Niger Delta 2005
Global Citizen Journey’s inaugural delegation took place in the creeks area of the Niger Delta. They went to the village of Oporoza, located in the heart of Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger Delta which yields 80$ of the country’s wealth, yet poverty and illiteracy are widespread. The community struggles to provide education for village children, but it’s hard to attract teachers willing to face the challenge of teaching without books in a region with only about 40% literacy. The few families who are able send their children to boarding schools in the city, which is a great economic and emotional hardship. Check out our Photobucket site for photos from the trip!
- When: mid-November to early December, 2005
- Where: Village of Oporoza: Warri Southwest Local Government Area, Delta State, “creeks” riverine area of the Niger Delta
- Who: 19 American delegates and 21 Nigerian delegates from a diverse mix of geographical areas, tribes and religions
- What: Built the first library in the region and participated in workshops promoting cross-cultural understanding, compassionate listening, conflict resolution and leadership skills
- Local host organization: Niger Delta Professionals for Development (NIDPRODEV) in partnership with the Oporoza community
Our first stop was Lagos, where we visited government officials, enjoyed a dance performance by the National Theatre and other cultural sites. We took a bus to Warri via Benin City, and finally traveled by boat to Oporoza, including the following stops.
- Badagry: one of the first slave ports on the African west coast. We visited the old slave quarters and the presiding king.
- Benin City: historic site of one of Africa’s strongest ancient empires, also famous for bronze casters carrying on a centuries-old sculpture tradition. The staff of the Oba of Benin (King) welcomed us with a traditional kola nut ceremony.
- Warri: primary city of Delta State; held a Town Hall which brought Ijaw-Itsekiri-Urhobo into conversation. The US Consul General flew in from Lagos to join and honor us; representatives from the governor and other state officials joined us
While in Oporoza, delegates were hosted in villagers’ homes. A typical day included:
- Working on the library and lunch with villagers
- Afternoon dancing and other cultural sharing activities, and workshops
- Evening meals together… and relaxing at Oporoza’s one bar
Nigeria 2005 program.
Just as important as our community service projects were GCJ’s afternoon workshops, which wove in a variety of approaches to leadership and team building, processing, skill development, and sharing of our stories.
GCJ Delegates in front of the Niger Delta Friendship
Library in Oporoza.
- Compassionate Listening Training: Experiential activities to cultivate foundational skills and compassion in daily life essential to peacemakers. Compassionate Listening is a powerful tool for reconciliation. It can be used to initiate peace-building efforts for conflict at the personal, community and global levels, offering insight and healing for all. Skills include listening, centering, visualization and cultivation of compassion for self and others.
- Conflict Resolution and Communication Skills Training: “Needs-based” conflict resolution, based on the “win/win” approach and materials developed by the Harvard Negotiation Project and Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Most importantly, we learned from the successful experiences of NIDPRODEV peacemaking in the Delta region.
- Dialogue: Building skills of inquiry rather than persuasion, delving into meaning and uncovering assumptions. These were practiced in a variety of forms, including Conversation Cafe, which uses a talking object.
- Diversity training: Principles of diversity and cross-cultural communication, including Systematic Oppression theory and exploration of ageism, sexism and racism. Also included is Popular Education, which allows people to tell their own stories as part of creating history together. Interactive theater games were used to explore issues non-verbally, without languages.
- Guest lecturers from the region: Nigerian politics, history, arts, culture, sustainability and ecology
- Open Space sessions to discuss issues around gender, power, economic justice, and whatever else challenged delegates
The circle work was designed and facilitated as a partnership between U.S. trainer Susan Partnow and Nigerian peace mediator Joel Bisina.
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Logistics and Cost
Delegates were responsible for their own travel expenses and arrangements from the U.S. to Lagos, Nigeria, as well as visas and inoculations, at an estimated cost of $1500-1900. Delegates were able to work with our travel agent –who helped find the best rates– to coordinate with these arrangements, even if they chose to use frequent flyer miles or a different air carrier. GCJ provided orientation materials that include resources and recommendations on travel details. All delegates were greeted in Lagos by a GCJ representative. We provided detailed information and instructions on preparing for travel to Nigeria dates, flights, visas, inoculations, insurance and costs.
Program fees of $2950 included in-country travel, hotel stays, home stays and meals in Oporoza, side trips and afternoon workshops. Program fees also covered costs for Nigerian delegates and a portion of the library building materials and expenses, which were shared between GCJ and the local community. Please note this did not include costs detailed in the travel section above.
Fundraising. Some delegates paid their costs out-of-pocket; most needed assistance. GCJ provided materials and support to help delegates with fundraising. We were fiscally sponsored by The Compassionate Listening Project, a 501(c)(3) organization, so donations by individuals, businesses or other groups to cover program costs were tax-deductible. In addition, delegates were eligible for a matching program through their employers.