OUTREACH TO AT-RISK YOUTH A Program for Mauritania

Report on Program: Outreach To At-Risk Youth, A Program for Mauritania
Visitors’ Name and Title: Mr. Ichemkhou Ould ELEYOU Director, Centre de Formation des Cadres de la Jeunesse et des Sports (CFCJS, a training institute for adult professionals working with youth) Mr. Zeidane Ould Sidaty Ould ZEINE Director of Youth and Sports, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports Mr. Alinnnnnnou Tahirou DIAGANA Student in Two-Year Professional Training Program at the Centre de Formation des Cadres de la Jeunesse et des Sports, Future Inspector of Youth and Sports Mr. Moctar Ould WEDDOU Deputy Director of Literacy and Adult Education, Ministry of Islamic Affairs President, Association of Children and Development in Mauritania Mr. Cheibany Ould ETHMANE Director, Center for the Reception and the Insertion of Youth in Conflict with the Law Mr. Ahmed Ould Ahmadou OULD EHEL DAOUD Teacher, Nouakchott Islamic Institute & Imam of a Qur’anic School (Mahadra) Mrs. Fatimetou Bint BOUCHEIBA Coordinator of the Office of Girls At-Risk of Violence, Association of Women Heads of Families NGO (AFCF) Mrs. Siniya Mohamed Saleck YARAHALLAH President, Association of Educating Young Women in Nouakchott (AFEN) Mr. Bayo El HASSEN President, Mauritanian NGO for Child Protection and Nutrition Mrs. Mariame KANE Social Activist and Counselor Dr. Mohamed Abderrahmane Ould Sidi Mohamed Director of the Research Department, Advanced Institute for Islamic Studies and Research (ISERI) Mrs. Roughiata Ly Head, Association pour la Prevention et la Reinsertion des Mineurs (a children’s rights NGO) Mr. Mohamed Abdallahi Ould Amar Director, Radio Jeunesse de Nouadhibou (Youth Radio of Nouadhibou) Ms. Maimouna Bent Bah Ould Mohamed Cheikhouna Member, Conservator Party & Professor, University of Nouakchott Mrs. Marieme Mohamed Lemine Head, AZALTE (youth NGO)

These organizations reflected a wide variety of policies and programs. gender.S. many organizations that they visited were headed by people from different races.as well as grassroots. religion. reflecting a cooperative dialogue between the U.S.S. Furthermore. designed by the Meridian International Center. mission in Mauritania clearly made a special effort to select participants from all Mauritanian ethnic groups: the Arab Moors. state. and so on.. and specialized educational institutions. the participants were exposed to the operations of U. working on at-risk youth-to four cities in the United States. was to expose the participants to the activities and experience of the American government and non-governmental organizations engaged in outreach to youth on the margins of society. conceived and funded by the U. ranging from a focus on sports to youth and women-oriented NGOs and social service centers. community-based organizations. Some of them talked about the ethnic tensions that still persist in Mauritania. the slavery issue which once evoked became a hot (and loud!) topic at a lunch one day in a restaurant. 2012 I. In contrast to these strong feelings on issues at home. youth societal challenges to meet and know each other. of which 70% are under the age of 29. Before meeting this group of participants. Black Moors. in-depth meetings allowed challenges and best practices to be discussed at length. Most Mauritanians participants sought to establish strong future relationships with their U. The U. and yet they share the same objectives and concerns. Mauritania is a young country whose population does not exceed 4 million. and local officials working on youth issues -including government. 2012 Program Agency: Meridian International Center Meridian Program Officer: Sean Callaghan Report Prepared by: Saadia Maski Date Report Submitted: March 6.. and help young persons play a more positive role in society. Department of State.Country of Origin: Mauritania Date of U. Diplomatic Mission to Mauritania and the U. abuse and delinquency. . The overall objective of the program. brought fifteen Mauritanian participants --professionals or activists from varied backgrounds. counterparts especially in the area of civil society organizations. in the work place and in the programs they run. law enforcement and sports. comes at an opportune time to assist youth specialists in Mauritania in their efforts to identify the best ideas and strategies for their new programs for youth. judicial and law enforcement agencies. a country whose population exceeds 300 millions. The Mauritanian government has made recent efforts to support training in technical fields that focus on youth and this program.S. age. Background and Perceptual Changes The “Outreach to At-Risk Youth” Project. government. moderate religious institutions. organizations which support at-risk youth. The programs in the four cities visited gave the participants an opportunity to meet with federal.S. and were able to appreciate the mechanisms used to prevent and combat violence. I had little idea how complex yet subtle the relationships are between all these tribal and racial categories despite the small size of the country. Throughout the tour. The 1989 violence between white and black communities is still vivid in the memory and heart of several participants and the impacts are still felt. and the Soninke. etc.S. speaking with different American accents.S.S. Every institution they visited had a mission statement and policy not to discriminate on the basis of race. the group was surprised to see so many ethnic communities co-existing amicably in the U. reflected for instance in family disapproval of inter-marriage. Visit: January 29-February 19. Throughout their tour. the Pulaar.

