Student Grant Recipients Embark on International Social Change Projects
Two students each received $5K for projects in social justice and racial equity as funded by the Social Change Innovation Grant. Earlier this year, The Center For Social Change and Community Involvement launched the grant to fund student initiatives in community outreach, leadership development, and education.
This summer, international students José Maidana and Latifatous (Lati) Savadogo, are traveling to Argentina and Burkina Faso to implement their projects.
“Plateâu.Ar,” José Maidana
The name and logo pay tribute to the plateau region of Northern Argentina, which has rich ancestral significance to the Indigenous communities and artists this project serves.
Throughout seven cities and three provinces, “Plateâu.Ar” campaigns for Indigenous art and craftsmanship as a central component of the region’s tourism-based economy.
“Argentina has suffered from instability due to economic crises and other historical problems,” said Maidana. “Despite this, the tourism industry in the northern provinces of the country represents one of the greatest economic promises of the region.”
By launching a series of workshops and developing a strong digital community through social media, Indigenous artists can sell artisan products, interact with their communities, share resources and ideas, and engage in dialogues that educate and spread awareness on community issues.
Maidana’s work advocates for the “vindication of Indigenous land rights and the recognition of their work and labor,” through the promotion of artisanal works featuring ancestral designs and traditional production techniques.
Through collaboration with local legislators, business owners, professors, and lawyers related to the tourism and legal fields, collaborations are formed allowing artists to take control of their future economies.
Maidana was born in Salta, Argentina, and lived there until he was a teenager.
“My grandparents on my mother’s and father’s side belonged to the Indigenous communities of the Wichí-Guaraní and Quechua-Aymara Nations,” he said. “In recent years I have felt much closer to a personal and community process of vindication of these nations.”
At Lewis and Clark, Maidana studies Sociology & Anthropology, and World Languages and Literatures – French and Spanish programs.
“SOS Education,” Lati Savadogo
Savadogo’s project “SOS Education,” was started in 2020 and is an ongoing effort to renovate a primary school in her home country Burkina Faso, advocating for educational equity.
She attended the school called Tanlalle from first through third grade and describes it as being “faded, sad, dead, non-existent, and depressing.”
Located in one of the poorest villages in the country, the school lacks basic supplies like desk chairs, boards, and drawing materials. According to Savadogo, some students have to sit on the floor, putting them at risk of scorpion bites and inhibiting their academic experience.
“SOS Education” intends to completely renovate one of three classrooms this summer, which needs window and door repairs, new paint, a chalkboard, and desk chairs.
By providing basic educational materials and infrastructure, the project aims to establish a healthy learning environment that fosters student confidence and academic success.
“I believe that this is an educational injustice but I also do believe that this is a perpetuation of income disparities,” she said. “Those students are constantly being undereducated and will never be able to access higher education.”
This project is in collaboration with the Director of Tanlalle, one of the school’s teachers and alumnus, and is supported by students at UWC Changshu China. Last year, they fundraised around $1,000, which was used to buy 15 desk chairs.
“Every child deserves to have adequate educational space,” Savadogo said. “Learning is not just about reading and writing, it’s also about the psychological connection between the student and the educational space.”
The idea behind SOS Education is that by improving the study conditions and increasing Tanlalle’s quality of education, students will be more motivated in school and parents will be incentivized to send their children to school.
“Thousands of students like the ones in Tanlalle will never have the opportunity to study in an incredible college as I do,” Savadogo said. “When I think about it, I can’t sit idly by. The minimum I can do is to be their voice and fight for better access to education.”
Savadogo studies economics and Entrepreneurship Leadership and Innovation at Lewis & Clark College.
“This grant is the beginning of amazing changes and the fight is not yet done,” said Savadogo. “I will continue to fight until there is no school like Tanlalle in Burkina Faso.”
The students are expected to return to Lewis and Clark for the Fall 2022 term and report on the results of their projects and the impact on their communities thus far.