To be civically engaged

Like many of you, I’ve (Alisha) remained social-media-silent on all-things-political for the last several weeks. I’ve been a bit paralyzed by thoughts, not knowing what to say or how to say it. I’m sure many have wondered what I’m thinking, especially given my job as the director of a program that endorses civic engagement, a professor who teaches leadership, and a person who says she loves Jesus.

To be certain, I have a lot of thoughts on what’s been unfolding the last several weeks and, although these sentiments have not found their way to a public platform, they’ve been there in my home, in my workplace, and in my classroom. In case you’re wondering, I DO work REALLY hard to present both sides of the issues in fairness and always encourage people to see the pros and cons of every situation. I’m confident that students would tell you that I’ve remained pretty balanced and focused on helping them be independent thinkers, too.

Here are some sentiments I’ve been glad to share in person and now here, publicly, as well:
I believe in the value of our representative democracy, one in which we elect leaders to represent us and one in which we have the opportunity and constitutional right to stand up, speak out in public and march in opposition when they don’t. I’ve been in places where people do not have this right. I’ve watched what it looks like when a government shuts down social media to deter organized action, suppress voter information and more. It’s not the kind of government I want to live with and I hope you don’t either.

I’ve strongly encouraged my students to be cautious of their news feeds on their social media apps. We need be aware that if we gravitate toward “likes” for the same types of news, information, and posts over and over again then our news feeds will become biased (the systems are designed to give us “what we want to see”). This will set us up for being less objective, less informed, and less likely to be the free thinkers we really think we want to be. We should be noting that Fox News tends to report information one way and CNN another but we should read both (and a lot of other factual news as well). Being informed from multiple perspectives allows us to try to understand the “other” and we will not be able to make good decisions unless we are thinking about something from all sides of the issue. I hope we are encouraging our politicians and our president to do the same.

I’ve worked hard to challenge my students to be engaged and be courageous. Speak up when your friends say something you disagree with. Email your representative when you disagree with them AND when you agree. Pretending that what’s happening in Washington, or in our state legislatures, or in our local governments is not our problem… and when we don’t know how to respond so we don’t… is not the answer. People who crave power often hope that those they are in authority over disengage. It makes their job a lot easier when they can do “whatever they want” without having to be held accountable. So, even if you lack confidence and your words aren’t perfect, there is room for your voice to be heard. Send a two-sentence email. Leave a voicemail. Write a letter. Sign a petition. Tell a representative “thank you” for doing something you agree with. Don’t be intimidated. You have a lot more power than you think you do.

Other words I’ve left behind these weeks are to be kind. Persons whose leadership legacy is the most tarnished are typically those who are/were mean.

And, perhaps the most important sentiment shared in recent weeks and months is to actively listen and speak the truth. Respect diversities of opinions and ideas. Talk about differences and ask a lot of questions. Critically examine opinions and proclamations. Challenge yourself to verify that information is true and know that real facts are not relative. When we stop listening and don’t take the time to reflect on ideas we put ourselves at risk for being easily manipulated.

I have lots of opinions about what’s going on in our state and in our nation today. I’m emailing, calling, attending open forums, and talking to those in my circles about those things I really care about. I’m giving funds to support legal action against things I believe are injustices to my fellow Americans. I’m celebrating that people marched for women and people marched for life and that we can do these things in our democracy.

My parting words for today are these: Listen. Have courage. Be informed. Engage.

Martin Luther King Day

To celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day last Monday, McGovern Center director, Alisha Vincent, and Program Coordinator, Carly Hubers, visited around campus to both students and staff to share some encouragement in honor of the important day.

We are thankful for the work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his continued voice in the work of so many around the world.  May we continue to be humbled and challenged by a message of justice.

mlk

 

Uganda Team Update

The team has wrapped up their trip and are headed back to South Dakota!

In the last few days, the team has visited the farmer field schools (as mentioned in the previous post), helped with some of the pigs that had been donated through our Livestock for Life program, and even visited Queen Elizabeth National Park.  Check out some of the photos in this slideshow below:

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The Uganda Team also had an opportunity to raise funds to help sponsor a local student for the remainder of their primary school years.  The team is thrilled about helping Alex!  Alisha posted more on the Facebook page:

“For the last couple of years, students who travel to Uganda and visit Bright Light Education Center raise enough funds to sponsor a student for the remainder of their primary school years. This year they decided Alex was it! He is a bright student who performs at the top of his class and also served as a little host and even occasional translator for the group!”

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Alex and the DWU Team

The team will be travelling back to campus tonight– praying for a safe and restful return for all of them!  Thank you for your continued support and watch for student stories right here once they return!

McGovern Center Team in Uganda

Our team of DWU students and McGovern Center representatives have arrived safely in Uganda and have been very busy the last few days!  Check out more below for some updates from the last few days…

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The team ready to go!

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Arrived in Uganda– tired but ready for some adventure!

The team has been working with our friend Esther on establishing sustainable school lunch projects in two schools. Our goal is to work in collaboration with parents, teachers, and school children to maintain a garden that will feed 100 kids, year round, on 1 acre of land. The team is introducing some innovative farming methods and work on integrating education related to the project directly into the curriculum so that it can be led by the students and teachers.  This project has been going very well so far!  Alisha recently updated on the Facebook page:

“It has been so impressive watching the schools here adopt this school lunch program. Today Esther led sessions with parents. Together they decided to pool resources to rent land and buy seeds. They made a plan on what to plant and got advice from our Ugandan ag experts. The land they will use for sweet potatoes, maize and beans will be supplemented with vegetables from the vertical farming and hydroponic systems we provided. The goal is to feed all the kids a meal a day. Before the school meal was occasional porridge so to have both hearty carbohydrates and veggies will be outstanding. The parents are so committed and kids excited. [The schools in] Nakigunju had 350 kids and Bright Light 120.”

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Some parts of the hydroponic system Esther and the team is helping to put together.

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Esther teaching some lessons.

A few days ago, DWU students also teamed up with doctors from Kampala with New Hope Medical Mission and saw more than 500 patients. Students helped complete intake forms and assist in the makeshift pharmacy. Some of the DWU students who play on the womens’ volleyball team had a blast teaching the community some skills and drills. Some students also visited farmers who are part of our farmer field school project with our friend Esther. The farmer field schools were launched in December. Five groups have around 10 members each. They received training and use a cooperative system to plant and save, all while introducing some new crop. Despite the drought they’ve been very successful and have plans to save and grow their groups.  Alisha, McGovern Center director, spent time with EEI’s bike mechanic program participants.  The team capped off the day making soap with some of the local women as part of the P31 project.

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Of course, there has to be a little bit of FUN in all this work!  New Year’s Eve isn’t a party without some dancing and celebration…. seems like our students joined right in!

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Wi-fi is a bit limited where the team is these last few days, but we will do our best to keep you updated as we hear more!  So far, everyone is doing great and the projects are going really well.

A special thanks to Marc Mebius, Esther Nampeera, and the DWU students who’ve helped get the project together. Also, as mentioned before, big thanks to Champions House Foundation in Chamberlain SD for supporting wells for both schools so that there is access to clean water that can also be used in the gardens.  Thank you all for your prayers and support!