S Department of Justice. two Mauritanians made the remark that a pregnant student at home would be urged to leave school. underwriting the school’s efforts to save underserved students from dropping out and to even prepare them for college.” for example-. They were also thrilled by the American people respect for the law. They seemed especially impressed by the highly developed infrastructure of the country and Dallas in particular charmed them with its wealth as well as the Rodeo show and the U. tolerance and humility of the American people they met. Office of • Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) • Tahirih Justice Center • Georgetown University. The educators/teachers in the group were very keen on discussing with the school possible partnerships with the school.The Mauritanians were very touched by the openness. also that coordination and mutual support between these organizations is often maintained. This had also helped the participants be more open to each other and I heard them reflect on it once in a conversation. City-by-City Descriptions Washington. They were initially divided into two groups for many activities-including the habitual “tea ceremonies. DC (dates) Meetings attended: • Columbia Heights Educational Campus. home hospitalities.S Department of Education. Examples of this is the AVID program and The JaSoCal Program.S. they were impressed by the vital role that civil society and women play in US society. Bell Multicultural High School • U. (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention • U. World Cultures Coordinator Noteworthy: The delegates admired the important achievements of this initially under-equipped semipublic school which started with the idea of its founder.S Department of State (DOS) • Dr. The Universal Studios in Hollywood was quite an experience for them! II. Akram Ilias briefing on Federalism • U. Rasha Hasheem. the entire visit was a learning experience and produced a highly favorable impression of the U. often with limited English ability. to attend to fully accredited DC public school that offers a relatively rigorous and comprehensive instructional program.but by the middle of the second week I saw that both groups decided to meet in the same room of tea master Othmane. The group was humbled and impressed by the perseverance of the school’s founders in their efforts to raise funds from both public and private sources. whereas the social activists felt more confident to “go back home and start . The group was astounded by the fact that once an idea or an institution’s program is successful it is duplicated by hundreds in other cities and states in the USA and even overseas. by the “art of communicating and networking” at work. where I then joined them with pleasure a few times. Tukeva. and by the overall system that embraces so many differences: this was always one of their first comments after a meeting. When they saw that the school offers even a day care for the kids of the students. and the ability “to sit down and analyze a situation after a diagnosis is identified. Coming from a country “where the social work is challenging”. Imam Mahdi Meetings with Noteworthy aspects: Bell Multicultural High School Speakers: Ms.” “The spirit of volunteering without expecting anything in return” dazzled them.S. to convert a successful program aimed at helping poor minority students. As this was the first visit to the United States for all but two of the fifteen participants.

