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Rotary Happenings: Speaker: Program provided a broader world view

By Staff | May 6, 2015

Artis Henderson, Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar. PHOTO PROVIDED

Simon & Schuster Author of Unremarried Widow 2014, Artis Henderson visited Sanibel-Captiva Rotary, recently, not to talk about her book but to talk about her experiences as a Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar studying at the in Dakar, Senegal, for the 2010-2011 academic year.

Rotary’s Ambassadorial Scholarship Program, is only opened to non-Rotarians, was founded in 1947, and ended in 2013.

Nearly 38,000 men and women from about 100 nations studied abroad under its auspices. The purpose of the Ambassadorial Scholarships program was to further international understanding and friendly relations among people of different countries and geographical areas, while enrolled in undergraduate or graduate studies in their selected host country.

Rotary’s Ambassadorial scholars exemplify their home country as goodwill ambassadors participating in many activities outside of their studies to promote an understanding of the country they represent and learn more about their host country.

This program has now been replaced with Rotary’s Global grant scholarships.

In 2010 Artis was studying for a career in journalism. The opportunity to receive a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship presented itself and Artis went ahead and selected to apply for a scholarship stipend to study at Universit Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal.

Why Senegal?

Henderson told us she could have selected any country, but Africa would challenge her and bring her experiences that might serve her in the future.

It didn’t take long for the adventures to unfold. Her arrival in Dakar, Senegal brought home the point that this was definitely to be an exciting and sometimes scary place to be.

Dakar is the capital city of Senegal in West Africa with a population of over one million people. As with all large populated cities, Dakar had great wealth and great poverty.

This would become more evident as time went by. Artis found herself sick a lot on arrival and it took some time to acclimate to her new surroundings.

Although Artis didn’t elaborate about her studies at Universit Cheikh Anta Diop, she definitely was part of the student community. An as part of that community definitely heard the rumbles of worry about the unrest in the area after the protests in the nearby Arab nations.

It was the time of the Arab Spring. Wikipedia states that, “The Arab Spring is widely believed to have been instigated by dissatisfaction with the rule of local governments, particularly by youth and unions, though some have speculated that wide gaps in income levels may have had a hand as well.

“Numerous factors have led to the protests, including issues such as dictatorship or absolute monarchy, human rights violations, political corruption economic decline, unemployment, extreme poverty, and a number of demographic structural factors, such as a large percentage of educated but dissatisfied youth within the entire population.”

Similar problems existed in Africa. Soon there were protests in Senegal.

Protests against the government corruption were now being exhibited with mounting tension highlighted by a protester setting himself on fire in front of the palace followed again by a second and third person. This was a rough time to be an American in Senegal.

There was an uprising of the Muslim identity in this part of the world. This certainly gave Artis a boarder worldview especially when she was spit upon out on the street for being an American.

She witnessed the reasoning for the protests and she saw major corruption within the country. Artis even mentioned the fact that many NGO entities in Dakar were spending donor funds foolishly and not using the money for the intended use.

Many frustrations were just below the surface in Dakar and bubbling up every day.

Artis did manage to continue her studies in Senegal during this time, fulfilled her Rotary commitments, and did some journalistic writing for American news outlets; no doubt this was done in a much different way than she expected.

She found the people of Dakar generous and kind. Artis’s Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship certainly opened her eyes to both the differences and commonalities among people of the world.

A worldview is sometimes different when experienced directly.

Sanibel-Captiva Rotary meets at 7:00 am, Friday mornings for breakfast at the Dunes Golf & Tennis Club, Sanibel.

Guests are always welcomed.