Aid to African countries is starting to take new forms as distinct African cultures and needs come to the forefront of discussion among Western countries.
Africa Educates, a new project through Peace Action Wisconsin, is devoted to providing educational equipment and needs to schools in Ghana and Sierra Leone, and is giving aid according to what those living in the countries say is needed.
Associate professor at Colorado State University, Caridad Souza, Ph.D., and Daniel Pneuman, a former student of Souza’s, co-founded the project in summer 2014.
“Africa Educates is enthusiastic about linking people across the world who are interested in getting involved in transnational solidarity,” Pneuman said.
According to Souza, the project fosters transnational solidarity, meaning walking with people on their journey.
“Advocacy in these societies is done best when it is led by Africans,” Pneuman said.
According to Pneuman, every action is taken on by activists on the ground in Africa; projects are not decided upon by the the representatives in the organization, but rather, supported and funded by it.
“We have to enter respectfully and in ways that are not colonial,” Souza said. “We need to partner with the people and help them because we don’t have the answers to their problems.”
The projects assist with childhood education in communities Ghana and Sierra Leone, according to Pneuman.
In the wake of the Ebola crisis, Africa Educates is also partnering with Disaster and Emergency Relief Services West Africa (DERSWA) to bring between 120 radios to homes in Sierra Leone.
According to Souza, the radios are being brought in to help communities continue education for their children who cannot attend school due to the outbreak. After radios are delivered, the classes will be administered to the children from their homes.
“We’ve had to shift gears a little because of the Ebola outbreak,” Souza said.
Because of the availability of radio, it is a practical, and trusted, medium for communication, according to Souza.
Maryanne Rojas, a former student of Souza’s, has traveled with Souza to Ghana twice.
According to Rojas, she applied as a transfer student at the State University of New York at Oneonta because there, she would have the opportunity to travel to Ghana and experience the cultures and people for herself .
“It was hard to believe such a place could be traveled to,” Rojas said. “Arriving there was like arriving home.”
Rojas said it seemed the only way to travel to Africa was through an educational setting. Through her trip she was able to understand and learn about the diversity in African cultures, as well as the importance that Western aid understands what the cultures and communities need before assuming what is needed.
“Africa educates us,” Souza said.
Collegian Campus Beat Reporter Megan Fischer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MegFischer04.