Elon Periclean Scholars

Newsletter Issue 3 – March 15, 2017

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Newsletter Issue 3

 

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Class of 2017- Back for the final semester!

After our short January term, we came back for our first class meeting of the spring semester. We began by catching up on what we did over winter term and fake break, then discussed our plans for our last semester, including finishing the documentary, our local project, a potential virtual conference, and fundraising for the spring semester.

Although we were unable to host our conference this January, we are hopeful that we can still have impact in Namibia through smaller, more focused projects, and through the documentary. We are hoping to potentially hold a virtual conference in lieu of a physical one, and have reached out to our contacts at UNAM, but we are waiting to hear back. Kelsey and Oly were still able to travel to Namibia this winter to finish up filming for the documentary, and now are in the process of editing it. The class decided to assist them with the research needed to create the script, so we are very excited to be able to play a small role in the creation of the documentary.

We are also pleased to be continuing our partnership with the Burlington Housing Authority this semester, with members of our cohort going to the after school program each week to talk about topics related to food insecurity, agriculture, and sustainability. We are hoping to expand this partnership, as well, by perhaps sponsoring events for residents of the BHA to learn more about using their gardens and living sustainably.

Finally, we discussed how we would like to fundraise for the semester, and how we would like to distribute the funds.

While we are sad to think that this will be our last semester at Elon and with Periclean, we are ready to finish strong!

PLP

Class of  ’17

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Cost-benefit analysis of travel to your country of focus

What is the value of travel to your country of focus?

I pose this question as we are about to welcome back to Elon two ’17’s that just spent about two weeks in Namibia and as the ’19’s are in the preliminary stages of sending part of their Class to Sri Lanka.

First, what are the costs of this travel?

  • Environmental:  The carbon footprint of air transportation and surface travel is not inconsequential.
  • Financial:  The cost of this travel is considerable and includes air and surface transportation, hotels, meals and snacks, airport and other taxes, stipends for tour guides, tips, laundry, equipment, facilities rental, excursions, faculty and staff salaries.
  • Time:  Countless person hours have been put into the planing of this travel, many more will be expended during our time abroad and yet more when when come back home.
  • Personal:  We are all be away from our families, loved ones and in general people that we will be missed by.  In many cases friends, roommates, and spouses will have to carry an extra burden while we are gone.

So, if the cost is so high, what is the value of this travel to your country of focus that offsets all of the above costs?

  • What is the value to you and to your Elon education?  How do you think you will grow as a person?  How will this make you a different/better student and global citizen?
  • How will this move the goals of your Class forward?
  • How with this travel move forward partnerships?
  • What is the value to your Class?  Will it make you a better, more cohesive and outcome-oriented Class?
  • What is the value to the Periclean Scholars program in general?
  • What is that value to Elon University?

Above all, any travel by Pericleans must be and be seen as adhering to the highest possible ethical standards in terms of cultural contact and relations with any partners.  Full transparency of motivations must exist and be communicated both to Classmates and to all partners either pre-established or developed as the travel proceeds.

The Periclean Pledge (revised and posted here soon) and the Core Humanitarian Standards  must guide and inform all actions and decisions.

 

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BHA Recap

About a month into the semester, the Class of 2017 decided to partner with the Burlington Housing Authority in order to begin developing our local project. We decided to work with BHA’s after school program and create lesson plans related to sustainable agriculture and healthy living. We began sending 3 to 4 members of our group to the site once a week to teach a brief lesson and engage in some sort of interactive activity.

Everything seemed to be going really well for the first few weeks of the semester, and the kids seemed to really love our presence! We are so happy to say that during out last visit of the semester, the kids expressed their sincere happiness for our time spent at the center! We did a recap activity with the kids in which we asked them to share their favorite lessons and some things they learned during our time with them. We were so impressed with how well the students retained the information and how enthusiastic they remained up until our last visit.

