Tag Archives: Africa

North African Football and Politics: A Love Story

The power of sports is internationally undeniable, able to make or break morale and relations on both a personal and national scale. In the Middle East and North Africa, soccer has become the unofficial language spoken by the inhabitants of all 22 countries across the region. While game results have incited riots and put international relations on edge, the positive impact “football” (as it is called in these three regions) has made cannot be ignored.

If neither politics nor religion can unite a whole nation, football definitely can. For Egyptians, the Pharaohs—what the national team is known as—hold more value than simply a few players out to win a title or an honorable rank. Winning one of the 32 berths (meaning a sports team has guaranteed a spot in the playoffs) in the 2014 Cup could rally Egyptians who seem to be tearing at the seams with more than 1,000 people dead since July 3 over political disputes.

Since former-President Morsi’s removal, there has been much political strain between friends and relative, with a divide more apparent than usual. As of now, citizens are gladly setting aside their differences in anticipation of hopefully seeing Bob Bradley coach the Egyptian national soccer team into its third FIFA World Cup qualification in 80 years. Excitement is tangible in the streets of a country with talk surrounding the chances of the team beating Ghana on both Oct. 15 and Nov. 15.

Just as there is hardcore competition in Spain between Real Madrid and Barcelona, and in the United Kingdom between Manchester United and Liverpool, there is a strong rivalry between al-Ahly and al-Zamalek in Egypt—red versus white. While this might create tensions between their supporters, it is also a common ground for conversation and dialogue that blurs socio-economic class lines. People swarm to street cafés and smoke shisha to watch friendly matches between the two teams and discuss the odds while unwaveringly standing behind their team and players. Sportsgoers set aside religious and political differences in the spirit of the game. In a sense, football is a religion to those in Egypt, as well as in Tunisia and Algeria. When the realities of their everyday struggles become too much, they turn to football and allow the possibility of victory to uplift their spirits. Football in North Africa is one of few developed institutions that has created an alternative public forum to let out frustration at the government and its stagnancy.

Since 2011, the beginning of the wave of the Arab Spring, football fans have been a large portion of the protestors that felled totalitarian regimes. Five years ago, a group of diehard fans in Egypt established themselves as the Green Eagles, a branch of the original European fan club movement, the Ultras. Behind them, they have rallied supporters across the nation in allegiance to the national team, and their capacity for influence is well-known. This year, the Associated Press named the Ultras network as one of the most organized movements in Egypt. Because of them, many were inspired to take to the streets and call for change. The members that join forge bonds of friendship and all support one another to express themselves as politicized football fans through patriotic music, art, and poetry. One Ultras’ song, “Horaya”, meaning “freedom”, was played across Egypt to remind the protestors what they were working towards.

While the Ultras are known for some violent altercations with the Egyptian police, overall their trend for positive impact is evident. They are everyday Egyptians passionate about their country and loyal to their team; all citizens cannot help but relate to their movement and their message. When they turned against the Mubarak regime, most football lovers followed. There is no doubt in my mind that without the strength of love for this game and the revered players who lead the way by example, the first wave of the Egyptian revolution in Jan. 2011 would have been defeated early on. Beyond that, there is a bond of trust with their supporters formed as a result of the Ultras’ tacit promise to not get sucked into the political game and become a puppet of any current or future leadership.

This worship of football is also mirrored in neighboring North African countries, Tunisia and Algeria. Tunisia will be facing Cameroon and Algeria will be against Burkina Faso in order to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil. With the current transitional governments in these countries reforming their constitutions and policies, the hope for a better future and standard of living has been coupled with the stress of the unknown ahead. Simply qualifying for the World Cup 2014 is not only a matter of honor for these countries, but a boot of morale. The display of street celebrations at such an accomplishment would rival the San Francisco Giants riots that followed the World Series win last year—but on a national scale. And I predict that these economies will grow, even for just a bit, by a potential spike in sales of national flags, football apparel and gear, and other symbols of pride.

As sports columnist for Al Ahram newspaper, Hassan Almstkawy, so eloquently said to The Guardian, “It’s not just a game. Apart from war, only two things can bring millions and millions of people on the streets: revolution and football. Now we have both at the same time.”

