LIU Global / Friends World
Emily Fahle FW'06
During times of global turmoil, children are often the ones who suffer the most in silence, with few willing to advocate for them. Emily Fahle, a 2006 graduate of the Friends World Program (now known as LIU Global), is striving to make a difference in the lives of some of the world's youngest citizens, by breaking down barriers and ensuring that they are able to live more positive and productive lives, no matter what the circumstances that surround them.
A junior-year teaching assignment in Ecuador, was a transforming experience for Fahle - one that inspired her to devote her life to bettering the educational options for children in poverty stricken Latin America. "I didn't like the way public education worked here in Ecuador" she said, recalling instances of corporal punishment as well as the financial barriers faced by children who were unable to afford a good education. "I decided the area needed a good school."
So, after graduation, the Ashville, N.Y., native returned to Ecuador, where more than one third of the population lives below the poverty line. She settled in the small fishing village of Canoa, and with a $15,000 donation from a local resident, secured land and building permits, and broke ground on a new school. The Escuela Bilingue Los Algarrobos opened its doors on April 27, 2008, filled to capacity. "It was a great day in Canoa," Ms. Fahle recalled proudly. "Everyone was really enthusiastic and helpful."
When not pursuing her goal to expand the Escuela Bilingue to include a high school and a health center, Ms. Fahle basks in Canoa's beauty. "I spend time swimming in the ocean, exploring nearby caves and undiscovered beaches, and eating all the rice, beans and fish I can find!" she exclaimed.
Rebecca Harris FW '04
For Denver native Rebecca Harris FW'04, a deep interest in children's rights emerged while she worked on her senior thesis in South Africa. Her research led her to an orphanage in Johannesburg, where many children with HIV had been abandoned. She still vividly recalls holding a four-month-old named Mbali in her arms, as the infant died.
"Being there for her during the last moments of her life was one of the most profound experiences of my life. In many ways, it brought me to where I am today," explained Ms. Harris. In Fall 2008, she became the government relations and communications manager for the Joint Council on International Children's Services in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit agency that advocates for the right of every child to a safe, loving and permanent home. "I get to combine many of my passions - working with children and inspiring people to do more to support every child's right to a home." In her new position, Ms. Harris took action immediately, developing an international newsletter for adoptive families that she has titled, "Mbali's Message."
According to Robert Glass, dean of LIU Global and University dean of international education, "Rebecca's constructive work with the world's children is an inspiration to all of us and offers hope for a better world in the future."
Matthew Cassetta FW'92
While enrolled in the Friends World Program (now known as LIU Global), Matthew studied literature, conservation and political change in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Venezuela before completing a thesis on global environmental programs.
Matt moved to Washington, D.C., in 1998, accepting a position with Conservation International. Here, he worked on strategic communications to convince foreign governments of the need to create national park systems in places such as Guyana, Guatemala and Madagascar. A year later, Matt passed the Foreign Service Exam and joined the U.S. Department of State. He went on to work in Nicaragua and Brazil, and as regional environment officer assigned to a region covering 24 countries in West and Central Africa.
Since returning to D.C. in 2006, he has served as a public diplomacy and outreach officer for the Bureau of Oceans, International Environment and Scientific Affairs. In the past year, he has worked on a global media campaign to prevent wildlife trafficking as well as on a conservation summit, which brought together ministers from Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to advance cross-border conservation and tourism. He transferred to the Bureau's office in Trinidad and Tobago in Summer 2009.
William (Mac) McLenahan
During his sophomore year at California Polytechnic State University, William (Mac) McLenahan decided he wanted to study abroad to enrich his educational experience and to broaden his horizons. He enrolled in Friends World's Comparative Religion and Culture Program (CRC) and began a one-year course of study that would take him around the globe. During the he spent in Taiwan (Taipei); India (Bangalore, Chennai and Banares); and Turkey (Ankara, Izmir and Istanbul), he learned "how similar the lifestyles and desires of people with vastly different religious and cultural backgrounds can be." He made many friends along the way including Liam Zaculena, a Burmese exile living in Delhi, who went on to build a community center for Burmese exiles in Winnipeg, Canada.
"The recent demonstrations in Rangoon, calling for an end to the regime that forced Liam out of his country, remind me of the proximity of events and people that I first started understanding during my year with CRC," Mac noted. "From friends like Liam I learned not to feel isolated from, or ignorant of any person or event just because it was happening far away."
His Friends World experience planted the seed to continue his education abroad. After graduating from Cal Poly in 2005, with a B.A. in physics and a B.S. in social science, he enrolled at American University of Beirut (AUB), where he earned an M.A. in sociology. "I first came to Beirut during the fall of 2003, my second-to-last year at Cal Poly, as a visiting student. At the time, I wanted to travel to the Middle East because it was always on the news, and because I had never been to the Arab world. Over the course of the year, I developed a love for sociology through classes taught by Prof. Samir Khalaf, who later encouraged me to return to do graduate work at AUB. Surreptitiously, my research came to focus on basketball and the history of sports in Lebanon, subjects that were hardly written about at all."
As part of his fieldwork, Mac became involved with GAM3, an NGO that promotes the empowerment of marginalized youth through street basketball. He developed a basketball program in Beirut to encourage young people, divided by religious sect, to find common ground. GAM3 held weekly free basketball workshops for kids from different neighborhoods in and around Beirut. Some were full-time residents of the two Palestinian refugee camps just south of Beirut. Others were refugees who lived in the Nahr al-Bared camp in north Lebanon. The program allowed them all to compete on teams that were ethnically diverse and religiously mixed. The goal was to help these kids accept their differences and to get past them on the court and in real life.
With the season ended, Mac is teaching a course at AUB in sociology, but, he is sure to return to the streets next year to help the children of this battered region find friendship and hope for the future.