Ms.their own NGOs since all you need is perseverance to make things work” U. Ms. Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. (DOE) Speaker: Ms. The presentation of Dr. The civil society activists in the group who believe human rights associations are marginalized in Mauritania urged the DOS to directly assist them financially and pedagogically. Akram Ilias. embassy in Nouakchout. an entity with similar role that focus on youth. Dan Epstein. to freely ask all questions I had throughout the program” Department of Justice. “They need their government to listen to them and request support on that. the participants’ understanding of various concepts and policies was relatively easy. Department of Education. Mr. Technology Office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities (S/SRMC). including Africa.S. Capital Communications Group Noteworthy: The Mauritanian Participants were astounded by the complexity of the U. Department programs in Africa on counterterrorism.Shahed Amanullah regarding the Muslim outreach chapters that the Department of State has established in various countries. Akram Ilias was very well received and made the participants “love America and the wonderful American people. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and 6. Ms.” The DOS speakers advised that any request should first be addressed to the U. Rita Foy Moss. Assistant Cultural Coordinator. Founder & Director. thanks to the rick introduction Ilias had given them beforehand. Kathi Grasso.S.S. As an example on the absence of the law enforcement. the participants would have struggled a bit to understand the U.” They also believed that no real change can be achieved or law respected in Mauritania if the US does not work with civil society as well. with little confusion and few questions. under the framework of the violence against women act. 4. Meridian International Center Speaker: Dr. Mr. Roxanna Vigil. The second on juvenile justice and delinquency prevention. Jenny Marron. government structure and how well the system serves the American people. Hannah Pierson-Compeau. The Mauritanian counterparts expressed interest for collaboration. I saw that during our various meetings throughout the program. Senior Juvenile Policy & Legal Advisor & Kathy Poston. The DOJ provides financial aid and technical assistance to communities all over the country. The meeting equally emphasized the importance of the U. 3. thus. youth and Islam. Office of Regional and Security Affairs. 2 participants later on referred to “the recent incident of the release of the son of the president after he almost deadly shot a woman who is now paralyzed. and the possibility of opening an outreach chapter in Mauritania if the Mauritanian government requests that. Senior Counterterrorism Officer. Briefing on Federalism. Program Officer. Office of West African Affairs. The first on violence against women which is headed by a presidentially-appointed and senate confirmed nominee. the judiciary. political system and its operations in the different domains of education. 5. Desk Officer for Mauritania and Mali. Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). Ms.S. Senior Advisor. Elizabeth S. encouraging me. Chan. Office of Safe & Drug Free Schools . 1 participant stated that “the system as explained by Ilias has subjected me to its functioning.. Program Officers. etc. Department of State (DOS) Speakers: 1. (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) & Office on Violence Againt Women (OVW) Speakers: Ms. women’s rights. Shahed Amanullah. 2. Bureau of African Affairs (AF/PDPA) Noteworthy: The meeting was very important to the Mauritania group who asked many questions on the possible ways to assist Mauritania in education (religious schools). Bureau of African Affairs.” If Ili’s's thorough presentation was not given during the first days after their arrival.S. OVW Noteworthy: The 2 speakers talked about the missions of their offices. Youth Programs Division. Bureau of African Affairs. The participants praised the ideas shared by Mr. communication and military. English Access Micro-scholarship Program. Sarah Shields and Ms.

Yahya Hendi.” He added that he is involved in many spiritual and social youth activities. Senior Navigator & Father Greg Boyle. Communities are invited to maintain order and peace in their neighborhoods. Familiar with another kind of policing. Imam Hendi gave an impressive presentation on the meaning of Ijtihad (independent Islamic decision) and urged the Muslims to renounce the “Bedouin Fiqh” (Fiqh=Islamic Jurisprudence) and try to analyze the halal (religiously approved) and haram (religiously disapproved) with the loop of “knowledge” as this is a requirement of Qoran itself. 4-9. schools. Senior Social Services Associate Noteworthy: Excellent insight on how the TJC helps protecting immigrant women and girls from genderbased violence through the free legal and educational services they offer all thanks to volunteering and especially fundraising. Hendi deplored the “frightening religious discourse of Saudi Arabia” and stated that looking at “the Qoran from a critical point of view is not a sin in Islam because this liberates our thinking. This recurring theme regarding the role of communities and law enforcement prevailed throughout the program. homework support by volunteer teachers and NGO and parental collaboration. Metropolitan Police Department Speakers: Commander Willie Dandridge and Commander Michelle Robinson Noteworthy: Highly equipped Department and great power point presentation on their programs on youth and community members or “gatekeepers” working directly with youth through the Police-run programs like Soccer. Elizabeth Nehrling. In light of the current financial situation. 2012) Meetings attended: • Homeboy Industries • Create Now • The Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) • The California Police Activities League (CalPals) • The Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Homeboy Industries (HI) Speakers: Mr. Vance Webster. Founder and Executive Director of HI Noteworthy: Homeboy was the best visit ever for the Mauritanians not only because it is a successful economic development program offering transitional jobs to prevent relapse to former gang members and youth at-risk but because it also emphasized the vital role religious leaders can play in forming society. Imam. Mr. The group was impressed by the SS/HS initiative which is a unique Federal grant-making program designed to prevent violence and substance abuse among American youth. Tahirih Justice Center (TJC) Speaker: Ms. Yahya Hindi. Georgetown University Speaker: Mr. the group was impressed by this police participative approach to outreach efforts. HI was often discussed again among the participants as a project to apply in Mauritania for vulnerable and abused women and youth at-risk who once see there is a solid program that can economically and socially .Noteworthy: Moss gave an overview on the DOE educational programs nationally and overseas stating that they help reinforce school programs in more than 150 countries. Questions followed on the requirements of application and program outcomes. CA (Feb. Los Angeles. These 2 concepts are timid in the Mauritanian field work and many stated that despite their poor means they are planning now to “knock at all doors” once back home and have asked throughout the tour pertinent questions on the best practices to collect funds and incite volunteering. and communities and to strengthen healthy child development. The group asked about possibility of adding Mauritania to the list. Moss regretted that the DOE budget for such initiatives is not guaranteed for years to come and concluded that education remains in principal a state matter. Muslim Chaplain Noteworthy: Before he accompanied the group to the Friday prayer.

