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Monday, May 25, 2009

Global Student Exchange Promotes International Relationships

A Grassroots Approach to International Relations

By Jasper Oshun

Our world has never seen a time of greater need for human compassion, understanding, and tolerance. Human to human interactions have declined in favor of technological distractions that promote a shorter attention span. More people have access to more information than ever before, yet international relations are dominated by heads of state and CEO's of multinational corporations. I believe that at the local level, we have the potential to recognize commonalities across cultural lines, and collaborate with foreign communities to find solutions to local and global problems. Our objective, at the Global Student Embassy (GSE), is to foster communication between communities that promotes and solidifies grassroots international relations through the world's greatest untapped resource: the youth.

It is an unfortunate reality that high school students are often disregarded as potential agents of social change. Tremendous potential exists for social change to come from a mobilized and directed youth movement. GSE promotes service learning by empowering young people to become leaders in their community. Our student ambassadors learn hands-on skills while making a meaningful contribution to the global community. I believe that our ambassadors represent a growing shift in consciousness that will encourage young people to invest more time in both their local and global community.
GSE is expanding, both locally and internationally over the next 8 months. Windsor High School will incorporate GSE's curriculum into its Nueva Arts School. Service projects such as the community garden GSE has created at the Village Park in Sebastopol would benefit from an artistic eye. We look forward to seeing GSE thrive within the creativity and openness of the Windsor High curriculum.

Lucas, Yasha Mokaram (a third director of GSE), and I recently returned from a 6 week recruiting mission to Tanzania and Kenya. The educational structure of Tanzania (where we are establishing a scion of GSE) is daunting. The highly centralized Ministry of Education, which prides itself on position of power, has little connection to its high schools, yet retains all the decision making power.

Overcoming the necessary red tape in Tanzania is counter to our philosophy of grassroots organizing, yet we still believe in the tremendous potential of GSE in Morogoro, Tanzania. Over a week and a half of meetings with students, professors, administrators and teachers from 4 different high schools, the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), and the regional office of education, we were excited to have an action plan for a new model of GSE.
We selected two rural development students, Rogers and Godfrey, who—assuming we find adequate funding—will enroll in a Master's program in which they will develop and coordinate an unprecedented university to secondary school partnership in accordance with the philosophy of GSE.

Four local high schools are forming GSE clubs that will send 10 delegates to meet with Rogers and Godfrey at SUA once a week. These students will discuss international relations, learn basic computer skills, communicate with their counterparts in Perú, Argentina, and Sebastopol, and research, plan and develop service projects that will benefit their community.

After meeting with local students, Rogers, Godfrey, Lucas, Yasha, and I were extremely impressed by the articulation, energy, and commitment of Morogoro high school students. Four to eight students from Morogoro, and one to three each from Perú and Argentina will travel to Sebastopol as delegates in January 2010.

In the meantime, we are fundraising in preparation for this June’s service projects to Argentina and Perú. Lucas will be leading 5 students from Analy, Nonesuch and Windsor high schools to Santa Fe, Argentina. The Argentinean students and teacher who traveled to Sebastopol last January are planning activities such as an on-field ceremony during Santa Fe's most anticipated soccer game of the year (Colon v. Boca Juniors), fishing trips up the Paraná River, and family barbeques. GSE is planning to establish Pasta para Progreso, a pasta making business whose proceeds will benefit an underfunded school.

In June, I will lead a group of students, and talented young adults to Zurite, Perú. We will contribute our labor, as well as $7,000 towards a $60,000 irrigation canal project. The municipality, the association of farmers, and GSE are teaming up to support the completion of the 2.5 km canal and irrigation system that will enable 150 families to cultivate their fields year-round.

We ask for public support of our international projects and the travel of student ambassadors. Please join us for a night of community investment beginning at 6:30 pm May 29th, at the Sebastopol Community Cultural Center. The gathering will include dinner, live music, updates of our projects and overall vision, a silent auction, and a chance to meet like-minded activists in your community. I invite you to learn more at

Global Student Embassy
7910 Swartz Ave
Sebastopol, CA 95472

Global Student Embassy - Morogoro, Tanzania

Morogoro is an underdeveloped city 2 hours west of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. The community of Morogoro is known for its commitment to education. In February, Jasper, Lucas, and Yasha traveled to Morogoro, teaching cultural and educational workshops to secondary (high school) level students. They were successful in creating GSE clubs at four secondary schools in the Morogoro Area. The clubs will meet regularly with student coordinators from Sokoine University of Agriculture, and discuss political, cultural, and social issues at the local and global level.

