On behalf of CGEE Mexico staff and Mexico Site Director Ann Lutterman-Aguilar, please consider donating to our earthquake relief campaign.
As many of you know, Augsburg has had presence in Cuernavaca, Mexico for over 35 years. Many Augsburg students along with other college students, non-profit organizations, businesses and others, have participated in our life changing programs year after year. Each experience had by our participants includes short stays with host families in the region. These families have expressed generosity, love, and support in hosting students throughout the years.
Many of our host families in the rural parts of Morelos were hit hard by the September 19th earthquake. These families and communities have lost homes in the devastation and are working to rebuild their lives.
Please consider donating to Ann’s campaign to help raise money for these families and communities in need. Even a simple $10 donation or a “share” on a facebook page can go a long way to helping those communities in need that have been so kind and generous with our students over the years.
(*Note: all host families, staff, and current students are safe, none were physically harmed during the earthquake. Our study center in Cuernavaca was not damaged. You can follow our blog and/or social media pages for updates.)
Meet our new International Resident Assistant in Namibia, Jamila!
Jamila is from Santa Barbara, CA, and joined CGEE from a job in Washington D.C. Before moving to DC, Jamila earned her Bachelor of Arts in Human Development at the University of California, San Diego and a Dual-Masters of Social Work and Public Health at Washington University in St. Louis. Jamila has worked with various students (middle school to college age) for approximately 10 years. She enjoys supporting youths’ transformation from learners to talented leaders, who are prepared and excited to make the world a better place. Jamila is excited to explore all of Namibia’s wonderful attractions, restaurants and communities.
A special message from Ann Lutterman-Aguilar, CGEE-Mexico Site Director:
Despite the terrible tragedies caused by the recent earthquakes in Mexico, people are recovering amazingly quickly and demonstrating the incredible warmth and generosity of the Mexican spirit. Small mom and pop businesses have been giving out food and supplies to survivors of the earthquake, as have hardware stores and other businesses. Almost everywhere you go, you see people who have set up relief collection centers in their homes, and people going to drop off donations. Many schools are serving as shelters for people whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the earthquake, and our state university is helping to coordinate relief efforts throughout the state. The government has opened up toll roads and made them free so that people can travel more easily and inexpensively during this time. Even a lot of banks have stopped charging a fee to withdraw money regardless of whether it is your bank. These are just a few of the endless examples of the overwhelming love and solidarity being shared by ordinary citizens and all kinds of institutions.
The international response to the earthquake has also been tremendous. On Friday, I witnessed the arrival of 15 Canadian women rescue workers with their rescue dogs. They received a huge round of applause everywhere they went in the earthquake because people could identify them as a result of the vests that both the women and dogs were wearing. And the Canadians aren’t alone. People from the United States and Cuba and all over the world have been helping out in person and through donations. As a result, students and customized program participants have an incredible opportunity to learn from a wide range of people about what schools, social workers, activists, ordinary citizens, governments, and businesses do to respond to emergency situations.
Our current semester students were with their host families during the last (and worst) earthquake here last Tues., September 19, and they and their Mexican families were all fine. In addition, the staff in our study center are all fine, and no one lost a home or has had to evacuate, although a few staff members have some damage to their homes. We are among the lucky ones, as are all of our current host families and all of the host families in the neighborhood of Plan de Ayala.
While lives and homes were lost in Cuernavaca, most of the largest tragedies took place in the southeastern part of the state of Morelos, closest to the epicenter of the quake. Towns such as Jojutla and Axopian and Tenancingo were devastated. Ixtlilco el Grande, where many CGEE students (especially in the Social Work program) have participated in rural homestays lost at least 15 homes, some of which belong to former host families. Those who haven’t been to Ixtlilco but have studied in Mexico may have learned about the circulatory migration between that town and Minneapolis from Augsburg adjunct professor Raziel Valino, who is completing her doctoral dissertation on that topic. She reports that the host families are physically fine and recovering from the trauma. Even as they work to rebuild their own homes, they are helping out the other towns in their region that have suffered greater loss. Again, the show of solidarity is very inspiring.