The students were sad to hear that it was our final week, but they are so excited for us to continue working with them in the spring! We have spoken with the administration at BHA and we hope to plan an event with them towards the end of the year to highlight all of the work we have done with the kids.

This semester has had some tough moments for the Class of 2017, but BHA has consistently been such a positive part of our group and we are SO happy to have the opportunity to work with them! We can’t wait to get back in the new year!

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Class of 2017 Meal Swipes Fundraiser a Great Success

With final exams and the end of the semester looming, we took on one final fundraising initiative for this fall: tabling in the Moseley Student Center so Elon students could donate extra swipes from their meal plans towards our goal of addressing food insecurity in Namibia.

 

Set to last from Monday December 5th through Friday December 9th, the table would be staffed by two member of our class to provide information about the nation of Namibia and the current state of food security to those interested in donating swipes. The initiative was incredibly successful, as we maxed out the swipe machine from Elon Dining Services with 250 swipes from generous students over the course of just four days. This final push will provide us with more funding as many of our projects and initiatives peak in the spring, including our documentary and the virtual conference.

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Periclean partners around the world remain very active

This is the first in a short series of posts providing updates about our partners around the world.


Schools for Chiapas, Class of 2008 partner

Working with the global indigenous rights community in support of Standing Rock

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Sue Beattie and Peter Brown partnered with the Class of 2008 as they worked in Chiapas, Mexico with the indigenous Mayans.  One product of that partnership was the documentary film Painting Without Permission highlighting the work that the Class of 2008 did with the Zapatistas and Schools for Chiapas.
Recently Peter and Susan traveled to Bismarck, ND and became part of the movement in support of the Standing Rock Souix Tribe against the Dakota Access Pipeline

Here is Susan’s Facebook post describing their experience:

screenshot-2016-12-09-07-56-33“Wow! What an amazing week it’s been! Arrived Bismarck, ND and outfitted ourselves with necessary things for staying warm and sleeping tight. We threw our supplies in the back of a U-Haul truck and headed for camp. 

The snow of the previous week was melting and the sun was out. Our first glimpse was quite emotional. We enter camp down “Flag Road” with the banners of 220 tribes snapping in the air. Teepees, tents and trailers as far as the eye could see. First day spent just wandering around trying to take it all in. 

Camp is a very busy place. The Sacred Fire burns continually and is encircled by the tents of the seven tribes. There is frenzy of construction. Everywhere there are pallets stacked with wood frames that will soon be floors and walls of warm permanent structures. The kitchens (there are 5) are serving up huge portions of food to all comers. The medics (all sporting a red cross) and security (in yellow vests) are patrolling the camp making sure everyone is safe and well. A big, white geodesic dome is the largest structure and there we find the daily schedule of posted activities. Orientation is at 9am and is mandatory for all new arrivals. Signs read “Absolutely No weapons. No Drugs or Alcohol in You or On You.”

A short walk down the road we drove in on, takes us to the bridge where we can see the burnt out shell of a truck still blocking the road. We have heard that the police have technology that will wreak havoc with cell phones and, indeed, both Peter and I find that our cameras cut out. I have managed a single picture of the bridge and my battery is drained despitescreenshot-2016-12-09-08-42-04 being fully charged when I started. 

We set up our “camp”, duct taping U-Haul packing blankets to the walls and covering the floor of our U-Haul truck to give us a bit of insulation against the cold which descends as soon as the sun goes down. We are welcomed to the “Mess Tent” (the largest of the kitchens) where we find food and a fire and spend the evening meeting new friends who are called “relatives”. We are welcomed as family and can feel the community open to include us.

We have come at a unique moment in the camps’ life cycle. The Corps has said that as of Dec. 5th anyone still in camp will be “trespassing”. The Morton County sheriff has threatened to use all means necessary to clear the camp. The Vets are trickling in and rumor has it that there will be at least 2,500 arriving in camp in the next few days. 

We can see about a kilometer down the road leading into camp and there is a line of cars stretching as far as the eye can see. People are streaming into camp to make their stand here with the Dakota/Lakota water protectors. 

