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Guest Appearance: Tom Arcaro

This week in class we had the privilege of spending the week with Dr. Arcaro. Though we missed Carol greatly, Dr. Arcaro brought some fantastic insight and perspective into our class discussions for the week. He was the class mentor to the class of 2006 whose country of focus was also Namibia, therefore giving him a personal connection to our class.

We were still in the process of working out some of the aesthetics for our 2017 Periclean Class. We spent some time on Monday designing and choosing a T-shirt to represent our group. Following this, Dr. Arcaro opened the floor for us as a class to ask questions about Namibia in general. We got onto the topic of HIV/AIDS, which was the focus of the project for the 2006 Periclean Class in Namibia. In discussing this, we began to brainstorm potential themes for our project, a seemingly daunting task. Though we will not have an exact project proposal for quite some time, we as a class are beginning to learn about Namibia and understand how we can make a difference.

A highlight of our week was having the opportunity to see a new face, a native from Namibia, Anita Isaacs . Dr. Arcaro facilitated a Skype session with her during class where we had the opportunity to hear from her and ask a few questions. It’s exciting to know that we have such a fantastic partner already in Namibia and we think it’s safe to say we all look forward to getting to know Anita and learn from her. Below is a picture of us skyping with Anita but due to a broken blind it is a little hard to see…still a really cool and unique experience.

We concluded our time this week watching the documentary created by the ’06 Periclean Class called “ A Measure of Humanity: HIV/AIDS in Namibia“. This gave us an overview of the effects that HIV/AIDS has on Namibia. A few things we learned is that AIDS is not just a health issue but is an issue of education, poverty, stigma, gender, and justice.

We are excited to have Carol back as well as to start really learning about Namibia!

Kelsey Lane and Dani Baker


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Considerations as we seek to deepen our understanding….

Considerations as we seek to deepen our understanding

Our mission
The overarching goal of our program is to respond in the most robust and meaningful way possible to the words in Elon’s Mission Statement that read in part, “We integrate learning across the disciplines and put knowledge into practice, thus preparing students to be global citizens logowoborder
and informed leaders motivated by concern for the common good.”  

The Periclean Scholars program represents a unique academic pathway that facilitates students -as members of a cohort- to do long-term and sustainable work on significant global social/environmental issues typically in partnership with people and organizations on the ground in their country of focus.  To emphasize:  Pericleans never do service for our country of focus or our partners but rather service with these people and organizations.  Our approach is described in the Periclean Pledge, a legacy of the Class of 2010:

We pledge to…

  • Listen to our partnering communities, acknowledging they often have the best solutions to local problems.
  • Learn about our partner communities’ history and traditions, to better engage in culturally-aware dialogue.
  • Assist our partners in community-run development projects that will enable their long-term success.
  • Responsibly study, document, and publicize our partner communities’ needs and desires.
  • Be committed to building life long sustainable partnerships, recognizing they take hard work and dedication.
  • Embrace our lifelong journey of global citizenship through intellectual and personal growth.

This pledge reflects the sentiment of Lily Walker, an aboriginal woman who said, “If you come here to help me, then you are wasting your time. But if you come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us begin.”  Indeed, as global citizens we are keenly aware that all humans are our brothers and sisters and our fates are indeed interconnected, we share a common humanity.  Framed with this understanding, our quest as Pericleans must always be to work toward moving ourselves and our partners along pathways to lives of dignity while at the same time realizing that our collective dignity as humans is in play.  Justice can never mean “just us.”