Amatlan de Quetzalcoatl, where numerous CGEE groups have had homestays, also suffered from the earthquake. Like Ixtlilco, Amatlan did not suffer the loss of lives, but numerous homes were destroyed, including that of elderly farmer Dona Irene Ramirez, who has often given talks about her heirloom corn and her views of GMO corn.
CGEE-Mexico is currently trying to compile a list of host families who lost homes in Amatlan and Ixtlilco that we can share so that you can know how your former host families are if you have not already been in touch with them. We are also hoping to set up a mechanism to channel funds directly to the CGEE host families in Amatlan and Ixtlilco who lost their homes. Therefore, please stay tuned for updates.
Welcome to our new Assistant Provost for Global Education and Experience, Patrick Mulvihill, M.P.A.
Patrick joined Augsburg CGEE on August 1 and brings 20+ years of experience advancing social justice and change through global education, experiential learning, program development, and community development. At Augsburg, he will offer strategic, curricular, and operational leadership for our global education programs and initiatives, both domestically and internationally.
Most recently, Pat served 12 years as director of operations at the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA). HECUA, a consortium of 24 colleagues and universities, offers off-campus academic programs rooted in interdisciplinary, community-based experiential education. Throughout his career, Pat has demonstrated a deep commitment to equity, to educating an intentionally diverse mix of students, and to building intercultural competence.
Pat earned a bachelor’s in history from St. Olaf College and holds the Master of Arts in Public Affairs from the Humphrey School at the University of Minnesota.
We have confirmed that all CGEE staff and students are safe following the earthquake. Alumni, friends, and family – thank you all for you thoughts of love and support! We will be posting more updates here on our blog as they become available.
Caleb completed two of CGEE’s semester programs in a year, Central America and Southern Africa! Here is his profile with reflections on what he learned during his year abroad:
Name: Caleb Encarnacion-Rivera
School: Clark University
Social Change in Central America: Exploring Peace, Justice, and Community Engagement (Spring 2016)
Nation Building, Globalization and Decolonizing the Mind (Fall 2016)
Major: International Development
Most valuable experience: There are so many things I found valuable during my time abroad with CGEE. In Central America, the most valuable experience was being able to live in homestays. Homestays allowed me to build and cultivate long lasting relationships I will cherish for the rest of my life. Living in homestays enabled me to gain a deeper understanding of the regions I was living in through the lens of local people. Living in my home stays gave me new family members that I will never forget. In Namibia, my internship was definitely the highlight of my experience. I absolutely loved every moment of being able to serve in the city I was living in as well, as learn and grown from directly working with Namibian youth. My internship gave me the ability to not only learn or study in a foreign country, but gain work experience, and establish new networks beyond that of the United States.
Why encourage others to study abroad with CGEE: Both programs are life changing in numerous ways. I will cherish these moments for the rest of my life. If you are looking for an authentic study abroad experience these are the programs for you!
This is a guest post from Mary Witt Scholarship Recipient, Amanda Friesel, who traveled on a customized trip to Nicaragua with a group of social work students from Ohio State University in May, 2017. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Amanda!
Hola! First and foremost, I want to thank everyone that works for the Center for Global Education and Experience, especially César, Ruth, and Hector (our driver)! Everyone was so welcoming and helpful during our time in Central America. Traveling to Nicaragua for a two-week study abroad trip was a life changing and extremely educational experience! This is something that will stay with me forever! From the time that I stepped off the plane until the time I arrived back at the Managua airport my experience was a whirlwind.
