The Dardasha Initiative  

Since fall of 2012, students in a variety of Arabic courses have been involved in service-learning and community-based language learning. Prof. Maha Houssami, from the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, was the innovator behind this initiative and it led to the creation of a student organization INJAZ, whose mission is to further Duke students’ connections with the Arabic-speaking community. This year INJAZ students tutored young Arab immigrant students at the Al Huda Academy.

Local Community Partnerships

Through various courses students interact with Iraqi, Sudanese, and Syrian families in cultural and language exchanges. Church World Service was involved in the beginning phases of this effort. The families improve their English skills, learn more about Durham, and share their home and culture with Duke students during a weekly dardasha, or chat. Duke students improve their colloquial Arabic and understanding of the Arabic-speaking world. Students in Arabic 408 developed materials to support newly arrived Arabic speakers to Durham, including this video Health Care in America for Arabs. Read about the impact of this initiative in ISMLAMiCommentary.

Prof. Houssami, Prof. miriam cooke (Asian and Middle Eastern Studies) and Nancy Kalow (Center for Documentary Studies) have co-taught AMES 320S: Refugee Lives: Violence, Culture and Identity various semesters. The community-based learning has included interviews, guest speakers, and other exchanges. Some interviews are housed on the webpage ARABIC COMMUNITIES, which is part of the on-going LANGUAGES IN DURHAM website project.

Global Community Partnerships

When Dr. Mbaye Lo offered AMES 219: Civil Society and Civic Engagement in the Arab World he introduced students to the realities of civil society and the mechanism of civic engagement in the Arabic speaking part of Middle East and North Africa. They explored relationships between civil society, democracy, and governance. The Service-Learning component included face-to-face-interviews, online interviews with students, partners and researchers who are working with NGOs and CBOs in Egypt (ex. American University in Cairo) and Morocco (ex. American Language Center in Marrakesh) in order to assess, write and experiment with opportunities and challenges of furthering civic engagement in these regions. The students also engaged with local communities, for example with members of the Al huda Academy in Durham.