Barbara Bush Talks Global Health

Former first daughter Barbara Bush promoted fellowships for her non-profit organization, Global Health Corps, to a crowded room of USF students and faculty, mainly associated with the USF Business School, on Monday, Oct. 4. Bush refrained from discussing details about her life during her father’s presidency although she did say, during an exclusive interview with the Foghorn, that she had “a very normal college experience.” She said it was more normal than people would expect, considering herself lucky to have had a supportive environment and “a very normal life.”

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Barabara Bush discusses Global Health Corps, a non-profit organization aimed at bringing health equity to countries like the United States and Africa. Bush co-founded the organization with Google geopolitic analyst Charlie Hale (above, right) and others. (Cass Krughoff/Foghorn)

Setting politics aside, Barbara Bush focused on discussing her passion for global health both abroad and in the United States. Bush said that her passion for global health developed while witnessing the contrast between the availability of health resources in developing and developed countries during a family trip to Africa in 2003. Accompanying her parents on an initiative of the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPAR), Bush, who had been 20 years old at the time, recounted a particular moment in her travel that influenced her current career path. She said, “I vividly remember sitting next to a tiny precious girl who was lying down dressed in her fanciest white and lavender dress. I didn’t know the details of her life at all. Her mother dressed her up and brought her to see the American president though she probably didn’t live much longer after then that.”

Upon returning to Yale University, the school which she attended, Bush decided to shift her focus from her previous studies in architecture to enroll in health classes that fueled her interest in global health. After graduating, Bush worked for the Red Cross’s Children’s Hospital in South Africa and interned for UNICEF in Botswana. In 2008, with funding from Google.org, Bush and several partners, some of whom were present at the USF event, created Global Health Corps (GHC).
Bush said the non-profit she founded developed to “harness all of the passion, energy, and skills of young people in our generation to confront these huge global health challenges facing our world today.” She said that one of the most common assumptions people make is that they cannot get involved in supporting medical work because they are not doctors or nurses.

However, Bush said that while asking international partner organizations about their needs, they rarely ask for medical staff. Instead Bush said, “Today’s challenges require people with diverse skills sets from a wide range of fields beyond medicine which is why I’m really happy to be talking to y’all because I know that a lot of you are from the business school.”

Barbara Bush said that GHC currently works with the Clinton Foundation and Partners in Health to identify areas of need and develop fellowships in Africa and parts of the East Coast in the United States. So far, GHC has sponsored 60 fellowships in Tanzania; Rwanda; Malawi; Burundi; Newark, New Jersey; and Boston, Massachusetts. It was also said that fellowships in Latin America might be a part of GHC in the future.

Global Health Corps recruits recent college graduates and young professionals for yearlong fellowships. Bush warned that the application process is competitive as they received more than 1,000 applications to fill the first 22 fellowships their program offered.

Among the requirements for the available positions, Bush said that GHC targets people that show leadership, flexibility, humility and relevant skills apparent in the essays they submit and the references they provide. Requirements to qualify also include an undergraduate degree and being under 30 years old.
Applications for upcoming fellowship opportunities, according to Bush, should be available on the non-profit’s website by mid January. Bush also said that as the program expands, she and her team plan to have 500 fellowships available within the next five years.

While discussing the work students and young professionals participate in, Bush shared the stories of recent GHC fellows. One of the stories Bush mentioned was that of Jeffrey Misomali who watched his father pass away from HIV. After graduating from the University of Malawi and earning his degree in Environmental Science and Technology, Misomali completed his graduate studies in Water and Environmental Management. After being accepted to participate in a GHC fellowship, Misomali worked with a partner on developing a project to help HIV positive mothers counsel pregnant women and other mothers on the importance of HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

Bush said that the particular district Misomali worked in showed statistics of one in four people living with HIV. After twelve months of working for Global Health Corps, the number of children without HIV born to positive mothers went from seven to 100.

Bush said, “Jeffrey is clearly succeeding in his work in making sure that other families don’t have to suffer due to the loss of someone that they love.”
With respect to the work being done in the United States, Bush said, fellows working in Newark have helped train hundreds of nurses on how to improve communication with patients and counsel homeless youth and teenagers on access to health resources.

When asked why Newark was one of the two U.S. cities chosen for fellowships, Bush responded that during the launch of Global Health Corps in New York, where the organization is based, she and her partners kept finding the need to speak with people facing a lack of health assistance in Newark, therefore making it a valid candidate for their work in addressing health issues. Bush added that fellows provide reports on the work they do and that several alumni have been offered higher positions in the organizations they worked with after the completion of their fellowships.