The orientation meeting is about more than how to find your way around camp and speaks strongly to the “allies” in camp about how to deport oneself in an “Indigenous Centered” movement. White privilege and decolonization are addressed head on. For the next few days, allies will outnumber the Indigenous but it is the Indigenous who lead this movement with their insistence that this be a peaceful and prayerful gathering. 

This land on which we camp was originally reservation land that the US government later decided they wanted to repossess. The Lakota people have never ceded their right to this land to America. They will not do so now.

We attend a “Direct Action” training. There are no weapons in camp and all participants are schooled in non-violent confrontation. The legal team is well organized and everyone who intends to risk arrest through Direct Action is to fill out a “jail form” so the legal team knows how to proceed should there be arrests. We write the telephone number for the legal team on our arm with a “sharpie” and find change to carry in our pockets so that we can get a hold of them on pay phones if we find ourselves jailed for our action. 

Rory Wakemup has brought a truckload of “mirror shields” that will reflect back to the attackers their own image in hopes that they might be ashamed to see themselves perpetrating such extreme violence on peaceful Water Protectors. When raised to the sky, reflecting the sky, the shields look like the flowing river. We plan to make the river flow from where it runs to the camp. 

Despite the fact that the FAA has ruled the camp a “no fly” zone, the tribe has several drones and drone pilots. This is screenshot-2016-12-09-22-47-30unceded treaty land and the FAA has no jurisdiction here. The drones are extremely important as they provide the footage that clearly shows the Water Protectors to be unarmed and peaceful and the militarized police as the aggressors. The drones fly up and down the line of Water Protectors as they learn to navigate their mirror shields. Rory will upload this footage.

And then, unexpectedly, there is the announcement that the Corps will not grant the easement. Peter and I had been walking from the Sacred Fire to our truck. Peter had stopped to play baby games with a small child being towed in a sled. From the microphone at the Sacred Fire I hear there will be an announcement. I wander back toward the fire to listen. Peter wanders back toward the truck. 

“I have no details” says the Indigenous leader on the mic, “but I can tell you that the Corps has announced that they will not grant the easement.” There is stunned silence and then wild cheers as the impact of this amazing reversal sinks in. 

The camp is huge. Only those of us at the fire have heard the news. As I go to find Peter, I tell the people I meet along the way what I have just heard. There is shock, followed by great joy. Hugs and whoops. We are all family and we are all celebrating! The rumor is that the following day we will walk to the drilling platform. Peter wants to dance on the drill site.

People are still streaming into camp. Thousands of Vets are here. Dozens of new tents have sprung up literally overnight.screenshot-2016-12-09-08-42-38 A conservative estimate puts about 12,000 people in camp on December 4th. Everyone is fed. Everyone has a place to sleep. Everyone has access to warm clothes and bedding. 

The arrival of the Vets has made the camp a bit less tranquil. They have come to “protect” but, to my eyes, they seem to want to take control. They march and carry the flag. There are some fights. I think they are also completely caught off guard by the Corps announcement. Perhaps their arrival was the final nail that caused the Corps to relent. 

This is an Indigenous victory and the Indigenous graciously, profusely and sincerely thank the Veterans for their support. We hear from the Sacred Fire that with this decision they will “forgive” the US Army for the murder of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull. They will “forgive but not forget”. In return, the US Army will give the Lakota a White Horse, a symbol of lasting peace and goodwill. I have no idea if this will come to pass but the Veterans in camp, the 7th Cavalry, kneel to the Dakota/Lakota and apologize for genocide. We dance the “Round House” dance late into the night.

There is press conference the next day. Energy Transfer Partners has said that the decision of the Corps changes nothing. They will not stop drilling. We do not walk to the drilling platform. It is not clear how this will play out. The head of the Tribal Council says we should all go home and be warm with our families. Trust the system. At the same time, he says we may all need to return in January. When has the system ever worked for the Native Ameriscreenshot-2016-12-09-08-06-04can? There are other voices, strong and determined, that say they will remain until the drill is gone and the project is stopped. We will wait and see. The weather has turned. We are in the throes of a full-on blizzard by the time the press conference has ended. The temperature has plummeted. The wind is gusting. The snow is swirling.

