WSU offers new class to benefit people in third-world country

(Source: Dave Hamblin) A group of Mozambican women and children receiving water.
(Source: Dave Hamblin) A group of Mozambican women and children receive water.
women and child
(Source: Dave Hamblin) A family in Mozambique prepares a meal over a fire, typical preparation of food in this South African country.
Alumni Choir landscape
(Source: Quela Wayment) The Weber State University Alumni Singers will perform a benefit concert for Mozwoc on Dec. 7 and 9.

Mozambique: Place, Gender, Dance is a new class that Weber State University will offer to students during the spring 2014 semester, and the final exam for the class is a trip to Africa to build a women’s center in Mozambique.

This is not the average study-abroad class. Julie Rich, WSU geography professor, said the Mozambique class will be a new and unique international community-engaged learning class model.

“This is kind of a modified study abroad,” said Rich, who added that the new model won’t end with Mozambique.

“Students will take a class during a semester, learn about the various aspects of that country, then travel to that country and engage with that community in some project,” she said. “We are going to pick a country that needs some help, and our next one on the docket is most likely Thailand.”

The class isn’t a free ticket to adventure, but instead centers around women’s studies, economics and geography, learning the language of the Mozambique people, and dancing together. Fundraising for the women’s center project as well as transportation will also be part of the curriculum. Students will embark to Africa in May, leaving around the third and returning about the 29th. The cost will be $4,200, which can be raised throughout the semester during class.

“As a class we are going to knit together really closely,” said Rich, smiling as she talked about students learning African dance together. “. . . We will go there and go on the ground knowing and having a better knowledge of the place we are exploring and helping.”

The Signpost previously published an article describing some fundraising efforts that Mozwoc, the name for the project, has already undergone this semester. The WSU Geography Club sold authentic African jewelry and art to raise money for the women’s center.

Rich said Mozwoc has an ultimate goal of raising $50,000 to complete the center, but has already reached half of its goal by raising $22,855.

Mozwoc, in collaboration with the WSU Alumni Singers, will hold another fundraising event on Dec. 7 and 9 at 7:30 p.m. at The Holy Family Catholic Church. The choir, led by Evelyn Harris, performs a benefit concert every year. Harris said the concerts have always had good turnouts, estimating that 350-400 people fill the church pews.

“This is a great cause, and we are just thrilled to be involved with it,” Harris said. “I thought it just sounded like such a wonderful cause.”

Harris mentioned that her daughter and granddaughter went to Africa for a service project. She said she is interested in helping out people in Africa.

Although the concert is free, donations are suggested to directly benefit the women’s center.

Mozwoc is also working with nonprofit organization No Poor Among Us, based out of Salt Lake City and Mozambique. NPAU started in 2006 and functioned under another organization until it branched out this year. Previously, the nonprofit built a library in Mozambique, arguably the best in the country, and currently sponsors 80 girls to attend school.

Dave Hamblin, NPAU founder, has been to Mozambique 23 times and said he has seen change, although slow.

“The people are wonderful,” Hamblin said. “Yeah, it’s a long trip and sometimes can be tiring, but the people make a difference and we enjoy helping the people over there.”

Hamblin had planned to go to Africa in March, but said he will wait to go in May with the Mozwoc student group.

“We’re really happy to be working with Weber State,” he said. “These are not small things; for us in America they would be small things, but not over there . . . this is a significant thing, and we want to bring hope and better lives to the people, and Weber State can help.”

The new class, which can be taken during spring semester for three credit hours, can be taken under dance, geography or women’s studies and has no class fee. Rich said students can take the class and not venture to Africa in May.