The panel held at the end of her talk included advice from Barbara Bush as well as from the three GHC work partners that accompanied her that night.
Ajit Shah, strategic advisor to Global Health Corps and entrepreneur in Silicon Valley since 1982, said he has seen a new wave of individuals get involved with entrepreneurship in the non-profit sector and he advised that young people learn from those that have engaged in similar work to find mentors and build alliances.

Jennifer Miller, finance professor at USF and CFO of Global Health Corps, said that GHC has had its “daily hiccups” but that perseverance has been key in helping their project move along. Miller also said that flexibility in restructuring GHC’s mission has also been a part of the process to improve their line of work.

For example, Charlie Hale, geopolitic analyst for Google and Co-founder of GHC, said that the non-profit originally preferred to accept students that did not have previous medical training to add diversity to the academic background of GHC fellows but have since then reconsidered to include them in the list of qualified candidates.

With hopes that USF will take interest in this unique opportunity, Barbara Bush told students, “Next time you read or write about global health challenges, don’t allow the statistics to show you that nothing can be done. Instead think about your Jesuit education. Think about men and women for others. Think about the optimistic stories of real people making real change.”

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Profile: Student Lives With African Village, Authors Children’s Books

Elizabeth Guerra, above, spent Sept.-Dec. 2009 in Burkina Faso, where her three children’s books were distributed through village libraries. Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth R. Guerra

The opportunity to travel in Africa and publish a children’s book for a small village does not come by very often. For junior Elizabeth Guerra, accomplishing just that was an experience of a lifetime. Guerra traveled to Burkina Faso, a small country in the heart of West Africa that is known to be one of the poorest countries in the world, “with about 80% of its population living in rural villages and earning their livings by working as subsistence farmers,” Guerra said. For four months, Guerra traveled with a group of eight other students from September to December 2009 through the Santa Clara University Reading West Africa program.

For the beginning part of her stay, Guerra took classes in the capital city of Ouagadougou, studying economic development, community development, French literature and photography. The official language is actually French, since France colonized the country until Burkina Faso gained its independence in 1960 .

During the other half of her time in Africa, Guerra stayed in the rural village, Sara, in Burkina Faso for a total of 6 weeks. There, she shared a village house with one other student, and together they worked as librarian assistants in the village’s library, which was established by Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL) and the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

In working for the village, Guerra became inspired to do more for the community. The literacy rate in Burkina Faso is about 20%, and this inspired Guerra to make a change. The head of the study abroad program, Dr. Michael Kevane from SCU, who is also the founder of FAVL and professor of economics at Santa Clara University, came up with the idea for Guerra to write books for children. “FAVL operates under the belief that true development can only happen when people are empowered by access to information and the habits of reading and critical thinking,” she said.’Guerra eventually wrote three basic children’s books, which were written in French and coincided with the photos that she took for in Africa for her photography course.

Student Elizabeth Guerra grew to be accepted as a friend by the people of a small African village. Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Guerra

The first book she wrote,“What Can I Be When I Grow Up?” targets children learning to read. “It featured photos from all types of professions that could be found in my village, such as a librarian, doctor, farmer, shoemaker, shop keeper, etc.” she said. The book gives a visual representation of the world that they can imagine for themselves in the future.

For the second book, Guerra said she wrote it for readers of all ages–not just children. The book,“The Life of the Peuhl’s,” is about a semi-nomadic ethnic group. The idea came from the fact that during her time in Burkina Faso. there was a small group of semi-nomadic people living there. She felt inspired to express the presence and value that these people brought to the village.

The third and final book touched upon the history of the Islamic presence that is seen in Burkina Faso. “Islam in Burkina Faso” touches upon religion in the village, presenting an understanding of Islamic principles. Guerra said, “This book was my civic engagement book, which was for higher reading levels and touched on the religious aspect that is so deeply ingrained in their society.” Religion is dispersed in Burkina Faso with about 50% of people being Christian and the other 50% being Muslim, Guerra said. Due to this significant separation of religions living together, Guerra wanted to highlight its significance. All of these people live in a village together, regardless of their difference in religious beliefs, and through Guerra’s outlook during her time there she recognized their ability to live and work peacefully side by side one another. The book featured the different aspects of religion due to Guerra’s belief that religion is truly a fundamental part of a culture. Religion can also often dictate conflict or advocate for overall peace. FAVL funds made the publishing of the third book possible, created and distributed by Blurb.