child abuse and domestic violence. Director of Program Services Noteworthy: The group was very impressed by this very old women-headed organization whose mission is to empower women and girls. An exemplary system here which success a few questioned for Mauritania given the high rate of illiteracy whereas others saw that it is a perfectly adaptable model in Mauritania as long they succeed attracting national and international firms to sponsor associations engaged in youth training and orientation. The group happened to visit YWCA the day of the child abuse scandal caused by 2 school . Soha Yassine.” Junior Achievement of Southern California (JaSoCal) Speaker: Ms. or hairdressing salons could perfectly work. financial literacy and work readiness. fish. there is only one association working with art and only one school which happens to be French that adds arts to its curriculum. Yarrahallah expressed intention to open an art center and Diagana plans to work on including arts in his youth and sport institute curriculum. The visit to this mosque generated many conversations afterwards especially among the “liberals” as to the lack of dialogue between the religious leaders or mosques imams and vulnerable young in Mauritania. Executive Director. “The Kuweitis come and build extravagant mosques which do not include at-risk youth in their programs. While “art is innate in the Mauritanian soul” it is not encouraged nor developed by the parents and the government in Mauritania some stated. Create Now Speaker: Ms. Group was not very impressed by this meeting. While the idea of creating a restaurant might not work in Mauritania. One point of disagreement between her and the Mauritanian Imam Ahmed was when she mentioned that her center is working to make women Imams. Executive Vice President Noteworthy: Excellent overview of their programs on educating youth about entrepreneurship. Youth Volunteer Coordinator Noteworthy: She gave a tour of the center and the Islamic school and a presentation on their mosque philosophy and youth activities. The California Police Activities League (Cal PALs) Speakers: Ms. The group enjoyed the tour to all the premises and despite their diet restrictions (halal) they decided that day. The downtown Women’s Center (meeting cancelled) + The Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Speaker: Ms. The group was amazed to see as she said “a woman working alone with no money” for the development of youth in artistic activities. they added that modest projects that respond to the local needs like spas or shops to sell veils. Founder and Executive Director Noteworthy: Instructive conversation with the group on the role of Art in restoring the self-esteem of neglected and abused youth. Jill Gurr. The Islamic Center of Northern California Speakers: Ms. The school managers gave rich overviews on their programs and a wonderful explanatory tour of the premises and day care. to have lunch at the women’s restaurant.save them they will no more be afraid to denounce their sufferings. Sharon Shelton. I heard a few participants citing loudly some Hassani poetry as a sign of boycott. Staci Armao. Hollywood PAL Noteworthy: Brief overview on their programs. In Nouakchout for example. Margo White. The program exist in some African countries like Morocco and the group urged While to consider Mauritania and educate them on the application process. The Imam never makes the 1st step like Imam Hindi of Washington DC who even invites out to dinner the young people in need to talk. eliminate racism. as a sign of solidarity.

