DAART Final Seminar & Retreat
The two-year, State Department-funded Dakar American Applied Research & Training project (DAART)
drew to a close in May with an evaluation seminar and a group retreat for the eleven fellows. Over the past year and a half, this group of extraordinary young West African leaders has been effecting significant changes in their home communities. These fellows were selected from more than 100 candidates throughout the region. They were selected for their qualities as leaders who had initiated and were seriously engaged projects to improve their communities.
Each of their organizations focuses on a particular aspect of community development and civic participation. The issues they are addressing through their work include
- Electronic waste recycling
- Youth employment
- Gender and governance
- Education for women and girls
- Local agriculture and food security
- Job creation
- Marginalized groups
- Arts as a tool for social transformation
- Energy-saving technologies
In June and July of 2012, the eleven DAART Fellows spent two months in Dakar participating in an
intensive capacity building training, during which time they developed detailed plans for improving their organizations. At the end of the training each was awarded a grant to be invested in the realization of their plans. Over the course of the year, DAART staff and steering committee members made site visits to each of the DAART fellows to assess their progress in realizing their goals.
In May 2013 all eleven fellows, as well as the steering committee (which had made the original selections and provided input for the training), gathered again at WARC for a final seminar and retreat. The seminar, which took place over three days, focused on assessment of individual projects, evaluation of the program, and plans for follow-up. The third day was devoted to an inauguration ceremony for the new DAART extension to the WARC center, attended by the Secretary General of the Senegalese Ministry of Higher Education and Research and the US Ambassador to Senegal, along with various other officials and members of the WARC community. This was also the occasion for several of
the DAART Fellows to share presentations on their projects.
The group then packed up and traveled to the Saloum Delta for a three-day retreat, during which fellows visited a number of community development organizations, a community radio station, and had a meeting with the mayor of the town of Sokone. In addition, the fellows attended a traditional wrestling match and took a boat tour of the mangroves. This retreat in a rural setting provided opportunities not only to meet local figures involved in community development, but also served as an opportunity for the group to build on its strengths as a network of change agents in West Africa. The group agreed that the progam had significantly enhanced their leadership abilities and has formally established a regional network, RADOA, the Network of West African Action for Development.