and spun wool, which, to my classmate’s and my chagrin after trying to emulate their actions, is much harder than their expert hands make it look. They also explained to us the various methods they use to make the all-natural dyes they make to color the wool, and how delicate this practice is in order to achieve just the correct hue. They demonstrated how the addition of acids and bases can change the shades of colors as if by magic. Each pattern they incorporate into the tapestry and each color has a specific meaning important to the representation of their culture and the themes they are trying to present through their art work.

My last few weeks in Oaxaca were spent conducting research on and gathering testimonies from indigenous community radio stations. These stations use the sound waves as a form of vigilance to inform their communities of the truth in news when the media does not honestly report events that are of relevance to them. This was most markedly noted when in 2003 the village of Santa Maria Yaviche was attacked by a paramilitary group supported by the government after attempting to unite with the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca to claim their rights. This attack was not reported by the media and the news of the killings would have been silenced had it not been for the use of these community-ran radio stations that shared their testimonies with the state through this medium. My research took me to five different towns to meet with community DJs and learn about the specific causes for which each station was organized. These causes ranged from women’s empowerment to environmental preservation.

In addition to this research, I am now also drastically more comfortable in my Spanish speaking abilities. Not only did I attend Spanish classes and interact with my Spanish-speaking host family every day, but all my research interviews were conducted in Spanish as well. This practice gave me a practical experience with the translation process that is already serving me well in my Spanish classes at UK this semester.

I will never forget my time in Oaxaca and am immensely grateful for the lessons this scholarship as afforded me. On this trip, I met some of the most amazing people and accomplished things I never imagined I would be able to do. My limits were tested for the better and I have returned to campus with the knowledge that I have accomplished hard work and am ready to do more. I would like to thank Mrs. Hershberg and the World Affairs Council for their generosity, without which, I would not have been able to experience this adventure of a lifetime.

Brazilian teacher uses Louisville connections to educate students about racism on MLK Day

In Summer 2017, World Affairs Council hosted ten English Access Microscholarship Program (ACCESS) educators from across the globe. While in Louisville, the group met with Dr. Renee Campbell, President and CEO of Wesley House, to learn about the organization’s work to empower families, individuals, and communities toward self-sufficiency. An educator from Brazil, Cícero Ferreira, walked away with a profound idea. When back in Brazil, Cícero wanted to work with his ACCESS students on a project to tackle racism. With Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaching, Cícero invited Dr. Renee Campbell into his classroom via Skype, to share her experience surviving racism and to talk with students about how complex it could be dealing with this issue. Through her accomplishments, she inspired students to fight for a better world free from racism. Afterwards, students engaged in a project named ERACISM, where they debated ways racism is shown in the Brazilian society and came up with ideas on how to “erase racism” out.

Cícero shared reflections about the virtual exchange below!

It was a different Monday for our Access students during their intensive course in January. While in America people were celebrating Martin Luther King Junior’s Day, our students at ICBEU Manaus – a binational center in the Amazon city – were also getting a taste of how important this date is for our reflection: racism is a fact; it’s there and we have to stand against it. Thanks to Dr. Renee Campbel, this urgent message was even more underscored.

Thinking of that, we at ICBEU Manaus, through our Pedagogical Supervisor Cicero Ferreira, have invited Dr. Renee Campbell to address a wonderful online speech to our students due to her fruitful endeavor to assist the women and kids who are victims of racism. Cicero met her during his visit to the Wesley House as part of a program from the American Embassy in partnership with World Affairs Council of Kentucky & S. Indiana. As he observed her willingness to contribute to a fairer society as well as the results of her work, he decided to keep in touch with her through social media and had suggested that one day she would be invited to address to the Access Microscholarship Program in his city Manaus, Brazil. The suggestion was promptly regarded as an invitation.

As the day of Marthin Luther King Junior approached, they had agreed she would deliver a speech on racism, showing where it is present in the American society, how she has contributed to assisting victims of racism(she was one herself) and how our young students could make a difference in Brazil, their country.

Speaking of the students, they were very touched by Renee’s story and felt very encouraged to become voices standing against all the evil racism does, just like she is a voice herself. The first step inside the classroom was a project named ERACISM, which served as a follow-up activity based on the issues caused by racism in Brazil, where it is present and how it can be fought. Aligned with Dr. Renee’s brilliant insights, students also came up with ways they can contribute to erase racism in their communities, schools and, considering a wide range, the Brazilian society.

Every day is the right day to discuss racism in our classrooms. More than ever, schools are key partners of institutions like the Wesley House, which – through inspiring people like Dr. Renee Campbell – instill the need for a better society tackling on such important social issues as racism. In a few minutes, Dr. Renee was able to convincingly instigate our students to stand against this evil practice and to make a difference in others’ lives. Like Martin Luther King, these students also say: “I have a dream!”

-Cícero Ferreira
ACCESS Coordinator

Dr. Renee Campbell, upon reading Cícero’s reflection had a few words of her own to share!

I sincerely appreciate and hold dear the opportunity that I had to provide an online speech to the students and teachers who are a part of ICBEU. It was indeed and honor and a pleasure to be making such a presentation a monumental and significant day as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It was remarkable to connect via SKYPE to students and teachers who were as far away as the Amazon Rainforest. I felt very blessed to be able to discuss racism and to provide strategies on how to erase it.

I also learned a great deal from the students. It was wonderful to get to know them and hear about their struggles of racism and colorism. I discovered that there is parity in the struggles that happen in Brazil, and the United States. Many youth face the same obstacles youth of color face in the United States. The students that I presented to that day are brilliant and resilient at the same time. I believe that they represent the tools and vision for our World’s great future, without racism.

I must say that my dream is to one day visit and meet these students and teachers in person.

-Dr. Renee Campbell
President/CEO of Wesley House

About the English Access Microscholarship Program

The English Access Microscholarship Program (Access) provides a foundation of English language skills to talented 13–20-year-olds from economically disadvantaged sectors through after-school classes and intensive sessions. Access gives participants English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Participants also gain the ability to compete for and participate in future exchanges and study in the United States. Since its inception in 2004, approximately 95,000 students in more than 85 countries have participated in the Access Program. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of English Language Programs.

This project was locally implemented by the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana in partnership with FHI 360.