I wrote this two years ago about our Pledge:

I have been watching with keen interest the Kony2012 controversy unfold both on the Internet and here on campus and have been generally pleased by the depth of conversation that has ensued as one writer after another has critically dissected the actions of Invisible Children. I recently read The Atlantic article by Teju Cole entitled “White Savior Industrial Complex” and immediately imagined how our program would measure up to his scathing observation that, “The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege.” As I reflected on each Periclean Scholars Class – both past and present – I felt WISCconfident that each has lived up to our Periclean Pledge that, in my reading, is the demonstrative opposite of the “White Savior Industrial Complex.” Our program stands as an exemplar of a culturally mindful and rigorous approach to fulfilling our duties as global citizens and as meaningful partners to our friends and colleagues around the world. In Saviors and Survivors, Mahmood Mamdani provides a deep background behind the “Save Darfur” movement and foreshadows the Kony2012 controversy. From his introduction: “In contrast to those who suggest that we act as soon as the whistle blows, I suggest that, even before the whistle blows we ceaselessly try to know the world in which we live — and act. Even if we must act on imperfect knowledge, we must never act as if knowing is no longer relevant.” (p. 6)

I feel confident that if either Cole or Mamdani were to examine our program they would see that we proceed in all cases with eyes open, ready to “know the world” and thus be true global citizens committed to the common good of all humanity.

Being a Periclean
The process of deepening our understanding of what it means to be a Periclean is ongoing and demands constant and rigorous reflection and research. We must always

  • ceaselessly learn more about global social issues in general and specifically about the issue(s) facing our countries of focus
  • probe more deeply into not only the symptoms of the problems generated by these issues but the many root causes as well, that is, look not only at the what but squarely at the why
  • be educated about the latest research and news related to issues facing our country of focus and be able to communicate this information both formally and publicly in both word and in writing
  • be informed about the actions and approaches of the people and organizations who are already addressing the issues facing your country of focus
  • act on addressing issues exclusively from a solid base of knowledge and fully informed of all consequences, both intended and unintended

These last two bullet points are the focus below.

Global citizens as humanitarians
As Director, I have devoted a good deal of my research and writing energies in the last decade to leaning more about what it means to be a global citizen and to act on knowledge about global social issues.  Our program is, in one sense, a multi-pronged NGO doing both aid and development work around the world.  As each Class begins to partner with people and organizations dealing with the issues in their country they have the serious responsibility to vet -and be vetted  by- these people and organizations.  This vetting process must ask the hard questions, examining factors such as mission statement, overall transparency of operations, sustainability plans and practices, and, critically, cultural sensitivity and thoughtfulness with which any aid or development work is done.  This vetting involves constant research that must remain a central focus of any Class.

I have read a good deal about the humanitarian aid sector and am now collaborating on research about the views of aid workers around the world. My collaborator, J, is the author of Letters Left Unsent, a recommended read for all Pericleans. I invite you to read through our blog Mongoand learn from the over 900 humanitarian aid workers that responded to our survey.  Particularly relevant might be the post on “MONGO’s ” (My Own NGO).

At bare minimum each Periclean and her Class must clearly understand that there is a tremendous difference between “giving” and “partnering.”  When you give to a cause, for example donate cans of soup to the local shelter or send a check to aid the hungry in Honduras, this is a meaningful act, and these actions can, at times, be better than not doing those acts of charity.  But partnering is more.  More meaningful, more difficult, and more time consuming.  Here is a summary of the differences and similarities:


“Giving” “Partnering”
Fast? Yes No
Easy? Yes No
Helpful to others? Sometimes yes, with many, many qualifications. Yes, with qualifications
A meaningful connection? No.  Just the opposite. Yes, if done right
Culturally sensitive Frequently not Done right, yes!


Doing bad by doing good?
The literature on the history and nature of humanitarian aid and development work is growing rapidly, much like the field itself.  There continues to be a robust -though largely unresolved- discussion of how best to proceed with aid.  The Jeffery Sacks [The End of Poverty] versus William Easterly [White Man's Burden] tug of war is instructive and a close read of their works leaves one better informed but ultimately, I think not entirely clear as to the proper direction of the humanitarian aid world.  I write about this in the aid worker voices blog; check here for my thoughts on Sachs and here for some of my thoughts about this and other related issues.

There are many books and articles that are critical and cautionary with regard to humanitarian efforts, many of them focusing on the motivation of the people who believe they are helping.  Below I list and discuss some useful examples.

