Evelyn Daugherty ’11 (Ann Arbor, Michigan) took Arabic to fulfill her language requirement—and discovered her life’s work.

Editor’s Note: Daugherty received a full scholarship to study Arabic for six weeks this summer in Muscat, Oman. The program is run by World Learning/SIT and includes four hours of Arabic language courses daily and a homestay with a local family.

After two years of studying Arabic, Daugherty spent the summer in Lebanon at Lebanese American University. There she became friends with her neighbor Fatima, who helped her improve her Arabic and introduced her to daily life in Beirut.

Through these interactions I was able to understand the importance of learning about culture and language from the people who live and breathe it.

Upon returning from Beirut, Daugherty began volunteering, later interning, with the Iraqi and American Reconciliation Project, driving Fadheela and Shayma, two Iraqi mothers, to their English lessons.The women were in Minnesota with their children, Mustafa and Ekhlas, who had been brought to the U.S. to be fitted for prosthetic legs, having been injured by an errant missile and a downed power line. Over a period of four months, Daugherty provided needed translation services and transportation for her new friends. Though they have now returned to Iraq, Daugherty stays in touch via Skype.

“Through these interactions I was able to understand the importance of learning about culture and language from the people who live and breathe it,” says Daugherty, who is a sociology major with a minor in classical languages (Arabic), and a concentration in Middle Eastern studies. In collaboration with the Middle Eastern Student Association, Daugherty is launching a letter and Skype exchange between ten Mac students and ten students at the University of Baghdad.

Together with Brittany Landorf ’14 (Eau Claire, Wis.), Daugherty brought Sami Rassouli, founder of the Muslim Peacemaker Teams (based in Iraq), to talk to Macalester students about the challenges facing the Iraqi people today. They are also coordinated an April fundraiser at Macalester to install a clean water filter in Safinet Al-Najat, an elementary school for girls in Najaf, Iraq.  

“My experiences here and abroad helped me realize that I want to be an Arabic language teacher, so that I can give other students the opportunity to connect with people in Arabic-speaking countries,” says Daugherty. “I focused my senior honors project in sociology on the topic of Arabic language instruction in the U.S. After graduation, I hope to continue learning Arabic abroad and one day visit Ekhlas, Fadheela, Shayma, and Mustafa in Iraq.”  

Students interested in participating in the exchange between Macalester students and the University of Baghdad or getting involved with the IARP can contact Evelyn Daugherty. More information about the IARP and their work can be found at reconciliationproject.org.

April 1 2011

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