We work at the grassroots level throughout the Muslim World to counter violent extremism before it takes hold, to promote tolerance and understanding, and to foster better relations with the United States.
By Virginia Cady
Communications and Social Media Intern
Sam Schindler departed for Bangladesh this past weekend and will be spending the next two weeks there volunteering as an unofficial ambassador. Sam is a high school History teacher at Lancaster Country Day School in Lancaster, PA and his class has partnered with students at The Carter Academy in Chandpur Bangladesh as part of Creative Learning’s School-2-School Program. School-2-School partners schools in America with schools in the Muslim world in order to provide the students with opportunities to learn about each other and different cultures.
Sam, who just finished his 11th year teaching, will be teaching world religion, history, and English to students at the Carter Academy. The Carter Academy was founded in order “to develop Bangladesh by providing globally competitive education to academically worthy children living in rural areas”. The ultimate goal of the Carter Academy is to enable its students to pass the Higher Secondary Certificate exam in order to graduate.
I had the chance to interview Sam before he left, and he described himself as an “educational representative”, and hopes to use this role to build cross-cultural awareness. He’s already begun to build such awareness through the exchanges between his students and the Carter Academy students this past spring. Students sent each other video messages in which they answered questions about life in their respective countries, asked questions of their own, and gave virtual tours of their schools.
According to Sam, thus far the biggest benefit of the S2S partnership with the students in Bangladesh is that it is creating an “element of awareness” for his students, and providing them with the opportunity to forge a connection that they most likely would not have had otherwise. Not many schools have the opportunity to introduce their students to a global education, especially at a younger age. However it is at this age that the awareness a global education brings is most critical, as it helps to shape informed young people.
In our interview, Sam spoke about both the personal and professional reasons behind his mission. On a personal level Sam hopes to absorb as much as he can about Bangladesh and the people in order to share with his colleagues and students. As he said he wants to add “authenticity” to what he is teaching. Although he is nervous about adjusting to a culture completely different from anything he has experienced, Sam is using this trip to “learn to be a person of the world”. This is a crucial skill in today’s world, which is becoming progressively more accessible due to advances in technology and communication.
On a professional level, Sam hopes to dispel stereotypes about Americans, such as the perception that “all Americans live in mansions and have nine cars”. He wants to convey the diversity of American culture, and show that America is more than television and celebrity culture.
Volunteers such as Sam are crucial because they serve to build awareness about other cultures in young people, which in turn serves to build a society that is more aware of other cultures. This awareness helps to dispel stereotypes associated with different cultures and ways of life.
My interest in other cultures and connecting with different people is the biggest reason behind my decision to intern with America’s Unofficial Ambassadors this summer. As a rising junior at Dickinson College who studied abroad in Morocco and as an International Studies and Middle Eastern Studies double major, I’ve developed a commitment to understanding other cultures on many different levels. One of these levels is at the grassroots level where organizations such as AUA use people-to-people connections in fields of development like education as a means of citizen diplomacy. I firmly believe in the value of relationships with other people in order to promote understanding and cross-cultural collaboration.
The process of awareness and understanding is made up of many experiences, most crucial of which is a journey to another country such as the one Sam has embarked on. This journey is one we should all be so lucky to take at some point in our lives; there is nothing as valuable as building your awareness about the world around you.