AWBC projects have taken us around the world, from Africa to Asia to South America. Our volunteers are involved with both short and long-term endeavours that foster the skills and expertise needed for areas such as health care, education, infrastructure and business—the building blocks of a successful nation.
Projects are based in universities, colleges, and professional and technical schools. We work in all disciplines and areas of instruction. In some cases, AWBC has established on-going relationships with institutions in these countries, and so may have a series of continuing projects in different departments of the institution.
Abomey-Calavi University is the largest campus of the National University of Benin. The School of Nutrition, in partnership with the University of Montreal, has launched a three-year program to produce licensed nutritionists. Thomas Mercier and Amélie Roy-Fleming, both clinical nutritionists from Quebec, were in Benin in the spring of 2011. The focus of their work was to prepare the materials needed by the students and the doctors supervising them during the in-service training component of their program. These are intended to address a current issue in contemporary Africa, the “double burden” of malnutrition caused by scarcity as well as health problems such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity which are related to recent changes in lifestyles.
The University of Bio Bio, a public university with 9,235 students on its two campuses—one in Chillan and one in Concepción—has initiated a project to provide services for students with disabilities. Presently, there are 12 students studying at the University of Bio-Bio who have a physical or sensory disability. However, the buildings are not wheelchair-accessible nor are they accessible for students with visual impairments. Admission into the university is based on entrance exams that are not adapted to the disabled. As a result, many students with disabilities (physical, sensory and learning) are excluded from higher education. Following the ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in July 2008, Chile promulgated the National Disability Law which came into effect in January 2010. AWBC volunteer Tara Flanagan, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, worked with the university to help them implement this law.
The 80,000,000 people of Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, are served by an extensive education system. In 1950 the Emperor Haile Silassie I declared the foundation of the University College of Addis Ababa, which consisted of the faculties of Arts and Sciences: thirty-three students were enrolled. It was renamed Haile Selassie I University in 1962 and then Addis Ababa University in 1975, and today comprises more than 25 faculties serving over 45,000 students; there are also many other institutions of higher education.
The Department of Computer Science and Information Technology at the University of Cape Coast (UCC) has asked AWBC for assistance in establishing a graduate program. In August 2010, Geňa Hahn of the Université de Montréal (Canada) and Dominique Sotteau, from INRIA (Institut National de Recherche en Informatique et en Automatique, France) went to Cape Coast for two weeks to conduct a feasibility study looking at institutional support for the program, potential areas of specialization, and the research interests of faculty members. In their report, a summary of discussions with professors in the Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, students, and university administrators at the UCC, they recommended that a process for creating a graduate program proceed in three stages.
The State Islamic University in Yogyakarta has established a Centre for Disabilities Studies and Services. It is the first university in Indonesia to provide services for students with disabilities. The Centre’s goals include developing awareness of inclusive education both within and outside the university and implementing changes in the university to accommodate students with disabilities. AWBC volunteer, Marion Steff, spent a year at the university (August 2009- July 2010) to assist in developing capacity in this area through activities such as workshops, fundraising, lectures and research.
Since the end of Liberia’s civil war in 2003, the West African country has entered a period of re-development with the assistance of many governments, multilateral organizations and NGOs. In 2009, Academics without Borders Canada established a partnership with the University of Liberia to assist in its recovery. The University, the oldest degree-granting institution in West Africa, suffered greatly during the wars when its infrastructure was destroyed and many of its staff were killed or forced to leave Liberia. Since then, AWBC has sent 14 volunteers to the University of Liberia, and they have completed 8 projects. Re-building the University of Liberia is one of the keys in assisting Liberia to develop.
The University of Namibia (UNam) was established in 1992, two years after Namibia became independent from South Africa. UNam is the only university in a country of over 2,000,000 people. The university has 12 campuses, the main campus being situated on the outskirts of the capital city of Windhoek. UNam has eight faculties and serves 16,000 students, 13,000 of whom attend the main campus, and most of whom live in Katatura, a township established by the South Africa government 17 kilometers from Windhoek where 70% of Namibians now live. The difficulties faced by the students and staff of UNam came to the attention of the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) when a member of the Faculty of Science visited the country and the university in 2006. Since then, five UPEI science faculty members have spent part of their sabbaticals working with UNam faculty and staff to improve the quality of teaching at the university.
The Patan Academy of Health Sciences (PAHS), a public university located in the southwestern part of the Kathmandu valley, was created to improve health in rural areas and to provide more health professionals to serve them. The design of the Academy includes various strategies to achieve this aim, and it was approved by the Nepalese parliament in 2008.. PAHS is linked with the neighboring Patan Hospital where students learn clinical skills and PAHS faculty provide role models within the hospital. Students in the program are also linked with a rural village where, for the six year duration of their program, they will develop, implement, and eventually assess a community health project. Carol-Ann Courneya, one of the three AWBC volunteers, has been involved in the development of PAHS since its inception in 2003. In 2011, Courneya along with two other AWBC volunteers, Jason Waechter and Jane Gair, delivered two courses in basic medical science to sixty students who began the program in 2010, the first group attending PAHS.
Kwara State University, a new university in southwest Nigeria, opened its doors to students in the 2009/2010 academic year. The Vice-Chancellor of the university, Rasheed Na’Allah, said that when they began their plans to establish the university five years ago “there were exactly 94 universities in Nigeria already. If you are going to establish the same thing, forget it. So, we are poised to make a difference.” One of the differences was to look at “internationalization right from the beginning” in order to develop global citizens.
The National University of Rwanda (NUR) re-opened in 1995 after the 1994 genocide when the University was closed and many students and staff were either killed or fled the country. It has made a remarkable recovery and now proudly counts over 10,000 graduates. The largest institution of higher education in Rwanda, the University has 300 academic staff, about 50 of them expatriates, and around 9,500 students.
Academics without Borders Canada has done three projects at the University—upgrading the services of its Registrar’s Office, assisting in setting up a Master’s in Accounting, and mentoring staff. The first project with the registrar’s office is still on-going.