BOONE, N.C. — Dr. Connie Green, professor emeritus in Appalachian State University’s Department of Reading Education and Special Education, is traveling to Burundi, Africa, in mid-February to introduce a model early childhood education program to educators in the village.
Her journey is part of the Dreaming for Change program initiated by Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumnus Janvier Manirakiza, who attended the Leadership Institute held at Appalachian in 2017.
Green is one of several who have kept in touch with participants in the Leadership Institutes and are now working together on programs to create a positive impact in African communities. Since 2016, Appalachian’s Office of International Education and Development has implemented the program each summer.
Green, who retired from Appalachian’s Reich College of Education in June 2019, first connected with Manirakiza in 2017 when she spoke to the Mandela Washington Fellowship cohort about her local church’s interest in learning more about the Fellows’ projects in their home countries.
Manirakiza was one of five Fellows who volunteered to speak at Green’s church. Green said she was impressed with his leadership abilities in organizing the group and preparing a promotional flyer.
After returning home, Manirakiza founded Dreaming for Change — a grassroots effort to provide educational opportunities, economic development and sustainable agriculture to impoverished communities in Burundi and beyond. He and Green communicated regularly after his return, and she agreed to serve on the board for his new organization.
While forming the organization, Manirakiza traveled to the rural province of Butanuka to talk with community leaders and learn about their needs. Seeing many malnourished children, Manirakiza said he knew the first goal of his organization would be to feed these children.
Back in the U.S., Green started a GoFundMe campaign and organized dinners and concerts to raise funds for the feeding program, and her church donated utensils and cooking equipment. The feeding program has since grown to supply nourishment to 400–450 children three days a week.
“As a Mandela Washington Fellow, I learned how to develop my skills and effectively communicate across cultures, how to work with communities to solve problems, and about the organization development and strategic planning for nonprofit organizations,” Manirakiza said.
Manirakiza’s plans for Dreaming for Change include teaching computer skills, providing vocational training for youth and providing school supplies for children.
Green will spend three weeks in Burundi, where she will work with local schoolteachers through Manirakiza’s organization to introduce a model early childhood education program based on the U.S. Head Start program. She will also meet with country officials for UNICEF and World Food Program to seek support and partnership for furthering the feeding program.
The Mandela Washington Fellowship is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by IREX. Appalachian is a sub-grantee of IREX and is implementing a U.S.-based Leadership Institute as a part of the Fellowship. For more information about the Mandela Washington Fellowship, visit the Fellowship’s website at www.mandelawashingtonfellowship.org.
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About the Office of International Education and Development
The OIED is responsible for spearheading the internationalization efforts at Appalachian. The internationalization mission of Appalachian is to develop awareness, knowledge, appreciation and respect of cultural differences in both domestic and international contexts in its students, faculty, staff and the surrounding communities. The university is also dedicated to creating a campus environment that builds the theoretical and practical skills needed to interact effectively in a global society. Learn more at https://international.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As the premier public undergraduate institution in the Southeast, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls nearly 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.