In The Road to Hell Michael Maren writes, “The starving African exists as a point in space from which we measure our own wealth, success, and prosperity, a darkness against which we can view our own cultural triumphs.  And he serves as a handy object of our charity.  He is evidence that we have been blessed, and we have an obligation to spread that blessing.  The belief that we can help is an affirmation of our own worth in the grand scheme of things.”  The Atlantic article by Teju Cole mentioned above describing the “white savior industrial complex” is a restatement of Maren’s observation.  Both Cole and Maren owe debt to a thinker more from my generation, the Austrian philosopher and social critic Ivan Illich.

In an address to the Conference on InterAmerican Student Projects (CIASP) in CuernavacaMexico, on April 20, 1968 Illich raises the issueIllich of doing unintentional harm, “… the Peace Corps spends around $10,000 on each corps member to help him adapt to his new environment and to guard him against culture shock. How odd that nobody ever thought about spending money to educate poor Mexicans in order to prevent them from the culture shock of meeting you?”  

Here Illich anticipates many contemporary critics of  so-called voluntourism:  “There exists the argument that some returned volunteers have gained insight into the damage they have done to others – and thus become more mature people. Yet it is less frequently stated that most of them are ridiculously proud of their “summer sacrifices.”  I do not agree with this argument. The damage which volunteers do willy-nilly is too high a price for the belated insight that they shouldn’t have been volunteers in the first place.”

Though he makes some points with which I might disagree, Robert Lupman’s Toxic Charity provides some examples and discussion of what might be seen as “doing bad by doing good”.  In this blog post J presents a taxonomy of arguments in favor of bad aid that we hear -and even voice ourselves- frequently. His critiques are sharp but merit close reading, and the pith of his argument is here: “Aid is a profession. It just is. It’s possible to hurt people by getting it wrong.”  Through the lens of his and Lupman’s arguments I can only wonder how own Periclean efforts would be perceived, not to mention the myriad “service trips” taken by Elon students every fall and spring break.

This recent article by Debora Dunn (Bearing Witness: Seeing as a Form of Service) effectively summaries many of the messages in James Dawes book That the World May Know.  Dunn offers many nuanced cautions and presents some good suggestions specifically in reference to study travel through universities.  She encourages us to “think about service in which students do not descend from on high, but rather come alongside.” For his part, Dawes presents this thought:  “This contradiction between our impulse to heed trauma’s cry for representation and our instinct to protect it from representation — from invasive staring, simplification, dissection — is a split at the heart of human rights advocacy.” [emphasis in original]  He goes on further to state “The disconcerting paradox of humanitarian work is this:  it is sometimes impossible to distinguish between the desire to help others from the desire to amplify the self, to distinguish between altruism and narcissism.”  Challenging words, those.

Concluding thoughts?
Being a Periclean Scholar is a process that involves constant learning, growing and, hence, ongoing reassessment of intent and action both as an individual and as a Class.  Please take all of the above as a point of departure for reflection as you move forward.

Here are some books that I would consider “must reads.”  Please let me know if you have suggestions for additional reading.

Books related to humanitarianism:

  • Abu-Sada, Caroline (ed.). In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crisis Perceive Humanitarian Aid, Doctors Without Borders, 2012.
  • Barnett, Michael. The Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism, Cornell University, 2011.
  • Bortolotti, Dan. Hope in Hell: Inside the World of Doctors Without Borders, Firefly Books, 2010.
  • Burnett, John. Where Soldiers Fear to Tread: A Relief Worker’s Tale of Survival, New York: Bantam Books, 2005.
  • Cain, Ken, Postlewait, Heidi and Thomson, Andrew. Emergency Sex (And Other Desperate Measures), Miramax Books, 2004.
  • Corbett, Steve and Fikkert, Brian. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor and Yourself, Moody Publishers, 2009.
  • Coyne, Christopher. Doing Bad By Doing Good: Why Humanitarian Action Fails, Stanford University Press, 2013.
  • Dawes, James. That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity. Harvard University Press, 2007.
  • Easterly, William. The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good, Penguin Press, 2006.
  • Easterly, William. The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor Penguin Press, 2014.
  • Farah, Nuruddin. Gifts, Penguin, 1999.
  • Farmer, Paul. Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor, University of California Press, 2003.
  • Farmer, Paul. Haiti after the earthquake, New York: Public Affairs, 2011.
  • Greitens, Eric. The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian and the Making of a Navy Seal, Mariner Books, 2011.
  • Hochschild, Adam. King Leopold’s Ghost: The Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Mariner Books, 1999.
  • Katz, Johnathan. The Big Red Truck Went By: How the World Cane to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, Palgrave, 2013.
  • Lupton, Robert. Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help, HarperOne (Harper-Collins Publishers), 2011.
  • Magone, Claire, Neuman, Michael, Weissman, Fabrice (eds.) Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed: The MSF Experience, Columbia University Press, 2011.
  • Mamdani, Mahmood. Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics, and the War on Terror, Doubleday, 2009.
  • Maren, Michael.  The Road to Hell:  The Ravaging Effects of Foreign Aid and International Charity, New York: The Free Press, 1997.
  • Moyo, Dambisa. Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009.
  • Orbinski, James. An Imperfect Offering: Humanitarian Action for the Twenty-First Century, Walker & Company, 2008.
  • Polman, Linda. War Games (Crisis Caravan): The Story of Aid and War in Modern Times, Penguin Books, 2010.
  • Reiff, David. A Bed For the Night: Humanitarianism in Crisis, Simon & Shuster, 2002.
  • Sachs, Jeffery. The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for Our Time, Penguin Press, 205.
  • Singer, Peter. The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty, Random House, 2009.
  • Stearns, Jason. Dancing in the Glory of Monsters: The Collapse of the Congo and the Great War of Africa, Public Affairs, 2011.
  • Temple-Raston. Justice on the Grass: Three Rwandan Journalists, Their Trial for War Crimes, and a Nation’s Quest for Redemption, New York: Free Press, 2005
  • Wright, Jeff (J). Missionary, Mercenary, Mystic, Misfit, Evil Genius Publishing, LLC, 2013.
  • Wright, Jeff (J). Disastrous Passion: A Humanitarian Romance Novel, Evil Genius Publishing, LLC, 2013.
  • Wright, Jeff(J). Honor Among Thieves, Evil Genius Publishing, LLC, (forthconing)2014.
  • Wright, Jeff (J). Letters Left Unsent, Evil Genius Publishing, LLC, 2014.

Some recent articles related to voluntourism:














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Talking in Circles: The Creation of a Syllabus

This week in class we discussed the syllabus for the fall.  In order to create the syllabus, we first had to set expectations for ourselves and each other.  Although there were many things that we were not quick to agree on, we all agreed that participation (in and out of class) is the most important component of the Periclean program.  If the entire class is not actively driven, the group will suffer as a whole.

However, not every element of the syllabus was this easy to decide upon.  We were quickly presented with the challenge of compromising in order to incorporate everyone’s ideas while still creating a balanced curriculum. Working with a large group of such intelligent, yet opinionated individuals is inspiring but also quite trying.

After much discussion, the class finally came to a consensus for the syllabus that everyone contributed to. Once the mindset shifted from what would benefit us as individuals to what would be ultimately best for the group, the conversation became more productive. Overall, we hope to retain this mindset for all future decisions, making discussions more efficient.

We look forward to getting into the content of the course!

Claire Rayburn, Caila Yates & Courtney Weber

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Elon Periclean Scholars Class of 2017 Spends a Day the Challenge Course!

This past Saturday the class of 2017 paid a visit to the Elon Challenge Course for four hours of communicating, listening, and bonding. We learned a lot about each other and about ourselves, especially when it comes to effective cooperation methods.