With financial, organizational and spiritual support from GSE the Tanzanian students have proposed to build a youth center in Morogoro that will sustain itself through the business of providing internet services and computer classes to members of their community. The Morogoro Youth Center (MYC) will be a place for students to share ideas and collectively organize community service projects in a community with an approximate average annual GDP per capita of only $400.

In January, 2010 students from Morogoro’s GSE branch will visit the local communities of Sebastopol and Windsor, helping to implement community development projects here in Sonoma County. In June of 2010, students from Sonoma County will complete the exchange, visiting the Morogoro community and investing themselves in the realization of the proposed community development projects.

Students in Morogoro lack some of the basic school materials that we take for granted here in the United States. Participants in the Global Student Embassy in Morogoro still have no public place to gather and exchange ideas. The lack of affordable internet prevents them from accessing the global community. Please help us to create the very first Morogoro Youth Center, a place for the youth of Tanzania to become future global leaders!

Global Student Embassy - Santa Fe, Argentina
Pasta para Progresso

Directed by Edit Chalita, the GSE students in Santa Fe have begun to fundraise and work with their family and friends to support their vision for rebuilding a poorly funded local primary school. Our community project in Santa Fe includes building a playground at the school, painting the school, and establishing a business to provide a sustainable source of funding for the school and the operation of GSE Santa Fe.

The five Argentineans who traveled to Sebastopol (Edit, Sebastian, Fiama, Natalia and Matias) are currently at work setting up a small pasta business. With GSE funds they will purchase a pasta-pressing machine. Students and parents will have part time employment producing raviolis, spaghetti, pene, and empanadas. The production will take place in the kitchen of the school after school hours. 50% of the profits generated from sale of the pasta will go toward supporting travel and participation in the Global Student Embassy. The other 50% of the profits will go directly towards the school for books, supplies, and other costs.

The Sebastopol and Santa Fe students will work together to build a playground with a basketball hoop and small soccer goals. The supplies for this project will be provided by GSE. The funds were raised in communities in both Santa Fe and Sonoma County. Over the course of 4 weeks the students will build the playground support the pasta business while living with their host families in Santa Fe. After the work Sebastopol students will have 18 days to travel and see different cities in Argentina.

We greatly appreciate any support you can offer towards the realization of our goals!

Global Student Embassy - Zurite, Perú

Zurite is a rural pueblo of 1,000 inhabitants located on the western edge of the Anta plain. The plain, a lake until drained by the Conquistadores, is now filled with pastures, familial agricultural plots, and small settlements. Most of Zurite’s inhabitants live a semi-subsistence lifestyle. Families work their fields, own a small store, raise guinea pig, work as day laborers, teach at local schools, or perhaps hold a municipal position. Most families consume a portion of their harvests and sell the remainder. The agricultural fields yield quinoa, potatoes, maize, large bean pods, and alfalfa. Zurite has a high school, a central plaza, a couple of stores selling groceries and household essentials, a police station, church, and soccer field. GSE, Zurite is directed by Tomás Ruíz López, a religious studies professor, and Uriel Villena, a dentist and local restaurant owner.

Tomás and Uriel have worked hard with student ambassador Yeni Sihua Quispe to work with the community of Zurite in developing a proposal for an irrigation canal. The project will be a joint venture with costs shared by the Global Student Embassy, the Municipality of Zurite, the Farmer’s community, and the Commissioner’s Office of Zurite.

The irrigation canal will be built of concrete, .5m x .5m, and will reach a distance of 2.5km. The $60,000 canal project will allow for the irrigation of 40 hectares and will benefit 150 families, a total of 450 people. The canal will allow for year round agriculture.

The Objectives of the Canal
1) Improve the crop yield and productivity of local agriculture.
2) Increase the economic investment of the beneficiaries and elevate the level of life.
3) To sustainably use the local water and land resources.
4) To reduce the risk and vulnerability of crop loss in high altitude farming.
5) To develop an organized system of efficient distribution of water and good management of the irrigation infrastructure.
6) To extend the reach of irrigation to new croplands.
7) To decrease the percentage of those aged 16-30 leaving Zurite in search of employment in the cities.

GSE ambassadors and staff plan to complete this 2.5km irrigation canal in June-July through a commitment of manual labor and $7,000.

You can support our efforts by purchasing sections of the canal for $25/meter
I invite you to learn more at

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