People are still arriving. Other people are leaving. The Vets are leaving. We are thankful for our U-Haul truck which will protect us from the wind and weather. It is very cold as we crawl into our sleeping bags but we have a small propane heater and sufficient bedding to stay warm, even toasty. We listen to the wind as it howls through the cracks and snaps the banners on Flag Road. We will wake to another day of extreme cold and wind. This is the day we are to leave but the roads are closed. Our U-Haul truck is good protection from the weather but it is not safe on the road. With rear wheel drive and no chains, it will not even manage to climb even a small hill. So we have missed our flight and spend another night in our trusty U-Haul, thankful for the protection. Sleeping warm and dry.

The next day (our last in camp) dawns clear and cold. There is a trace of blue in the sky but the temperature is at -7 and the wind chill is 40 below. I grew up in Wisconsin. I lived in Montana and Upstate New York. I know cold… but I have forgotten. I have never tried to live outdoors in this weather. It is extreme but, once again, the camp functions. Security goes tent to tent to ensure that the occupants are safe and warm (enough). There is always coffee and hot food. The supply tents have racks of warm clothes and sleeping bags. The fires are stoked and people come and go warming hands and drying mittens. The wind dies down a bit and we decide to try to drive the truck “around the block” just to see what that feels like. 

It feels like this might be the moment to try the 40-mile drive back to Bismarck. It takes a half dozen tries to get up the hill that takes us from camp to the plowed road but we gain the road and creep back to Bismarck. The 40-mile journey takes us 2 ½ hours. There a few tense, slippery moments but we arrive, whole and unscathed… but not unchanged.”


Many thanks to Susan for this insider’s glimpse of life at Standing Rock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Conference update: Virtual Conference

Hello Friends,

As some of our class bloggers have mentioned, our class has been dealing with the difficult news of not being able to continue with the conference on sustainable agriculture due to financial concerns.  While this news has been challenging, our class has been focused on moving forward and finding another way to partner with the University of Namibia. Specifically, today in class we discussed the idea of a virtual conference that one of our contacts in Namibia suggested.  This would allow for research to still be presented, which is definitely a priority for our class in terms of elevating Namibian scholarship and ideas.  Our main concerns are also finding the most sustainable and empowering way to use the money that we have collected to highlight the issues surrounding sustainable agriculture in Namibia and the world.

In an attempt to accomplish these goals, our class has decided to resume conversations with the University of Namibia, who states that they have already received 25 proposals for papers. Using some of the money originally earmarked for the conference, we plan to offer rewards to the best submissions, with the stipulation that the papers be submitted to academic journals.

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New Directions

After a few recent bumps in the road, we have officially decided that no one will be travelling there in January, as we had once planned on. In class today, we discussed alternatives for how we can use the money that we have raised, now that it is not being fully used on a conference. Below are the two main options that were proposed in class:

  1. One option that was discussed was a “virtual conference.” In other words, Namibian students would submit their research papers to an online database, which would act as a source of information, and a vehicle for sharing innovative research. The research abstracts would then be judged by a panel of experts, and money would be rewarded to students with the most outstanding papers.
  2. We also had a conversation about using the money as “grant money” to award to worthy projects in Namibia. This money could be used by the individual or organization to carry out their proposed project.

Other exciting news: Oly and Kelsey have proposed dates to go to Namibia to film the documentary. They also announced that a staff member from iMedia, Elon’s graduate communications program, will be joining them in the endeavor and assisting.

