Category Archives: Politics

Thanks, TechWomen!

Thanks to the TechWomen program for the recent Tweet quoting me:

Behind every successful woman is a tribe of women supporting her, like TechWomen

It is my honor to have helped design TechWomen – and to have been a TechWomen mentor and enthusiastic supporter since the program started:

TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program. TechWomen provides participants access to networks, resources, and knowledge to empower them to reach their full potential.

During the five-week program, participants engage in project-based mentorships at leading companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley, participate in professional development workshops and networking events, and travel to Washington, DC. for targeted meetings and special events to conclude the program.

Over the past seven years, more than 500 women from Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Yemen and Zimbabwe have participated in TechWomen.

TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). TechWomen, launched in 2011, supports the United States’ global commitment toward advancing the rights and participation of women and girls around the world by enabling them to reach their full potential in the tech industry.

TechWomen is managed by the Institute of International Education (IIE).
More: https://www.techwomen.org/

More about my company, Mentoring Standard: http://www.mentoringstandard.com/

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Refugees in Bunia, Congo

Last month, I posted a disturbing story and images: Help Needed for Displaced in Congo. The number of internal refugees who have settled in Bunia, Congo, continues to grow.  The camp now holds over 86,000 people, many of whom are women and children who have traveled for weeks under very dangerous circumstances.  The Congo Network of the Episcopal and Anglican churches gets regular updates from the Reverend Bisoke Balikenga who lives and works in Bunia, DRC.  The Congo Network is chaired by the Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa (Africa Relations, Episcopal Church).  The US media is reporting very little on this massive humanitarian crisis. I asked the Rev. Bisoke to send the Congo Network photos so that we could help tell the story.

Particularly disturbing were the photos of the girl Rachel and her little sister.  The Rev. Bisoke wrote with the photo below: “Rachel sister just come from the hospital, her left arm was cut by the rebel and Rachel was cut in the head and the mother was killed. Rachel is not in a good condition you can see her head. Please pray for them because the life which they have now it is not the good one.”  The Rev. Bisoke has taken 30 refugees into his own home, in addition to his family of 8.  He is getting some help from friends.  If you would like to help displaced people in the Congo, please donate to Episcopal Relief and Development (designate your donation to DRC). Your money will go toward food, clothing, shelter and assistance with trauma.

 


Recent news stories include:

Photos copyright 2018 by the Rev. Bisoke Balikenga – used with permission.
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Help Needed for Displaced in Congo

Bunia, Congo 18 Feb 2018 by Rev. Bisoke Balikenga

Violence has recently gotten worse in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I was on a call a few days ago during which we learned of tens of thousands of displaced people, about two thousand of whom are now seeking help near a hospital in Bunia. The Reverend Bisoke Balikenga sent us the photos you see here of families in Bunia in need of food, water, firewood, bedding, and schools for the children. We are coordinating our aid efforts through Episcopal Relief and Development.

Since 2015, I have been a part of the Congo Network group of the Episcopal Church. The group is chaired by the Rev. Canon Dr. Isaac Kawuki Mukasa (Africa Relations, Episcopal Church). I was nominated to join the Congo Network group by my Bishop, the Right Rev. Mary Gray-Reeves (of the Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, California).  We meet by phone and online about quarterly to share information and coordinate support work. I have been taking the Congo Network minutes.

Bunia, Congo 18 Feb 2018 by Rev. Bisoke Balikenga

There is small awareness in the United States about the size and severity of the Congo’s humanitarian crisis. Little news is published, mostly by non-US media and organizations:

However, if I did not know about it directly from the Congo Network, I may not have heard about this crisis at all. I have to go searching for news of the Congo – it does not appear in my regular news sources.  I have never been so aware of the limitations of the US media and how news is distributed.

Congo is about 70% Christian and many of the displaced people are seeking help from their churches. Pope Francis has raised awareness by holding a day of prayer and fasting on 23 February for those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan.

If you would like to help displaced people in the Congo, please donate to Episcopal Relief and Development (designate your donation to DRC).

Bunia, Congo 18 Feb 2018 by Rev. Bisoke Balikenga

Photos copyright 2018 by the Rev. Bisoke Balikenga – used with permission.
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What is Bad About Jail, What is Good About Jail

2017 Vanderbilt University Coursera Justice Mercy Mass Incarceration 1 Dec 2017

I recently finished a fascinating six week Vanderbilt University class called “Justice, Mercy and Mass Incarceration” presented through Coursera online.  The course goals were “to discover alternatives to the current systems of crime and punishment in order to imagine a more inclusive, just and moral society”.  It was taught by Graham Reside, Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University Divinity School.  This is my second online class in the area of justice and criminology, the first being “Crime, Justice and Society” by The University of Sheffield, presented online by FutureLearn.  I am both interested in the topic and in the MOOC (massive open online course) method in which these classes are presented.

