2022 Winner – Project For Peace Scholarship
Education Meheba – Experiential STEM and Tertiary Education Support for Refugee Children in Zambia
Martin Thulani Milanzi
Zambia, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
This initiative advanced the education and career prospects for grade 12 children in the helped Meheba Refugee Settlement in Zambia. It enabled the students to conduct science experiments in physics, chemistry, and biology while holistically developing their skills as young leaders, and it helped them find and apply for scholarships to tertiary education.
In 2020, due to COVID, I volunteered to work for a non-profit organization, Kucetekela Foundation (KF), where I offered to mentor their students and prepare them for SATs and college applications. Through KF, I had a chance to work with students on various aspects of writing and college expectations that help make students outstanding for admissions teams. Working with the students at KF was a major steppingstone in my experience developing young leaders as I began to expand my mentorship beyond college applications to careers and life in general. Later in the same year, I was tasked with helping KF identify community service project centers for their students. I chose the Meheba Refugee Settlement, because after having so many important friendships with people from the camp, I was curious to know what it looked or felt like to live there, and to contribute to this community if I could. Therefore, with this opportunity from the Davis Projects for Peace program, I aimed to build on my relationship with Vianne, my leadership development training I had at Ashinaga, and the short-term experiences I had working with young people in Meheba, This Davis supported program centered around a three-week program at the refugee camp on Experiential STEM and Support for Tertiary Education. The program aimed to tackle the following initiatives topics:
- Science Experiments and Careers Associated with them
- Applying for college scholarships abroad
- Writing College Essays
- How to get jobs when you graduate high school: CVs and Cover Letters
- How to use technology to improve inter-personal skills
- Growing as a leader in Africa
- Creating a peaceful community
- Mental Health in the Refugee environment
To implement these goals for the project, I first ensured to develop an open dialogue environment where students were free to express themselves and ask questions freely. Because the Zambian education still embraces a teacher centered education, I tried to make a distinction with this project to the students to let them know it was a safe space. Through my WPI and Ashinaga career development materials, I provided students with resources on how to craft resumes and CVs. Further, I held a critiquing session where each student presented a sample resume, and I offered them feedback. When working on application essays, we used the school IT lab to have the students type their essays and share them with me via Google Drive to acquaint them with digital platforms and software for essay editing. One approach that I implemented when running this project was to have the student’s alternate roles when doing science experiments, to ensure that shy or reserved students had an opportunity to take an active role in titrating or mixing the chemicals. In this way, every child had an opportunity to touch lab equipment and run a full experiment on their own with support from their peers.
“Overall, this project has made me realize a key element of my life that I had ignored. While I grew up unhappy at my family’s financial situation, I never realized how better off I was when compared to people within the same country. I can easily get a passport and travel around the globe because I am a Zambian citizen; however, refugees cannot. They do not have this right due to “security concerns” by states around the world. From a leadership and inter-personal point of view, this project has helped grow my planning and communication skills as I worked with a diverse group. Working with students between 17-22 years old, this project has helped me give advice to a possible younger version of me who saw it impossible to pursue my academic dream because I felt too disadvantaged to dream. From a professional scope, this project has inspired me to think of other initiatives that I could take to improve the lives of young people in Zambia. ”