Sunday, July 23, 2017

Future Generations University teams up with AmeriCorps West Virginia!

Volunteer in an Appalachian community while earning a Master’s degree... That's the vision that Future Generations University has been pursuing for the past 2 years and is now excited to finally begin this fall with a small pilot class. Working in partnership with AmeriCorps West Virginia and its associated organizations (Volunteer West Virginia, High Rocks, and the Appalachian Forest Heritage Area), Future Generations University will craft a unique learning experience focused on Appalachia while building upon our proven and tested pedagogy and curriculum... 

Volunteerism can be a gateway to higher education. In exchange for two years of community service with West Virginia's AmeriCorps, volunteers are now eligible to receive a Master's Degree in Applied Community Change.

“We’re so excited to share the news that Future Generations University will leverage AmeriCorps service and the Eli Segal Education Awards to attract and keep young talent in West Virginia,” said Heather Foster, Executive Director of Volunteer West Virginia. “As we look to the future, AmeriCorps provides an important opportunity to continue engaging people of all ages in solving problems through service and volunteerism.”

In exchange for a year of service, AmeriCorps volunteers receive an education award of $5800 per year, living-allowance of approximately $12,000, and work experience. Future Generations University will match the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award dollar for dollar. With a $23,200 scholarship possible, AmeriCorps volunteers could complete the program for as little as $1,800. 

West Virginia ranks third in the Nation for producing AmeriCorps volunteers. Each year over 1,000 individuals serve as AmeriCorps members in the state. Many AmeriCorps volunteers serve in their hometowns, while others come from across the country to make West Virginia their home for the year. AmeriCorps members change lives through mentoring, respond to disasters -like the June 2016 flooding, increase access to healthy and local food, preserve historic properties, and many conservation activities working with state agencies and non-profit entities alike.  

“With 25 years of experience building community capacity and preparing change agents worldwide, Future Generations University is very excited to extend a one of a kind opportunity to our home state of West Virginia! Through this innovative partnership with AmeriCorps West Virginia, we are working with the most dedicated organizations and individuals to offer an unparalleled education to communities in the greatest need,” said Luke Taylor-Ide, Regional Academic Director for Future Generations University.

Read on for an overview of the program!

Curriculum Overview
Introduction to Social ChangeIntroduction to various schools of thought regarding community change and development, with a focus on methodologies for local,
sustainable social change. 

Volunteer ManagementSkills-based course on effective recruitment, training, and management of volunteers for project and field managers working in non-profit organizations.

Community LeadershipExploration of leadership styles and strategies for application in groups, organizations, and communities, with an emphasis on leadership development.

Communications for Community ChangeApplied course that surveys various communications platforms and practices and asks students to cultivate skills for effective and persuasive communication.

Financial Administration & Non-Profit ManagementOrganizational management skills and strategies for making effective plans & partnerships as well as basic financial project and program management.

Healthy People, Healthy CommunitiesExamine the intersections between poverty, primary healthcare, and community change, with a focus on finding people-based solutions using available resources.

Community-based Natural Resource ManagementCouples natural resource management & conservation methodologies with approaches to promoting sustainable livelihoods & local ownership.

Advanced Seminar on Applied Community ChangeExamine the challenges and processes of scaling up positive impact to larger regions and/or populations.

Project-based Research in Community
In order to maximize the amount of credits associated with each member’s experiences learning by doing while participating in AmeriCorps service, students enrollment in the MA program will complete continuous Project-based Research (PRC) in their host communities with direct mentorship from faculty culminating in a capstone product that documents their individual learning in an Appalachian community.
· Students complete independently designed projects and research in community with faculty mentorship
· Each term’s Project-based Research is showcased in an online ePortfolio demonstrating formative learning process
· Upon completion of the program, students have a comprehensive portfolio documenting their summative learning journey for their graduate studies

Term 1: Graduate Study Foundations—Establishes the conceptual principles and skills
upon which the curriculum is built. Students discover what it means to be a self-directed learner and master Learning Management and ePortfolio software—tools for critical thinking, analytical inquiry, and reflective practice.  

Term 2: Social Research Methods—Demonstrate through project-based research an understanding of and apply concepts and approaches to both quantitative and qualitative community-based data collection and analysis.

Term 3: Monitoring & Evaluation—Conceptual framework and practical skills for monitoring and evaluating community-based projects, reflecting with peers on circumstances and parameters related to the assessment of different social and development projects.

Term 4: Synthesis & Integration—Analyze results of Project-based Research in community from both summative and formative perspectives within ePortfolio. Students are challenged to incorporate lessons learned during their MA studies with experiential-based reflection on AmeriCorps service.


About Volunteer West Virginia
An agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, Volunteer West Virginia is the state’s Commission for National and Community Service. The agency challenges West Virginians to strengthen their communities through service and volunteerism by identifying and mobilizing resources, promoting an ethic of service, and empowering communities to solve problems and improve the quality of life for individuals and families. To learn more about AmeriCorps in West Virginia visit


Visit to learn more about this exciting and innovative program. Sound like a good fit for you? Enrollment is still open! Applications are being accepted and reviewed on a rolling basis through August 21st.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Bridging the Gap: Peace Development Between the Leprosy-Affected Community and Surrounding Community in Addis Ababa

In 2017, Fisseha Getahun was one of 120 people awarded a Davis Projects for Peace Prize in order to implement a project to help those affected with leprosy in his community in the capital of Ethiopia, entitled: Peace Development between Leprosy Affected and Surrounding Communities. He saw his project as an answer to Kathryn Davis' call to find ways to "prepare for peace" and to help those most in need where he lives. This made him the tenth student from Future Generations University to receive this award in the past seven years. In this week's blog post, he shares some background on his project with us.