The group made the remark here that they would have liked to see more institutions focusing on the prevention aspects. International Baccalaureate Coordinator . Senior Director. Shelton mentioned that the law defining sexual abuse has been the same for decades in USA and there was a need to reform that while a Mauritanian participant said that they have an outdated law at home as well which she believed originates from a neighboring country and that this law serves only men. Brian Gonzales. Mr. Jill Clayton. Jerry Silhan. A few participants reflected that such programs might be adaptable only in private schools in Mauritania. The Sport ministry official Zeine and director of Sport Institute Ould Eleyou made a special request for collaboration with Good Football to empower their infrastructures and programs. Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) Speakers: Mr. develop their skills and learn a job. 9-14. Williams Preparatory School Speakers: Ms. They stated that they are ready to invite sport experts from the USA to Mauritania for that purpose and hoped that the program could have arranged for them to visit sports institutions with which they could sign agreements.” The participants repeatedly talked about how rich are the programs and curriculum followed in all youth detention centers they visited. Programs/Traning Manager Noteworthy: Tour of the facilities.educators in LA and the Mauritanians highly appreciated to be invited to concretely witness how the organization’s board and staff united their efforts that day to work on this case ranging from the investigating phone calls to the call conference they were planning for the day with other partners. The participants compared this facility and its services with prisons in Mauritania where “detainees suffer from mal-nutrition and lack of medical assistance. Upper School Director and Ms. Director Noteworthy: The participants commended this program with 870 sites for its mission to help low-income and minority families see their kids put on the college track thanks to the courses enhancement the schools pays for them. The group was also impressed to see that there was no shame to discuss such scandals with foreigners. Mr. Cynthia Wallace. Founder and President Noteworthy: Meeting took place at the Diabetes Health & Wellness Institute of which the group took a tour. Michael Hooten. Executive Director and a few more staffers Noteworthy: Another detention center dedicated to help at-risk youth study. Good Football Speaker: Mr. Youth Village Resources Center of Dallas Speakers: Ms. Dallas. Mauricio Dominguez. 2012) Meetings attended: • Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center & Mental Health Court • Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) • Good Football • Youth Village Resources Center of Dallas • Williams Preparatory School Dallas County Juvenile Detention Center & Mental Health Court Speakers: Ms. Emily Sherwood. TX (Feb. Largest pre-adjucation center in TX where juveniles are kept for up to 90 days after which they are either released or transferred to another center. Wendell Brown. English Teacher.

14-19. Co-Founder Petunia Patch & Presenter of PPP Noteworthy: Talked about an 8-week course she conducts for at-risk kids in detention center. Power. Project Coordinator of Adult Prevention Noteworthy: River Region is a health. Noteworthy: do not recall meeting. Polish Program Pace Center for Girls of Jacksonville Speakers: Ms. Jacksonville. It responded to the group’s main objective to learn more on preventive strategies to combat delinquency and violence. II. FL (Feb.Noteworthy: The news impressed the participants that such a performing school is located in a poor area of the city in order the serve poor communities. Minerva Bryant. Vice president of Clinical Operations & David Bradley. The participants who made a request to meet with an AIDS outreach organization showed special interest to this meeting and exchanged business cards. Finley drives with a bus to vulnerable neighborhoods to work with them in the framework of Black to Black program to prevent gang crime. School leaders gave an extensive overview on the school’s objectives and programs one of which is the IB program that highly impressed the participants. Call S. Logistics: Program: In general. The only observation to make here is on the Jacksonville program which was not so rewarding compared to others. the programs in the 4 cities were excellent and well-balanced. Polish Program (PPP) Speaker: Ms. “AIDS is still a taboo subject in Mauritania and AIDS patients are still refused access to TV to talk about this disease. Director of Community Development Noteworthy: The group praised that this is the first state-run institution they visited working to empower Afro-American at-risk youth who this time constitute %96 compared to all programs they visited before with a Hispanic majority. Youth Crisis Center Speakers: Ms. The testimonies of the 2 girls moved the visitors. River Region Human Services Speakers: Ms. The Jacksonville Urban League Speakers: Ms. 2012) Meetings attended: • PACE Center for Girls of Jacksonville • Jacksonville Urban League • Youth Crisis Center • River Region Human Services • Purpose. Peggy Johnson. Lynn Bertram. Linnie Finley. The Jacksonville program started a bit difficult for the participants on the first day of work with three intense meetings after . Executive Director & 2 girls benefitting from the program Noteworthy: One of the best meetings. HIV and AIDS and substance abuse treatment facility that has programs working specifically with children. Director was happy to share curriculum with the group and keep in touch as they requested.” Purpose. Power.