All three books were published and distributed throughout 10 FAVL libraries in Burkina Faso. The book project enabled Elizabeth to really open up and communicate with the people in the village, which is a community home to about 2,000 people with around five to eight families. Guerra said, “It really got me out and talking to people and helped me make friends. By the end of my stay in my village I was accepted as part of their community. They trusted me. I wasn’t just the white girl walking around with my big camera anymore; I was considered a part of their family.”

“The most important thing that I took away from this trip was that the poverty of the Burkinabé people is independent of their dignity. Many of us look at Africa as the “dark continent,” but what I realized while I was there was that Africa and Africans are rich in ways that many Americans could never understand.”

Currently Guerra is not sure when she will be able to return to Africa. Her hopes are to return sometime soon and that upon graduation she will be able to travel and work in the FAVL libraries. The time that Guerra spent in Africa has truly changed her view of the world. Guerra is an International Studies major with a minor in African Studies and French Studies.

“Africa has many developmental problems, but when we strip away all of our preconceived notions of abject poverty in Africa, we see that they are just like us. They have the same goals and aspirations as we do, and they are driven by the same emotions as we are. They are humans too and we tend to look past this in all of our backwards analyses of the continent.”

USF Student Reflects on Uganda Experience

Jennifer Williams

Jennifer Williams

I was in Uganda and I felt completely helpless. Poverty, pollution and disease consumed the streets I walked on and the air I breathed. Piles of trash, sometimes even old car tires, burned in ditches due to a lack of waste management. Nearby, children dressed in ripped, secondhand tee shirts made toys out of wires and metal scraps. I arrived in May of 2009 with my social justice class to research the human rights situation, specifically the nearly half a million people displaced or abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army. I felt helpless, not because of the harsh, unfamiliar surroundings, but because I knew at that moment I was not making a difference.  Everywhere I went groups of children trailed behind chanting “Mzungu! Mzungu!”, the word for white person. When I reached down to shake their hands the looks in their eyes expressed a mixture of awe, fear and expectation. White people were evil, white people were selfish and white people were rich, they had been told. They were all just as curious about our skin and our nature as they were about our capability to help lift them out of poverty. Some held their hands out, asking with eyes squinting through buzzing flies for chocolate, a bicycle, maybe just a few hundred shillings. I turned them down. It felt like swallowing my own stomach every time I had to tell them, “No, I’m sorry, but I can’t,” because I knew at that moment I could have. I had enough money in my pockets to help at least a few people. But that was not why I was there. Our goal was to learn more about Uganda’s past and present struggles and then reflect, question and find new solutions. We were instructed not give them anything because it would be contradictory to what we have learned about smart activism—rather than simply help someone, it is better to help them to help themselves. I was still unsure of my role in Uganda when we reached Gulu, the northern wartorn region of Uganda. We had arrived in the area a few days earlier and could instantly sense it was different than the busy, industrialized capital city, Kampala. Gulu was a smaller town where one could walk the narrow streets alongside other pedestrians and explore the open air markets filled with handmade goods. Only a few years earlier this area was overtaken by a war between the Ugandan government and a group called the Lord’s Resistance Army. One of the most devastating effects of the war was the legacy of the orphans and former child soldiers. Over 30,000 children had been abducted from their homes and forced to torture and kill the community members.  Those that were lucky enough to survive and find their way back from the bush to Gulu were faced with hatred, fear and alienation from their neighbors and even their families. While there, our group visited the Gulu Youth Development Association, a trade school for war-affected children. They looked bashfully at their feet while we admired all they had built. I spoke with a seventeen-year-old boy who was learning how to paint business signs at the trade school. Hesitant to talk about his dark past, I asked questions focused on the new future he had been offered. He was grateful for the opportunity he had been given, he told me with sad eyes. After a pause, he confided that he was an orphan and wanted nothing more than to find his relatives and a sense of home. We reached the end of my visit and he shook my hand goodbye. He said, “I hope you return to the United States and tell everyone our story.”  I looked him into his eyes and promised him that I would. So now you know, and even though you may be reading this at your kitchen table or on the bus to work half a world away, you are just as much a part of this struggle as my classmates. But you do not have to travel to Uganda to make a difference. You can start in your own backyard. One of the most tragic elements of the war in Northern Uganda was that hardly anyone in the southern half of the country, including Kampala, knew much about it. This may surprise you, but what if I told you something similar is happening in San Francisco and Seattle and Minneapolis; all over the United States and the world? Approximately 27 million human beings are in slavery today, being forced to sell their bodies in brothels, to sew the clothes we buy in the mall and to harvest the food we eat every day. At this moment you may feel helpless, like I did while in Uganda. But you can change that, because making a difference is as simple as opening your eyes. By visiting websites such as www.slaverymap.org and www.free2work.org you can familiarize yourself with both true events of slavery in your neighborhood and ethical, anti-slavery businesses to support. Unfortunately, slavery is driven by everyday civilians like you and me by where we choose to spend our money. By raising your own and others’ awareness of the situation and making simple, conscious changes in your lifestyle and buying habits, you can help eradicate the demand for slavery. Jennifer Williams is a junior English major

