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UA Class Supports Local Refugees, Villages Abroad
The UA-student initiated GiveBack KickBack event, to be held Nov. 18, was organized to raise funds to build a school in The Republic of South Sudan, which became an independent state earlier this year.
Global education and global consciousness are two increasingly important concepts that many at the University of Arizona are promoting this week.
Coinciding with International Education Week – which is part of a nationwide initiative encouraging global education and international exchange – a group of UA students is hosting a Nov. 18 fundraising event to support the building of a school in Abul located in The Republic of South Sudan.
But their involvement is much deeper than that, and stems from an Eller College of Management course senior lecturer, Cindi Gilliland has taught with an international and social conscious awareness driven focus.
"Global education is absolutely crucial. We're grooming and building tomorrow's leaders, and the issues they face are complex and global in nature," said Gilliland who, for years, has involved her students in service-learning projects. "I really love to develop leaders who lead with their hearts and heads."
Gilliland has encouraged her students to advance marketing and business plans for local communities serving refugees in Pima County. Her students also have worked one-on-one with refugees, helping them find jobs and prepare for interviews.
That is how the newly renamed Arizona Resource Connection – formerly the Arizona Refugee Connection – was born.
"This is truly an interdisciplinary, integrative sort of team project," Gilliland said, adding that about 125 students are involved each semester. The students take her course and a business communications course concurrently. Beginning in the spring, Gilliland's students also will take a marketing class.
In the two years the Arizona Resource Connection has existed, the student-run organization, known as ARC, has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to support initiatives for refugee communities in Tucson and abroad, including the building of a water well, school supplies and the initial construction of the school in The Republic of South Sudan.
ARC's next major event is the second annual GiveBack KickBack, one of the International Education Week's headliner events.
The Nov. 18 event will be held 5-8 p.m. in Geronimo Plaza at Main Gate Square, located on East University Boulevard between North Euclid and North Park Avenues. The event will feature musical and dance performances, a raffle, street games and a silent auction.
The financial support is important as The Republic of South Sudan continues to rebuild after having endured widespread devastation during the Second Sudanese Civil War, said Max Goshert, a UA marketing major and ARC's philanthropy chair.
"We are lucky to the extreme that we have access to sanitary water and food at every point in our lives, in addition to many opportunities of education and employment," Goshert said.
Goshert said he is involved because he feels compelled to help.
"It is important for me to make a positive impact because I consider myself to be very lucky in life," he said. "I have a lot of privileges that many people do not, and I feel that everybody who is better off in life has the responsibility to help those that were not so lucky."
UA alumnus John Akuar, who was one of Gilliland's students, initially suggested that ARC support Abul, especially in building a physical space for schooling.
Akuar, who earned his international studies degree from UA in December 2010, remains connected with ARC, supporting its initiatives and also serving as a mediator between the organization and those in Abul. He also raises funds for Abul elsewhere in Tucson.
"During the war, the schools were torn apart, so we're giving the chance for kids who never would have had access to schools," said Akuar, one of the original Lost Boys who arrived in the U.S. about seven years ago.
Tens of thousands of boys and young men, named the Lost Boys of Sudan, were displaced during the war. Thousands of them resettled in the U.S.The situation remains dire, Akuar said of his native Abul. The school was needed, he said, because students and teachers were meeting in open spaces, receiving their lessons in the dirt, or on the single blackboard rotated between the teachers.
"Some never had the chance to go to school," Akuar said, noting that the currenlty school serves about 500 students, aged 6-25.
In fact, Akuar will be traveling to Abul next month for a six-month stay. While there, he will visit his surviving family and also help with the school, which already has four rooms built with a remaing four rooms yet to be built.
Gilliland said she is especially proud of the work of her students, adding that during Friday's event, they hope to see "dogs, children, refugees, local politicians, grandfathers" and others in attendance.
"The students are empowered, they are passionate and they are kind-hearted. I am so incredibly proud of the student leaders I have had the chance to meet," Gilliland said.
"I believe anybody can enact change. It's difficult to do as an isolated individual," she said, "but if every individual does their part and if we band together and find the synergies that come from working with like-minded people, nothing can stop us."