During our first few days in Nicaragua we met with Joseph Connelly from CGEE and visited NicaHOPE. Joseph gave us a history lesson on Nicaragua. This first session really piqued my interest. We learned a great deal about the relationship between Nicaragua and the US as well as the corruption and manipulation that the US forced upon the Nicaraguan culture. In addition to that, we learned about the division of the country. The eastern side of Nicaragua is very rural and distant from the western side of Nicaragua. Joseph explained that the two sides of the country are like their own country as they operate separately even though they are under the same government. The eastern side is more autonomous and take justice into their own hands. We also learned about FSLN and the Contra War that former President Ronald Reagan put forth during his time in office in the 1980s. At NicaHOPE we learned that this organization works with kids from the previous local trash dump community. Though the community has a recycling plant now instead of a trash dump, the children are still being helped. The organization was created to teach the kids other ways to make money so they don’t have to leave school to work at the trash dump. They make homemade jewelry to sell. We also had a chance to tour the facilities and buy some of the jewelry that was handmade.
During the next few days we spent time in León, Nicaragua. This is also the time that we had our homestays. Lauren (another student) and I stayed with Professor Juan and Professor Ruth who are both social work professors at UNAN – León. When Professor Juan welcomed us into their home, he also told us that we are now a part of their family. He told us we could call him Papa Juan, Professor Ruth – Mama Ruth and Naza, Maria and Natalie our sisters. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner with our host families, exchanged English and Spanish teaching lessons and even watched TV with them. Also, while in León we had the pleasure of meeting with some of the social work students in León and get insight into how social work differs in Nicaragua compared to that in the United States. While in León we also visited La Casona and CIDS.
Once back in Managua we had the pleasure of hearing from Julio Mena, the director of ANiCP+ViDA. This organization works on the prevention and education of HIV and AIDS. Julio told us about his life story. He was affected with HIV during the Contra War because he was wounded and another soldier gave him some of his own blood to help him survive. He didn’t know he had HIV so he ended up infecting his daughter, who eventually passed away at 6 years old, and his girlfriend. He experienced years and years of guilt, shame, isolation, discrimination, etc. because of this. Even though it was not his fault that he was infected and did not know he was infected until a year later, Julio was still shamed and stigmatized. Because of what he experienced, he decided to work in the outreach and education field in regard to HIV and AIDS. We also spoke with a former Sandinista guerrilla from the Contra War (The war Ronald Reagan waged on Nicaragua), Maria Teresa Blandón. Not only did she speak of her time being a part of the revolution at the age of only 17 years old, but she also spoke of feminism. She compared and differed it in the US and Nicaragua. She also touched on marriage and why she doesn’t believe in it. She touched on some good points, such as religion, which is necessary in society, but there need to be limits to it. Religion calls for absolute power, and if we give that then we are all doomed. When she talked about the Contra War and the revolution she was involved in, she mentioned that the cost they paid was too high. Too many young people lost their lives in the war, and in the end, it was for nothing. It made me sad and mad all at the same time. Hearing her story and listening to her words, certainly inspired me to be a part of such huge change when I return to the States.
While also in Managua we visited Casa Alianza which is residential center for young people who are victims of human trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, abuse in general, domestic violence, etc., and for teen mothers. With human trafficking being my background and the career area I want to go into in regard to social work, I was so excited once we arrived. I had so many questions for the employees once they were finished telling us about the organization. One thing that caught my attention is that she said even if they help the people legally prosecute their perpetrator, it doesn’t always mean they will be held accountable, as the government does not want their crime numbers to increase so it is certainly a challenge to try to prosecute the criminals. This visit was truly my favorite one!