We were split into pairs for one of the first activities we did, Follow the Leader. The first time, one person in the pair was blindfolded, while the other person had to speak to them, telling them where to go and what to do without touching them, in order to keep up with the Leader, one of our Campus Rec guides. The second time, the other person in the pair was blindfolded and the other person, instead of speaking to them, could only use their hands to lead them, which was especially difficult when the Leader wanted them to skip! This activity demonstrated to us how communication methods are mostly dependent upon the person and can be easier or more difficult for different people.

After our group was split in two, both teams did a series of team building exercises. One of our favorites was The Wall, an activity in which the team had to figure out how to get every person up and over a giant 12′ wall without equipment. Both teams, although we did the activity separately, had the same strategy. First, each team had two people lifting another taller person so that they could reach the top edge of the wall and hoist themselves up and over to stand on the platform on the other side. After that, the person at the top of the wall would grab the wrists of the person being lifted and help pull them up and over. From then on, two people stood on the platform at the top and would help lift the person trying to get up the wall. The most challenging part was at the end, when the final person had to get up the wall without two people to lift him or her. Both teams had the tallest person left at the end, and that person jumped while someone at the top of the wall grabbed their wrists and pulled them up. This activity showed us that even daunting obstacles are surmountable when you take the time to plan accordingly.

All in all, the Challenge Course was a valuable experience for our class because it provided a lot of insight into communication, teamwork, and effort. We can’t wait to put what we learned to the test in class and we look forward to more bonding in the future!

Post-Challenge Course group photo!

Post-bonding group photo!


Annie gets over the wall with the help of her team!

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Pericleans Spreading the Word at the Organization Fair

Pericleans Spreading the Word at the Organization Fair

The new Class of 2018 got to learn about our Periclean Scholars program at the annual Organization Fair this past Friday.   Dr. Steve Braye

Org Fair fall 2014

Org Fair fall 2014

is the Mentor for this Class and is the first Mentor to take on a second Class.  The Class of 2018 will focus on Zambia, the same as the Class of 2009 under the leadership of Dr. Braye.

Below are Annie Phelan and David May talking to students with Dr. Braye.

Getting the word out to first year students and potential Pericleans.

Getting the word out to first year students and potential Pericleans.

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Elon Periclean Scholars Class Of 2017 – Off To A Great Start!

Nam flag


Looking back on our first couple weeks as a class brings nothing but excitement for the rest of the semester.


In our first meeting (Wednesday, August 27), we spent the class period getting to know each other and our mentor, Carol Smith.  We played name-games and did ice-breakers for the majority of the one hour, forty minute time period, though we did talk about the foundation of our semester syllabus at the end of class.


Our second class period on Monday, September 1st brought much of the same, with more small group exercises to strengthen us as a cohort. Time was also dedicated to determine the curriculum and grading policy for the semester.  We concluded with an assignment to meet with two other class members outside of class to further discuss the breakdown of the syllabus.


In our most recent class, (Wednesday, September 3rd) we opened by charting each of our study abroad plans in order to determine who would be away from campus in future semesters.  After that, we split off into six small groups to start to form a concrete syllabus.  At the end of the period we then came together to pool our ideas and make plans for our session on the challenge course Saturday! (Which will be discussed in an upcoming blog!)
Even after a only a short time together, we have already begun coming together as a group and can’t wait to see what the coming weeks will hold for the Periclean Class of 2017!

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Logan Quackenbush Introduction


Hello! My name is Logan Quackenbush, and I am from Orlando, Florida. I am a current sophomore majoring in Sport Management with minors in Business and Professional Sales. I am very involved at Elon; I am a tour guide, Periclean Scholar, Vice President of the Rotaract Club, and I am a member of the Delta Upsilon Fraternity.

I wanted to become a Periclean Scholar for several reasons. One because I wanted to become more involved at Elon. Another reason is because I absolutely love to help other people. I started a community service club at my high school, and we did several community service projects such as Meals on Wheels, Relay for Life, and The Million Meals Challenge. I believe that the Periclean Scholars program is a great way for Elon to have a positive impact in the world. The program is also a great way to meet other Elon students with the same passions for serving and also give them an opportunity to actually plan the service project themselves.

