You know how you arrive at a new academic institution, meet new people, and get sucked into new all-consuming vortices of work? Yeah, one of those happened to me. However, it's been a pretty awesome experience, and I'm hoping it'll only continue to be great over the next year...two years...five years...however long...
Anyway. I'm now the co-director of Community Mobilization in Crisis, which is a program being sponsored by the University of Ottawa to develop a certificate program in community mobilization skills, to be offered through a mix of online and in-person classes to Syrian refugees and other conflict-affected communities in Lebanon. We're working with a diverse mix of academic and NGO partners to create a program that will be tuition free for students, will provide them with a living stipend in a situation where it's illegal for refugees to get work permits, can provide a bridge to higher education for youth unable to access formal schooling, and will provide the Syrian community (as refugees, and inshallah when they can go home) with trained, credentialed, and experienced leaders with experience working with NGOs and outside the formal NGO system to get things done and improve conditions for their communities.
Sounds awesome, right? Yeah, I think it is. It's also a huge amount of work: applying for funding, making sure what we're doing is targeted at the right people, looking for more funding, designing an innovative, collaborative curriculum that is pedagogically cutting edge, looking for yet more funding because OMG this thing is EXPENSIVE. But we've got some good vibes from some good funders (fingers crossed, everybody!), we've got tremendous institutional support from the university, and we've got lots of people (students, faculty, administrators, civil society folks) from across Canada, Lebanon, and beyond to put this thing into place. It's a big job, but I think we're gonna be OK.
Want to learn more? My co-director Nadia Abu-Zahra
and I were on All in a Day, a CBC radio talk show, in December: you can listen to us talk about the program, and me tell stories about my research trip to Lebanon, here.
I'm also planning on making a post of my photos soon, so you can get a sense of the place and what I learned, in preparation for the next trip I'm planning to make in March. And we'll be launching our social media presence in the next week or so; I'll tell you when we do!
Oh, and if you've got a couple bucks lying around you'd like to kick towards us? You can go here
and support any of uOttawa's four different streams of support for refugees, including us. Bonus? If you're American, your dollar is so damn strong against ours that your donation gets matched by the exchange rate (US$1=C$1.45, excuse me while I weep about my student loans).
And THAT'S why I've been too busy to blog. :)