Our next location that we traveled to was Granada, Masaya and Matagalpa. We first went to Masaya Volcano Park and got to see a real live active volcano which was spontaneous and exciting! Then, in Granada we spent the day at Lagoon Apoyo and visited Café Sonrisas. The owner of the café specifically works with people with disabilities. They make homemade hammocks and serve great food! We experienced what it is like to be a part of their “world”. We were given ear plugs to put in our ears and eat part of our lunch with them in. The point of it was so that we could try to get a glimpse into what their lives are like with no hearing. This activity certainly touched me. In San Juan Oriente, Masaya, Nicaragua we visited a potter and indigenous leader, Valetín Lopez. He explained that San Juan Oriente, Masaya is an indigenous town and basically everyone does pottery work. He showed us the process on how to make the pottery and gave us an insight to their past culture and present one too. The process that they currently use to make pottery, is the same process their ancestors used except for a kick wheel that decreases the process from 2 hours to 5 mins to shape the pot. In Matagalpa, we spent basically the entire day on Monday at the co-op. We learned how to make homemade tortillas, how to use natural plants for medicine and preventative care, and even made cough syrup. We watched their native dancing and listened to their culture’s songs. We met with the children of the school and really learned the ins and outs of the co-op and community. Unfortunately, I was not able to see the actual coffee trees due to my allergen of bees. Once we finished at the co-op I experienced my first ever tasting of a hot chocolate coffee which tasted amazing considering I dislike coffee. The coffee grown and then used in the cafe, was from the co-op and surrounding community.
One thing that was common in the organizations we visited is that they have NEVER received government funding from the current administration which has been in power for about the last 15 years. This saddened me, but surprised me at the same time. ALL the organizations and institutions we visited were doing amazing work and for them to not have any government funding is mind boggling to me. Not only did that impress me, but it also motivated me to learn how they do it, and take that information back to the non-profits I work with and implement that. There is something amazing about the fight and drive that people in “3rd world” countries have. This is certainly something that all “1st world” countries can learn from.
During my time in Nicaragua not only did we engage with the Nicaraguan people and their culture, but we also got to understand how even through corruption and economic hardship, they stand tall and fight the social injustices that affect their society and community daily. I’m filled with gratitude for being able to experience such an amazing culture, and motivation to take back what I learned from the NGOs and institutions we visited to the United States and be the change I want to see in the world. I am filled with hurt and disgust at what the United States was involved in which affected the Nicaraguan people gravely. It is hard to go to a “3rd world” country to learn from the people and their history, when the people have nothing, but negative things to say about the horrific history the two countries share. Even with the negative history that the US shares with Nicaragua, the people welcomed us with open arms. They were delighted to discuss their history and the current issues that they face. We shared ideas, viewpoints, hugs, pictures, and history. Through these things, we could learn from one another on the same ground level and that was an amazing experience. I am more humble and appreciative of the freedoms we have in the US since returning home.
Once again, I want to say thank you so much from everyone at Augsburg College and the Center for Global Experience and Education for providing me the opportunity to experience Nicaragua and the Nicaraguan culture. I am a different, but better person because it and I cannot put into words how grateful and humbled I am for this experience.
This is a guest blog post by a Mary Witt Scholarship recipient, Libby M. Libby recently returned from a customized program with Xavier University-Occupational Therapy to Guatemala in May 2017. Thanks for the great reflection, Libby!
My time in Guatemala was one that I will never forget. During the first week I had the opportunity to live with a host family. My host mother was beyond hospitable and kind. She made delicious meals and we talked through the nigh about our families and friends. On my last day staying with her she even allowed me to try on traditional Guatemalan clothing. But I think my favorite part of staying with my host family was being able to try the delicious homemade hot chocolate, which consisted of chocolate made from my host grandmother who makes her own natural chocolate. It was absolutely amazing. The time even allowed me to improve my awful Spanish, through hand gestures and broken Spanish I somehow got through the week communicating with my host family who did not speak any English at all. Hopefully one day I will be able to visit them again.
Welcome to our new Program Coordinator in Namibia, Alex Sikume!
Alex Sikume is the new Instructor for Political Science and Social Change. He holds a Master’s Degree in Public Management majoring in Policy Analysis from School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, China. He further holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree majoring in Political Science and Industrial Psychology from the University of Namibia.
Alex worked for the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development for ten years as a Development Planner dealing with issues of local government operations, administration and management. In 2011 he worked for the United Nations Development Programme as a Programme Officer. He further worked as Technical Advisor under the Building Local Capacity Project for Southern Africa within the Management Sciences for Health. Continue reading “Welcome to our New Program Coordinator”→