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New York Daily News - City students change community in Bots...
05/08/11

City students change community in Botswana by listening to local concerns BY CORINNE LESTCH DAILY NEWS WRITER Wednesday, July 13th 2011,

Samantha Ramos, who visited Botswana as part of the Harlem Education Activities Fund, filmed and edited PSAs for volunteer groups.

When 16 intrepid city students planned a service trip to Africa, they figured they would focus on HIV/AIDS, a pandemic that is long associated with the continent.

But when the high school travelers met their pen-pal peers two weeks ago in Botswana, a small democratic country nestled in Southern Africa, their plan changed to deal with other important issues affecting people there.

"Initially, the idea was AIDS because it's such a big issue in Botswana, but what we found out is young people have 'HIV fatigue,'" said Danielle Moss-Lee, president of Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF). The college-prep program sends young people abroad or cross-country every summer to help them develop skills and confidence needed to be leaders of tomorrow.

"They felt like their voices were getting drowned out on other types of issues," Moss-Lee said. "We learned there was a teachers' strike. ... It was a great lesson for our kids, showing you have to make sure people want what you're giving."
The students, from the Bronx and Harlem, spent a week filming public service announcements about a range of issues the people of Botswana face, such as teachers' strikes, health problems other than AIDS, and how to be successful in today's society.

The public service announcements will be shown in Botswana to youth/activist groups.

"We took two stories from the kids there and asked what they wanted to do when they grow up," said Samantha Ramos, a senior at the New York City Museum School and an aspiring filmmaker. "One wanted to become a gospel singer and one wanted to become a lawyer, and we asked their definition of success."

It was the third trip with HEAF for Ramos, of Bedford Park. Ramos previously traveled to New Orleans and California.
She said the international opportunity made her more eager to pursue her dream.

"I realized before I went to Botswana that I wanted to do documentary filmmaking," she said, "but actually going there and doing it gives you more of a drive and desire to make it happen. Because there are so many stories out there that people should know about."

 

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