Partnership with Gambian School Receives National Recognition
Author: Nicole Soucy, Senior Writer
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, has been selected as a Top Program by the Higher Education Task Force and the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy (USCCD), and will be recognized at the upcoming U.S. Summit for Global Citizen Diplomacy from November 16 to 19 in Washington, D.C.
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 focused on the revival of citizen diplomacy as a critical component of U.S. public diplomacy and foreign policy strategy.
“In today’s world, citizen engagement with people and communities beyond our borders is imperative for our country’s leadership in the world, as well as its economic vitality and security,” said Task Force Co-Chair Marlene M. Johnson, executive director and chief executive officer of NAFSA: Association of International Educators (originally National Association of Foreign Student Advisers). “Our higher education community plays an enormously important role, in the unique ways that it can connect Americans with the global community and foster a better understanding of and active participation in international affairs.”
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 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 on September 29, 2010 Bay Path’s Longmeadow Campus. During the film showing, those who donated $20 or more to the Project will received a DVD of the documentary, and the Longmeadow High School Key Club had Skills Center merchandise available for purchase.
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:
Read more about Bay Path College and the Sajuka Community Development Project:
About Bay Path College
Bay Path is a four-year private college with an enrollment of more than 2,000 students at its Longmeadow campus and satellite campuses in Sturbridge/Charlton (MA) and Burlington (MA). The College offers undergraduate degrees for women; graduate degrees for men and women; and Bay Path Online, the College’s online center offering graduate degrees and certificates. For more information on Bay Path College, visit http://www.baypath.edu.
About the USCCD
The U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy (USCCD) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established in 2006 to promote and expand opportunity for all Americans to be citizen diplomats, and affirm the indispensible value of citizen involvement in foreign relations.
With nearly 10,000 members, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world’s largest professional association dedicated to international education. For more on the efforts of our global community of advocates speaking out in support of international education, visit Connecting Our World.