Vanguard Teaching

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Self-Help Initiatives for Refugee Populations

In the fall of 2003, I had the absolute privilege to work with the Self Help Initiative For Sustainable Development (SHIFSD)in Buduburam, Ghana. At the time, Buduburam was the location of tens of thousands of refugees largely from Liberia and Sierra Leone due to the civil wars in those countries.


SHIFSD’s approach to developing their people centered around empowerment through “promoting functional adult literacy, technical vocational skills training, entrepreneurship, and social justice.” The organization itself was run by local Liberian refugees who were also residents of the camp. They were adamant in doing things for themselves and regarding collaborating with outside agencies and organizations; their mantra was “if you want to help us, then help us help ourselves.” Working with this self-help organization fundamentally shifted my perspective and approach to assisting populations in need.  They helped me understand a practical approach to self-empowerment through education and skills training and encouraging local parties take the lead in their development.  These memories flooded to my mind when I read about NaTakallum.

The business start-up NaTakallum (“We Speak” in Arabic) is an entrepreneurial venture aimed to employ Syrian refugees as Arabic language tutors – what a fabulous idea in so many ways.  Firstly, it provides jobs.  Secondly, it helps to promote Arabic among students interested in the language.  Lastly, it could help schools and families promote the language among Arabic-speaking students in non-Arabic speaking countries.  Hopefully, the company will grow to partner up with school districts to support bilingual education and maybe even translation services.  Three cheers for NaTakallum!


Listen to or read their story here:


NPR Marketplace –


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This entry was posted on May 26, 2016 by in Classroom Economics and tagged , , , , , .
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