Since 2015, I have developed and led a seminar at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas, California, in the Silicon Valley. Our seminar curriculum and books are from the Education for Ministry (EfM) program of the University of the South – School of Theology. EfM is a four year college-level certification program, started in 1975. So far as we know, ours is the only jail-based EfM program, although there are two dozen prison-based programs in the USA. In addition to covering the official EfM material, in the seminar we also work on listening, respectful group interactions, study skills, and basic leadership skills – like how to open and close a class with prayer.

This jail-based EfM program is supported by the Correctional Institutions Chaplaincy, Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real, St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church (Saratoga, California), and the University of the South – School of Theology. I worked with a group of volunteers from St. Andrew’s to start our first weekly seminar in a medium security dorm, and we have recently added a second weekly seminar in a minimum security dorm. Two of the EfM students at Elmwood are in Year 3 (Church History), two are in Year 2 (New Testament), with the remaining students in Year 1 (Hebrew Bible). The EfM year is only nine months long but my Co-Mentors and I run the jail-based seminars back-to-back (since inmates do not get summer vacations).  About two thirds of the inmate students in our EfM seminar are men of color – mostly Latino – and the rest are white.  We conduct discussions in English (and Spanglish) but provide Bibles, Books of Common Prayer, and Dictionaries in both English and Spanish.

In leading this EfM seminar, I have observed many consequences of incarceration. One of my reasons for taking “Justice Mercy and Mass Incarceration” was to understand more of the context of what I am observing when I am teaching in jail. Last month, I told the seminar students about the “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” class and asked them to tell me one good thing and one bad thing about being in jail. Here is what six of them said:

What is Bad About Jail

  • I don’t see my family.
  • Some innocent people are punished (but not many).
  • I am not there for my kids.
  • I can’t be there to help my wife when she needs me.
  • Not being there for loved ones: I am frozen, unable to do anything.
  • Being a number – losing who you are.
  • I never get the time back.
  • I have no say. I am less of a citizen.
  • I am treated as low in the hierarchy.
  • There is no mercy, no leniency.
  • I can’t be there for my babies, my wife. I am hurting.
  • I am missing my family.
  • I lose my job, my apartment, my wife and kids, my paycheck, everything.

What is Good About Jail

  • Takes evil off the street.
  • Families are safe from bad people.
  • I have a clear mind. I am closer to God.
  • I have more belief, more faith, more spirituality. I am more close to God.
  • I have free time to spend on prayer, sobriety, like the worst-ever vacation. We can be with ourselves without a phone or Facebook.
  • If I stay clean, I have a clear mind, can reflect and prepare for becoming a better person out there.
  • I can clear my mind, rethink decisions on things I have done (and things I did not get caught for).
  • I can stay off drugs, not putting poison into my system.
  • It has made me think, be a better person. Reflection, closer to God. I am learning a lot.
  • There is free medication (health care).

There are connections and discrepancies between what “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” teaches and what the EfM student inmates say. They agree on the benefit of taking violent, evil, bad people off the street. They also agree that imprisonment has the potential for supporting personal reform – inmates rethinking who they have been and who they want to become. “Justice, Mercy, and Mass Incarceration” does not spend a great deal of time on effective reform but in the recommended 1998 documentary film “The Farm: Angola Prison”, several of the long-term inmates had clearly over time become very different people, positive forces in the prison community.  My hope for my EfM students is whether they are inside or outside, they can make a positive difference in the world.

2017 FutureLearn University of Sheffield Crime Justice and Society certificate July 2017

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Honoring STEM Mentoring

ECR Simple Servant Award to Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017

At the 37th Episcopal Diocese of El Camino Real annual convention last weekend, I was honored by Bishop Mary Grey-Reeves with a second Simple Servant Award for my work since 2010 with the TechWomen mentoring program of the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The award certificate reads:

Simple Servant Award
Presented on November 3, 2017 to
Katy Dickinson
The Diocese of El Camino Real honors you. May God bless you for your
faithful ministry mentoring women in Africa and the Middle East in STEM
professions, and for your contribution to the creation of a “virtuous cycle” of
knowledge and wisdom sharing in the world of technology.