With this being our last class of the semester (cue the tears) we have set forth a few goals that we hope to reach next semester:

  1. We want to see the success of a virtual conference in January
  2. Move forward in awarding money to student abstracts/proposals
  3. We want to continue our relationship with the Burlington Housing Authority, hopefully moving into working on a bigger project with them.
  4. We would like to present at SURF at Elon University
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Documentary Update

Though we received some difficult news regarding our conference, we are still moving forward with plans to complete our documentary. Titled The Omega Project, our documentary intends to focus on the collaboration between local farmers and the Namibian government in terms of food security and the Go Local campaigns highlighted in the Visions 2030 Policy.

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Students in Bwabwata National Park

To recap, three members (Kelsey Lane, Oly Zayac, and Susan Reynolds) from the Class of 2017 traveled to Namibia for 10 days at the end of May/beginning of June to begin filming. This was made possible through funding that we applied for during our junior year and received prior to departing. We were incredibly fortunate to have been awarded a grant from the Park Foundation for a total of $10,000. We also received $2,000 of funding from the Elon University Student Government Association, which made the trip during the summer possible. To sum it up as best as possible, the trip was incredibly rewarding, eye opening, and full of ample roadblocks and frustration (read our blog updates for a full overview of our time there this summer).

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Fidi showing us a map of Bwabwata as an introduction to the park.

One of the highlights of our trip this summer was a visit to Bwabwata National Park in the Caprivi Region, located in the northeastern part of Namibia. Our class had previously established a contact with Fidi Alpers at the Integrated Rural Development and Nature Conservancy (IRDNC). Fidi was kind enough to spend an entire day with us, showing us around Bwabwata and introducing us to many people that lived and worked within the park. Our time in Bwabwata was inspiring to say the least. Our goal is to return to Bwabwata in January to elaborate on the stories that we heard this summer to ultimately document a story that will serve as the underlying narrative that drives the documentary.

Since our trip this summer, we have continued to do research in preparation for our return trip in January. We have identified organizations and individuals that would be beneficial to interview, and have begun reaching out and setting up meetings. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet some incredible contacts while on the ground in June who have been helping us get in contact with various people. One of our contacts, Katherine Carter, is an Elon alum living in Namibia and teaching at the Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST). Katherine was incredibly helpful in getting us acclimated in Namibia in June and continues to be an incredible resource and friend as we prepare for travel in January. (Read more about our time with Katherine in a story published by the Elon Magazine!) Some of our other contacts include Forrest Branch, a friend of our mentor, Dr. Carol Smith. Forrest provided us with a wealth of knowledge and connections, and we are looking forward to reconnecting with him in January as well. There are many many others whom we give our thanks and utmost appreciation to. Feel free to read about our contacts on our website as we continue to populate it with information in the coming weeks.

While we are saddened that the conference will not be taking place in January, we are excited to continue moving forward as best as we possibly can. We look forward to sharing additional updates as plans are solidified and progress is made. Our goal is to release The Omega Project to the public in April of 2017.

The Omega Project co-directors,

Kelsey Lane & Oly Zayac

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November 29 Update: Class of 2017

Over Thanksgiving break, the Periclean Class of 2017 received some difficult news from the University of Namibia (UNAM). According to our university contacts, UNAM is no longer able to provide their previously designated portion of financial support for the conference. This means that as a class, we would be responsible for raising an additional US$10,000, a fundraising task that we are simply unable to fulfill.

Bearing such heavy news, we devoted the entirety of our class to debriefing our sentiments and searching for an answer to the question, “so what now?”

As members of the Periclean Scholars program, we are strongly opposed to merely giving money to a charity or cause; this is against the principles and ethics of aid that we have spent so many years studying. It would be both unsustainable and uninvolved, to an extent.

Together, we discussed the current relationships with individuals in Namibia that we already have, as well as options for connections that could be made in the future. Ideas include working with an Elon graduate at N.U.S.T., contacting the First Lady of Namibia since her agenda involves food security, and utilizing other viable contacts.

So, this post does not provide answers, conclusions, or finite plans in moving forward. We cannot say what the next days, weeks, and months will hold as a cohort. However, we will work hard to turn this obstacle into an opportunity.

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