hotels were comfortable. pleasant and well located. Ray in Washington DC is to commend for going out of his way to manage his time to satisfy both the professional needs and sometimes personal errands of the group. Coming from a tribal culture. While the group knows that this was unintentional. IV. Many commented that there are many similarities between the different institutions they visited in reference to their goals and strategies especially those with an educational aspect and wished different aspects could have been added (ei. After waiting for 45 minutes after a night flight to the Jacksonville airport. There three also wished they had been “consulted” on the visits of the programs before their departure from Mauritania. Diversity Goals The Outreach To At-Risk Program had diversity among its speakers. the group was surprised to find no bus waiting for them on that rainy night. The group especially enjoyed the Washington. where the group matters more than the individual. the bus drivers in the 4 cities did an excellent job by being on time and accommodating the needs of the group. they would have preferred to participate in a study tour of 15 participants with 5 from each country to maximize the outcomes of the experiences. On ground transportation. the Mauritanians were very impressed by the racial and gender diversity of the players of all institutions they visited. At each meeting. . The overall programs were successful and gave the participants the opportunity to have a close look to the US society in general and how the US system deals with the Youth at-risk. they were dying to get to the hotel after work to join each others in groups to prepare and drink Mauritanian tea for hours. environmental.a late arrival the night before (see transportation) and not as many meetings for the days to follow because of a few program omissions. Persons of color comprised about fifty-five percent of speakers during the program. medical. As stated earlier in perceptual change. They also regretted that some hotels did not provide refrigerators and microwaves and that some participants were given suites whereas others were given ordinary rooms. DC hotel that stood remarkably compared to others by offering fully furnished suites and equipped kitchens enabling them to buy grocery and cook for themselves especially that they rarely wanted to go out due first to the cold weather that week and to their stay-at-home nature. women speakers comprised roughly seventy per cent which made the participants believe that “women work more than men in these domains. 3 participants noted that instead of 15 participants from same country. The group appreciated the breakfasts served in the 4 hotels. On the beach hotel in Jacksonville. some commented that beaches and winter do not rhyme together.) Hotels: In general. The majority expressed their desire to keep in touch with the different players. The bus in Dallas was travelling with the group for the whole program with a paper sign stuck to the front left window saying “Mauritania At Risk” which nobody paid attention to till the last day when a participant saw it and took it with her. transport companies need to avoid such faux pas for future programs.” Racial diversity was fairly good. They wished they could be told before their late arrival to the Jacksonville hotel that no food could be ordered after 10:30 pm nor was restaurant delivery to the hotel possible. the group showed a real enthusiasm and interaction by the number of questions they posed that could not all be accommodated due the lack of time and the size of the group. Transportation: Flights departure and arrival times were very convenient to all. Overall. with a number of speakers of Arab descent and Hispanic descent.

Dr. 2. Pasadena. Dallas and Jacksonville whose personnel were extremely understanding and generous to the Mauritanian group. All 4 hotels in DC. Ray. Some participants had breakfasts beyond permissible hours which kept some waiters working extra time. A couple of misunderstandings took place at the Pasadena Hotel for example which the concerned hotel agents met with wisdom and pure spirit. 3. We group did not expect to find a royal Moroccan feast with other guests that he called “in our honor. Names/Addresses of Americans to receive Thank-you letters and Why 1. driver in DC.V.” He then took the group on a “Dallas by night” tour and could join his home only till after midnight. . Since this was a large group of 18 people the hotel managements showed a great deal of patience when the conversations got louder at the lobby. Ahmed Yanouri. member of the World Affairs Council in Dallas and host of dinner to group 3.

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