It has been an honor and pleasure to work with TechWomen and my mentees from Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Watching this program thrive and touch so many lives is a great delight. Since I worked in 2010-2011 as the TechWomen Process Architect, I have been a volunteer with this life-changing program as a mentor, working with groups of STEM leaders who travel to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to be hosted by 122 science and technology companies and organizations for a month (and then continue a mentoring relationship once they have returned to their home country).

Beginning with the first cohort of 37 from 6 countries in 2011, there have been 518 TechWomen Fellows from 22 countries and 698 mentors. I have formally been assigned to mentor 14 women in Lebanon, Algeria, Gaza-Palestine, Jordan, and Tunisia – and have worked with many more who have asked me to be their mentor. I have also participated in nine formal TechWomen Delegations with the State Department, to: Jordan (twice), Kyrgyzstan, Morocco (twice), Rwanda, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe, as well as making informal trips with TechWomen mentors to visit our mentees in Lebanon, Gaza-Palestine, and Sierra Leone.  Learning from my sister mentors as well as from my mentees is part of the joy and value of this excellent program for Citizen Diplomats.

Want to make a different in STEM? Please consider joining TechWomen as a mentor yourself!

ECR Convention Simple Servant award Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves, Katy Dickinson 3 Nov 2017 by Elrond Lawrence

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Photo Copyright 2017 by the Diocese of El Camino Real, Elrond Lawrence.

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Truth on the Internet, Sierra Leone

Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, July 2017, photo by Salwa Campbell

While Jessica and I visited Sierra Leone earlier this month, we gave presentations to Terri Khonsari‘s technical center Families Without Borders, and the University of Makeni in Makeni, and at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown – to about 300 students in all. We answered many questions but variations of one question came up most often everywhere we went: “How do you tell what is true on the Internet?”

Since we were presenting on web research, e-learning (also known as educational technology), and blogging, and since the topic of fake news has been much discussed worldwide during the last year, I suppose we should not have been surprised at the frequency of this question.  We answered it in a variety of ways, including many that have been widely discussed elsewhere. For example, Factcheck.org provides this list on “How to Spot Fake News”:

  1. Consider the source
  2. Read beyond the headline
  3. Check the author
  4. What’s the support?
  5. Check the date
  6. Is this some kind of joke?
  7. Check your biases
  8. Consult the experts

Two other ways we answered the question:

  1. During our Internet Treasure Hunt exercise at Families Without Borders in Makeni, we asked the 50+ students to find out what the CIA World Fact Book thought was the population of Sierra Leone, and then what Wikipedia said (since they do not agree). We then asked them to find an error on the Wikipedia page and discussed how these mistakes or differing opinions can happen.  We encouraged them to help by correcting the Wikipedia page and directed them to instructions on how to do so.
  2. At Fourah Bay College in Freetown, after asking about Finding Truth, a first year Engineer asked me why someone does not fix the Internet – make it always correct. I looked at the large and eager young audience and asked why someone does not fix them – make their own answers always correct. They laughed. I followed up by saying that the Internet was and continues to be created by people of many viewpoints who may want to deceive, or who may not know what is correct, or for whom there may be many versions of Truth.

Families Without Borders, Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

University of Makeni, Sierra Leone, July 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson and Salwa Campbell

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Sierra Leone: Leader in Religious Tolerance

Makeni, Sierra Leone July 2017

Jessica and I returned late Saturday from a short trip to Sierra Leone where we presented at Terri Khonsari‘s technical center Families Without Borders, and the University of Makeni in Makeni, and at Fourah Bay College (University of Sierra Leone) in Freetown – to about 300 students in all.

Sierra Leone is one of the friendliest and most welcoming countries in which I have ever traveled.  This West African country is particularly remarkable its its religious tolerance.  Although about 60% of the country is Muslim, we saw a wide array of religious institutions and practices coexisting in peace.  Jessica and I were particularly delighted with two small stores on either side of a shop where we bought bowls.  One store was called Christ In Me Enterprise and the other Allah is Great Enterprise.

Catholic Church in Makeni, Sierra Leone July 2017

Church near Makeni, Sierra Leone July 2017

Mosque in Sierra Leone July 2017

Mosque in Sierra Leone June 2017

Stylish Grandmas, Makeni Sierra Leone, June 2017

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Images Copyright 2017 by Katy Dickinson

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