Students move beyond classroom to make a difference in the world
Shamsoun Dikori's eyes seemingly light up when he talks about home. The Pfeiffer junior, who is majoring in both psychology and human services, has fond memories of the small villages and little roads that make up his native homeland in the Nuba Mountains, an area located in South Kordofan, Sudan. For a time, his family enjoyed a happy and simple life there.
Dikori remembers sitting outside with his father and brothers listening to stories his mother would tell under the moonlight. It was a happy life until the Second Sudanese Civil War broke out and shattered his quiet world. He saw a little girl shot. It was the first time he witnessed death, and it is a memory that will never leave him.
â€œThe planes would come; we didn't expect them,â€ recalls Dikori. â€œThen the bombs. We would run for our lives.â€
After several attempts to escape the violence, Dikori's family finally moved to Georgia in 2000. In fall 2007, he entered as a freshman at Pfeiffer, where he thrives as a stellar and very involved student, Bonner Leader, soccer player and friend to many. Now, he wants to give students in his native land a chance at education by building a school in the Nuba Mountains, the village that holds so many wonderful â€“ and tragic â€“ memories.
Dikori's schoolmates in Dr. Juanita Kruse's Current Events class want to help him. Students in that class don't just work for a good grade; annually they are also required to raise awareness and financial support to benefit global efforts, like Dikori's mission to build a school in the Sudan. He has already received approval from the State of Georgia to create a domestic nonprofit organization called â€œSchools for Life, Inc.â€ and has selected a board of directors, some of whom are Pfeiffer faculty or administrators.
Kruse said years ago when Pfeiffer first adopted its current mission of â€œpreparing servant leaders for lifelong learning,â€ she was initially at a loss. She wondered how she could incorporate service learning into her courses teaching history of distant parts of the world.
â€œSince students at Pfeiffer have so many opportunities to participate in service on the local and national levels, I decided to create an international research and service component in my Current Events class,â€ Kruse recalls.
She said her students choose the country to which they want to direct their focus, what problem they want to address, and the charitable organization they want to support. The class divides into groups to conduct research, implement a cultural program designed to educate the campus and local community.
Last year, the class raised nearly $2,000 for Room to Read in Bangladesh. In previous years they have raised funds to support the American Refugee Committee and to buy 10,000 meals for hungry children in Haiti, as well as other important organizations. But this year's project is a particularly special one.
â€œBecause I knew Shamsoun from an earlier class and knew he was dedicated to helping his village back in Sudan, I asked if he would like to talk to my Current Events class about his plans before they made their proposals,â€ Kruse explained. â€œHe made a fine presentation about his hopes for a secondary school for his people. A number of other projects were proposed as well, but this was the one the class choseâ€”no doubt because it was a good cause and because Shamsoun is a well-respected fellow student.â€
Dikori's dream of building a school is an ideal effort for the class because it will allow them to tackle an in-depth study of the complexities of the problems facing Sudan, Kruse said. Since the war there, basic education in the Nuba Moro Region has been slow to re-establish. According to Dikori, there are no high schools there so teens and young adults are left uneducated with little to no chance to become the doctors, teachers and law enforcers needed in the land. There are very few schools at all and an overwhelming shortage of teachers and school supplies.
Last winter, Dikori visited the Nuba Mountains, where he toured nine different village schools â€“ all of which remain unfinished. Many students sit on rocks in classrooms built of mud, grass and whatever elements they can find. Others attend classes outside under makeshift canopies made of tree branches and grass. Dikori wants students there to have an environment conducive to learning. He wants them to become successful through education, which he believes should be available to every child in the world to help them attain stable employment, a better lifestyle and economic opportunities. His goal is to raise $100,000 to build a secondary school there.
Established in 1885, Pfeiffer University is a comprehensive United Methodist-related university, with multiple campuses, including Misenheimer, Charlotte and the Triangle, committed to educational excellence, service and scholarship.
Pictured above: Some students from Dikori's native village taken during his trip there last winter.