CITIZEN DIPLOMACY INITIATIVE

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Background

In our increasingly interconnected world, it is often said that international engagement is no longer a luxury, that the future belongs to those who can act locally to globally.

Citizen Diplomacy InitiativeYet international travel is an expense few can afford.  For this reason, there is growing interest in international “virtual exchange” or connection via the internet, which is often low-cost or free.  However, much of the educational virtual exchange that exists is class-to-class, or student-to-student, and it tends to occur between relatively privileged students, reinforcing the already pronounced social class bias of international affairs.

Since August 2016, Learning Life has been developing a new model for international exchange — free, sustained, virtual dialogues and projects between lower-income families in different nations (see below for a map of current and planned locations worldwide).  It’s called the Citizen Diplomacy Initiative, or CDI.

CDI:

1) nurtures long-term relationships with particular families in particular communities.

2) moves families through projects that develop their world knowledge, skills and caring.

3) connects families live and asynchronously via the internet as they meet in their homes, nonprofit offices, libraries or community centers

4) supports the families with volunteer mentors, project assistants, language interpreters and a research-based curriculum.

Virtual exchange presents a promising yet still underdeveloped means for bridging divides, democratizing DC-Dakar dialoguediplomacy, and reducing inequality.  We envision an increasingly interconnected, equitable and collaborative future where people act foremost as caring, capable global citizens rather than partisans of nations or tribes.

The Families We Are Looking For

CDI currently connects families in (1) Washington D.C., USA, (2) San Salvador, El Salvador, (3) Dakar, Senegal, and (4) Jerash, Jordan.  To be eligible for CDI, families must have:

(a) at least one parent and one child age 8-18 willing to participate.

(b) parents with less than a bachelor’s degree (4 years of university leading to a diploma).

(c) household combined income of less than their country’s median (middle) household income.

(d) not taken more than two flights for vacation as a family outside their country of residence.

(e) have few or no contacts (family or friends) abroad with whom the family communicates.

Grandparents or legal guardians and their children, or mentors and their mentees are also welcome to participate.

How You Can Help

DC-Salvador dialogueLearning Life welcomes individual volunteers and organizational partners in the U.S., El Salvador, Senegal and Jordan, as well as other nations for future dialogues, to help with the following roles:

(1) Funday volunteers assist with CDI “Fundays” on Sunday afternoons 1-2 times per month.  Fundays are the primary vehicles through which families progress through CDI projects.  For more information, click here.  Having (a) a car, (b) fluency in Spanish, French or Arabic, and/or (c) experience in fitness, nutrition or health, are pluses, but not required.  Time commitment: about 4-8 hours per month.

(2) Mentors support CDI by engaging CDI youth in enriching world learning activities like short readings and discussions, and here in Washington DC, visits to embassies, museums, libraries, cultural festivals, foreign restaurants, and other sites for world learning.  Mentors are each matched with one child in DC or communities abroad where Learning Life works.  For more information, click here.  Time commitment: about 8 hours per month.

(3) Language interpreters translate CDI families’ words during our live dialogues, and/or assist with document translation as needed.  Interpreters should be fluent speakers of Spanish, Arabic, or French.  Time commitment: about 4-8 hours per month.

(4) Project specialists offer relevant skills or expertise to support our projects.  Specialists are generally working or retired professionals with expertise or skill in, for example, photography and video, storytelling, relevant countries or world issues, and health, fitness and nutrition.  Time commitment: about 4-8 hours per month.

(5) Interns are typically undergraduate or graduate students who help with a variety of tasks, including research, writing, dialogueDialogue between American and Jordanian families organizing, language interpreting, family activities, etc.  Time commitment: 8-10 hours per week during a semester or summer.

(6) Planning and fundraising consultants assist with Learning Life planning and fundraising.  Time commitment: about 3-4 hours per planning meeting, plus any requested preparation for the meeting.

To volunteer, please contact us at email@learninglife.info.  Visit our News & Blog page for the latest happenings.  Below is a map of our current and planned locations.