Two student-organized groups, the Darfur Radio Project and the Village Education Project, were recently awarded Pericles Fund grants of $25,000 each to support their sustainable social action programs. The Pericles Fund was created in the spring of 2005, when, according to Lang Center Associate Director Pat James, “Eugene Lang ’38 was so moved by the work students were doing that he created the Pericles Fund the next day and seeded it with a pledge of $250,000 to be matched by the rest of the Board of Managers.” The first grants were given to Swat Sudan, SAVE R Us, and War News Radio, and later one was given to the Common Ground Solidarity Network, which is “committed to addressing the issues of race and class that created such a disproportionate impact on people after Hurricane Katrina.”
James explained that “the purpose of the Fund is to support student teams whose work addresses causes of serious social problems… while many Pericles Fund programs may involve some sort of direct service to a community, its main work is to impact the causes and conditions that create the problems that particular community faces.” The grant also requires long-term sustainability–the project should not fade out after a year, but “requires putting together a team of students willing to make a fairly substantial commitment of time and energy over a several year period. We expect [it to be] their primary commitment after academics.”
The Darfur Radio Project team members are Sarah Manion ’07, Rita Kamani ’08, Jess Engebretsen ’09, Chelsea Davis ’10, Bettina Tam ’10, Anna Grant ’10, and Laura Wang ’10. Manion told the Gazette that “several people in Swarthmore Sudan had been talking about a collaboration with WNR for quite a while now, but this fall I decided to actually make the pitch to the group and see if there were enough people who actually wanted to begin this project.” This semester the group has been working to find funding and support.
Grant explained that she got involved because “the Darfur genocide hasn’t received the kind of coverage it merits. It’s just so important to have access to information that is accurate, and also access to human stories told audibly and in detail by the people who are living them… the framework War News Radio has set up offers an opportunity to personally interact with the people directly affected by conflict and literally ‘give them a voice.'” Grant and the other team members have been “working on creating our first broadcast,” according to Manion, “a 29 minute pilot show which is structurally similar to the weekly WNR broadcasts, but focuses more on feauture stories and less on news updates… we should have the final show, with 3 full length feature pieces, done before the end of the year.” Next year the group hopes to create a monthly show.
Manion has already talked with three Darfurians using the internet telephone service Skype, and said “you’d be surprised who you can get in contact with. Our first show is focusing on refugees and asylum seekers. I found the name of a child psychologist in England who was dealing with refugees online… She was interested in the project and gave me the contact information of two young Darfurian refugees who had recently arrived in England. One is named Mousa, and is featured in our first show. He is in contact with his mother, who lives in an internal dispacement camp in Darfur. She has a cell phone. You never know what connections you’ll find.”
Grant raved about the grant, saying “Pericles will help us exist!” Manion agreed, explaining that the grant is “essential to getting this project off the ground… we need to purchase some of our own production equipment such as a computer, external harddrive and recorders. Additionally, we want to have the funds to attend conferences to expand our knowldge of both radio production and the situation in Darfur.” The group also plans to bring Sudanese speakers to campus, create a website, and hire a media advisor to help them out.
The Village Education Project Team is made up of Katie Chamblee ’07, Mark Dlugash ’08, Christine Duranza ’08, Kendal Rinko ’09, Jake Ban ’10, Anna Phillips ’10, and Melissa Cruz ’10. Chamblee started the foundation in August 2005 in order to help underprivileged students in Ecuador continue their education, and the Pericles Grant will make her project into a long-term foundation. Chamblee is graduating this year, and she’s put a group of people together to continue the work in her absence. Dlugash said, “one of the best things about Katie is that she’s able to communicate her passion and energy to other people… she radiates out this awesome energy and that’s one of her great skills.”
Cruz knew that she wanted to be involved from the first time she heard about the project, a large component of which is teaching elementary school students during the summer in four villages near to Otavalo, Ecuador. The projects expects thirty to forty volunteers from across the country this summer, and Cruz will be the go-to person for volunteers “concerning anything from difficulties they are having with their teaching time, to any personal problems they may have that need to be communicated to the principal of the school or the head of the house that we will be staying at.” Cruz looks forward to helping the students in Ecuador, but also sees the opportunity as “a great time to test my Spanish” and anticipates some serious culture shock.
The Pericles Grant will help the group expand from being a direct-service organization to including policy elements as well. “We want to connect direct service and advocacy,” explained Dlugash, “direct service so that we’re not removed from the reality and advocacy so that we’re changing the system itself.”
Specifically, Chamblee says that they’ll spend the money on different forms of “capacity building… we might have publicity materials for the first time, we’ll have an office in DC, we’ll have business cards and t-shirts, we’ll have basic ways of making revenue that we don’t have as of right now.” Chamblee will be living in DC next year and will be able to work from that office, and an organization has also offered the Village Education Project interns. The group will also be able to register as an independent non-profit for the first time.
Chamblee is thrilled to have been able to start the foundation while at Swarthmore. “It’s an opportunity to do professional work while still in college, which is a great experience… in most jobs we wouldn’t be offered this much responsibility straight off. Hopefully it’s empowering to other students who see what we can do.”