Words can not even describe how excited I am to be apart of this program. I believe that this group will work together really well, and that we will make one of the biggest impacts on the world that Elon is apart of because we all share the same passions for service. I am also looking forward to learning more about the country of Namibia. I love to travel and experience different cultures, and this program fulfills both of those passions. I can’t wait to get started!!

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Our second class of the semester was also very productive! We continued to work on the planning for the Periclean in Residence event. We broke up into groups and worked out several details pertaining to the week ahead! We have been brainstorming panel questions, deciding on meals to share with our panelists, and discussing details with Dr. Monico.

Dr. Monico came into our class  to discuss some of the details of the event. She looked over our questions and thought they were good! We are really excited to have her on the panel, she is an amazing person with a plethora of information pertaining to the topic we will be diving into.

We were really lucky to be able to look into some of Dr. Monico’s contacts, all that would be wonderful people to offer extensive information about issues in Central America, as well as issues in our own community. Dr. Monico will be meeting with the UNCG Center for New North Carolinians (discussed in the post from last class) this coming friday to hopefully help us initiate a relationship with them!

We will be working on the final details for next week within the few days we have left. We are finishing designing a program for the panel event, as well as touching up questions and introductions for the panelists. We are getting really excited for next week, and we hope to see many Pericleans at the panel :)

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Anna Darnowsky Introduction

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 6.01.13 PM

Hey there, I’m Anna Darnowsky! I’m from Bucks County, which is located just outside of Philadelphia. I am an anthropology major with a biology minor, and intend on going to PA school for post grad.

I made the decision to become a Periclean Scholar because I was looking to become more involved on campus, but I wanted do something really meaningful and engaging. I love that the program isn’t just a club or a class, but something that really calls upon us to learn and then put our knowledge into action. For me, Project Pericles really puts into action two of my biggest passions: cultural studies, and helping others. As expressed by my choice of major, I am enamored with learning about humanity- our origins, cultures, and so on. Furthermore, I am interested in enacting social change and working to build a strong global community.

I’m ecstatic to be part of a team that so greatly shares my enthusiasm for human rights and exploring new cultures. As a Periclean Scholar, I hope to not only make a positive impact based on thoughtful and detailed research, but to learn about what it takes to build a service project from the ground up. These goals will come in time, but for this semester, I’m looking forward to learning about Namibia, a country I had never really considered before, and bonding with my wonderful class!


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Oly Zayac Introduction

Periclean Photo


Hiya! My name is Oly Zayac, and I am both honored and thrilled to be a part of the Periclean Class of 2017!

One of the most enticing aspects offered, here, at Elon is its fantastic study abroad opportunities.  While trying to find my roommate in a sea of people at the organization fair, I suddenly backtracked to a poster with big letters spelling “Namibia.”  My first impression of Periclean was that it was yet another opportunity to go abroad and experience another culture.  It was love at first sight. Learning more and more about the tremendous learning experience of Periclean offers grew the initial infatuation into a full-hearted love affair.

As a Communications Fellow, I am studying both Journalism and Anthropology.  With a history professor father with a background in England and Slovakia and a researcher mother with a strong Polish upbringing, I have been so fortunate to be exposed to many cultures.  For as long as I can remember, studying cultures, even as a child reading Eyewitness Books, has always been my biggest passion.  So much that I hope to, one day, have the opportunity to create documentaries that explore indigenous communities  around the world.

I hope that through Periclean, I will get my first taste of this kind of work.  I hope to learn the values of connecting with people of different cultures.  I hope to understand not only how we can help communities but how they can help us learn as it has always fascinated me how much we learn about our own culture when we remove ourselves from it and observe it from others’ perspectives.  I hope to learn all I can about Namibia and its effects on the world.

I am so excited to get started and begin building lasting friendships with the rest of the Class of 2017! Let the adventure to Namibia–and beyond–begin!

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