As assistant project-coordinator of a tourism ambassador programme in the refugee camps of Western Sahara, I am glad to be an ambassador for WE AfriHug. I am a PhD candidate, researching the inclusiveness and governance of protected areas, and have been engaged as a researcher, activist, entrepreneur in a tourism ambassador programme striving to create genuine connections between visitors and the Sahrawi refugees of Western Sahara.
As WE AfriHug ambassador, I champion the values and mission of this organization, but above all the hard work of the two main founders, Marilena and Konstantinos Maragkos. It is said that organizations grow and develop, but I find that it is rather the people within that build capacity and push for progress.
Individuals working in development come with good intentions, striving to shape a more just, balanced world, yet those good intensions might be counter-productive on the long-term. It’s precisely that capacity building, the ability to reflect, change, and act that I observed with Marilena and Konstantinos. The growth of the team was evident through the transformation of their activities. In 2016, WE AfriHug visited the village of Monde in Uganda where their primary actions were teaching courses to young kids and giving stationary. In 2018, their efforts grew beyond the borders of Uganda to engaging in discussions with chancellors from universities around Africa and to envision sustainable partnerships with universities in Europe. Tangible actions include training seminars, information exchange, awareness raising for opportunities for African students to participate in the EU Erasmus+ programme. WE AfriHug considers education as the main priority for future generations of Europe and Africa.
They went beyond formal school environments to engage with stakeholders of pan-African organizations such as the Afrika Youth Movement and with African policy experts on Africa’s future education. Although they shifted their methods of impact WE AfriHug continues to steward one of their core values which is non-formal education. It is through the organization’s push for non-formal education that I met the WE AfriHug team in the refugee camps of Western Sahara. The Global Western Sahara Ambassador programme together with WE AfriHug, created meaningful connections with Sahrawi refugees and organized a two-day course on 21st century skills through non-formal learning.
It is because I see a process of transformative learning within WE AfriHug that I stand confidently with this organization, convinced that the team would continue to adapt their methods to grow and make a meaningful impact within African education, listening and learning together with African actors to create an education that fits Africa.