Bay Path College and the Sajuka Elementary School in Barra, The Gambia
LONGMEADOW, Mass.—From funding tuition costs for young girls in Africa to attend school to supplying books for an empty library, the Sajuka Community Development Project, a partnership between Bay Path College and the Sajuka Elementary School in Barra, The Gambia, encourages cultural engagement, while creating a society that is interconnected with the world. The Project, which began more than two years ago, was recently recognized as a Top Program by the Higher Education Task Force and the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy (USCCD), and during the U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. last month.
The U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy is a national meeting presented by the USCCD in partnership with the U.S. Department of State, Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. The Summit is designed to broaden the momentum generated from the work of the USCCD as a national resource base and network for Americans to be engaged as citizen diplomats, and two major leadership forums—The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread and the Wingspread Leadership Forum—focused on the revival of citizen diplomacy as a critical component of U.S. public diplomacy and foreign policy strategy.
Bay Path College, a women’s college in Longmeadow, focuses on preparing women to become confident and resourceful contributors to our increasingly interdependent world through development of leadership, communication, and technology competencies. Recognizing a need for a school library in the village of Barra, Nyillan Fye ’09, G’11, a native of Gambia and Bay Path undergraduate at the time, was determined to help the children in the African community. Fye, who was encouraged by Sajuka founder and her father Momodou Lamin Fye, began the task of establishing the library. Word spread across campus of her personal project, and with the help of John Jarvis, PhD, professor of communications and English at Bay Path, Fye organized a book drive, which to date has garnered nearly 6,000 books for the children and greater community of Barra. Invited to speak with Gambia’s President Alhaji Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, Fye continued her work with Dr. Jarvis and Bay Path administrators to develop a partnership with Sajuka, which includes the Bay Path Scholars Program. The Scholars Program funds tuition costs for 10 young girls at Sajuka. Once the girls graduate high school, they will receive a free college education from Bay Path.
Today, the Project provides a unique opportunity for the Bay Path community to participate in hands-on development work with students, teachers, and administrators at the Sajuka Community School. Earlier this year, Bay Path students and faculty lived with Gambian families, tutored children at Sajuka, and carried out a needs-assessment to begin a long-term effort to improve conditions at the school. Upon returning to the U.S., Bay Path students and community members have developed fundraising efforts for Sajuka with the help of Longmeadow High School’s Key Club. Volunteers sell merchandise made by adult students attending the Sajuka Adult Literacy and Skills Center, and proceeds are used to support the entire school. In addition, Bay Path students filmed A Message of Hope from the Children of Gambia, a documentary detailing a day-in-the-life of Anna Fye (no relation to Nyillan Fye), a young girl attending the Sajuka School. The documentary premiered at Bay Path in September. During the film showing, those who donated $20 or more to the Project received a DVD of the documentary, and the Longmeadow High School Key Club sold Skills Center merchandise with proceeds benefiting the Project.
Bay Path will continue the success of the Project by sending Bay Path students and faculty to the Gambia early next year to carry on the partnership with Sajuka. The Project’s current goal is to provide the entrepreneurial and financial tools for Sajuka to become economically self-sustaining through a successful adult literacy and African craft-making program that has been integrated into the school. The Project also aims to provide greater opportunities for girls, in particular, to attend Sajuka, which is the only secular school with a full curriculum that enrolls both girls and boys in two villages in the Lower Nuimi District of The Gambia.
In addition to Bay Path, the USCCD and Higher Education Task Force selected programs at Florida A&M University, Gallaudet University, Johnson County Community College, Kennesaw State University, Northcentral Technical College, San Jose State University, Thunderbird School of Global Management, University of California Irvine, and University of San Francisco as Top Programs.
Visit the following Web sites to learn more about the Sajuka Community Development Project, U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, and NAFSA:
Bay Path College-Sajuka Community School Partnership,
Sajuka Community Development, http://www.sajuka.org/history.html,
U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy, http://bit.ly/c6KZOu