Fisseha with community representatives from the leprosy-affected
community and non-leprosy-affected surrounding community

The concept of the project came about from my work with those with leprosy in affected communities. In many countries, people affected by leprosy face a number of social and economic problems, such as discrimination and stigma. These issues are even worse for individuals who experience disability due to leprosy. They are more vulnerable to the endless stigma and discrimination than any other form of disability in our society.

Even after someone with leprosy has been cured, they're unable to lead an ordinary life due to the consequences of lingering complications. Some of the most difficult complications experienced are they forced to live as a colony in specific area and they did not get access for education. As a result of the wide misconceptions that exist about leprosy, many of those affected are forced to leave their birth places and live in segregated groups, known as leprosy colonies. In the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, individuals who have been affected by leprosy are deliberately pushed out of the city and made to settle in a solid waste dumping site with no infrastructure and poor social services.

The leprosy-affected community of Addis Ababa is called the "Zenebework Community." The majority of early settlers in the area were leprosy victims who largely migrated here from various other parts of the country-- mainly Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, and SNNP regions. Their goal was to receive medical treatment for their leprosy at ALERT (All African Leprosy Rehabilitation and Training Centre) Hospital, formerly known as Zenebework Hospital.

After treatment, the leprosy victims were supposed to go back to their place of origin, as direct by the government, but the majority of them refused, preferring to remain in this area where they'd received treatment. This resulting settlement was named after the Zenebework Hospital, which had been established in 1932 and named after Princess Zenebework, daughter to Emperor Haileselassie. In 1949, the Abune Aregawi/Gebre Kristos Church was established in the same area, resulting in this name also being used for the locality. When construction began on the hospital in its present form as ALERT in 1967 and was later inaugurated in 1971, many other institutions, such as schools, followed. This provided a basic infrastructure that the leprosy victims had previously been completely without.

The Zenebework community was unique from its inception as it was a place predominantly inhabited by people afflicted with leprosy. Although family members of ex-leprosy victims are still migrating to this place, the trend has altered, and now people with disabilities have also started inhabiting this location. The community was a highly stigmatized one for many years, often discriminated against by the surrounding areas. Those living here were prohibited to have any contact with other communities of foreign visitors. Members of the Zenebework community were even denied the right to rear cattle or conduct other small businesses for their livelihood, as transmission of the disease to other healthy communities was feared. Nursus and other medical professionals, even the clergy and priests, refused to provide professional and spiritual services there. The establishment of the Koshe garbage dumping site in 1954 in this area further added to the poor image of the Zenebework community.

However, this has changed somewhat recently, and there is less stigma in modern days than existed previously. Although the trend is working on reversing, all of those living in the leprosy colony are still often perceived as less than human and there is still much work to be done. Their livelihood depends on begging and collecting food from the waste dumping site, and they are severely marginalized and banned from entering adjacent non-leprosy affected communities.      

Although I came from a non-leprosy-affected family and grew up hearing the negative stereotypes, I had worked as a professional in a leprosy-affected community for four years. During this time, I was initially discriminate against by friends, family, other relatives, and neighbors as the only non-leprosy affected member of the leprosy community. Gradually, however, I changed their attitudes about leprosy and the leprosy affected-community for the better.

My purpose with the Davis Peace Prize has been to continue bridging the gap between the leprosy-affected community, which has been traditionally marginalized in the very worst of ways, and the larger surrounding community. To contribute to the peace and understanding between the leprosy-affected community and the surrounding communities, I incorporated plans geared towards inclusiveness and holistic development. Through this, the local mindset and correction of misconceptions would follow.

Below is an outline of the expected outcomes and major activities set in place to bring about this objective:

Expected Outcomes

Surrounding communities experience behavioral change in their attitudes and practices toward leprosy affected individuals such that community integration is improved

Increase common institutional memberships among leprosy and non leprosy communities

Improved social relations among leprosy and non leprosy communities
Utilization of services at common points is increased

Major Activities

Training of Trainers: Training on conflict management and resolution will be conducted for 20 community members including 10 leprosy affected, 10 non-leprosy affected community members. The participants will be influential male and female community and religious leaders who have the capacity to cascade the knowledge for their followers.

 Experience sharing: In addition, experience sharing for 10 community leaders will be facilitated. They will adopt and scale up the initial successes within their community to broader community contexts.

Prepare radio program:  Online national radio program is perhaps the best instrument to disseminate information and awareness among the general public. It helps to understand the truth of leprosy National radio program air time will be organized for the purpose of information dissemination and awareness creation. 

Organizing football match events: Football team will be organized the mix from both communities to integrate them and foot ball matches will be prepared by blending families of the community.

Panel discussions: A one day panel discussion with community members and professionals will be conducted to respond to community questions and to understand the truth about leprosy.

For more on Fisseha's project, be sure to visit:


Fisseha is an Ethiopian who has more than 15 years of proven and practical work experience in different organizations. He's worked in agricultural research institutes and both international and local NGOs, while holding different positions such as Research Technical Assistant, Development Facilitator, Project Officer, Program Coordinator, and Executive Director. He currently runs an NGO called Child of Present a Man of Tomorrow (CPMT) in Ethiopia, which works to promote the wellbeing of women and children. He is also presently studying a Master’s degree in Applied Community Change in Conservation concentration at Future Generations University to complement his backgrounds in agriculture, development and leadership.