USF Students Lend a Hand to AIDS Victims A World Away

Zimbabwe Vitamin Project

A volunteer distributes vitamins and AIDS medicine at a health clinic in Zimbabwe. (Courtesy of Professor Lillian Dube)

In many parts of Africa, the AIDS epidemic is raging; exasperated by malnutrition, prolonged violence and failed governments, as is the case in Zimbabwe, a country of 13 million people, over 1.6 million of whom are living with HIV/AIDS. Zimbabwe, which has seen its economy collapse and healthcare system crumble in recent years, has forged the most unlikely of bonds with the San Francisco Bay Area, USF and the man that connected the two worlds together, Dr. Robert Scott.

Scott, who has been going to Zimbabwe with a team of volunteers for 10 years to see AIDS victims and offer them life-prolonging antiretroviral medication and treatment they could not get anywhere else, came to USF last semester to explain the situation on the ground there with students. Following the presentation, students approached Scott, eager to find ways that they could help. Scott said he was impressed by their willingness to lend a hand and suggested they assist him in collecting donations of multivitamins which get distributed to the AIDS victims, affording them a nutritional supplement to their one meal a day, consisting of little more than starchy roots, which most poor Zimbabweans eat.

Students, including many from the African studies minor program and Ubmthombo Club as well as faculty and staff from Health Promotion Services and University Ministry, coordinated the vitamin drive, collecting bottles of pills and sending them to Hayward, where volunteers repackaged them into bags of 30 to be given to patients in Africa, where they are instructed to take one pill every other day along with their regiment of AIDS medication.

USF Professor Lillian Dube, a native of Zimbabwe, who is helping to promote the vitamin drive, has also traveled to Africa with Scott to assist him with patients and act as a translator. Dube handed out vitamins to hungry patients and had to turn away 100 people from the clinic where she and Scott were working after their resources were depleted. Dube said that every time Dr. Scott returns to Zimbabwe, which is 3-4 times per year, he is confronted by more and more people seeking his aid.

On her trip in late December, Dube said the volunteers instituted a lottery system to see who of the hundreds of new people who had shown up to the clinic would be taken into the care of Scott. “Dr. Scott held the box and I called the numbers,” she said. “They were sitting in the rain, hoping they would get on board – on the life train – it is like your ticket to life. You are looking at their faces, hoping they would get called but we could only take 25. I was sick after that, I was deciding who lives and who dies.”

Scott, who is now seeing 750 patients in Zimbabwe, said he is overwhelmed by the demand for his services. “We don’t have the financial resources or enough doctors, when you have 100 people standing in front of you saying ‘please save my life,’ it’s very depressing.” Scott and the organization he works with, the Allen Temple AIDS Ministry, use donations to buy AIDS medication in India where local pharmaceutical companies ignore international patents on the drugs and manufacture them for far less than they cost in the United States. A one-month supply of a three-drug cocktail which is given to Scott’s patients costs $8.50, he said. The Allen Temple then uses volunteer labor to solicit donations of multivitamins to stretch their financial resources as far as possible.

Dr. Scott said he is grateful to USF students who are helping to collect donations. “The bottom line is that in third-world countries where the diets of people are so poor, people who have multivitamins live longer and healthier lives,” he said.

USF will be accepting multivitamin donations all semester long at Health Promotion Services outside the cafeteria on main campus and University Ministry. Student volunteers are also working to get donation boxes in residence halls and will be accepting donations at 5 p.m. Mass in St. Ignatius as well as student Mass in Xavier chapel.