High school girls in Senegal, one of the poorest countries in Africa, have been granted $2,000 by the SPJ Colorado Pro chapter to help them start an online newspaper.
The international effort, a first for the Colorado chapter, was proposed by Bob Burdick, a chapter board member and former editor of the Denver Rocky Mountain News. It was brought to his attention by his Rotary Club in the Denver suburb of Englewood.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for our chapter,” said Kara Mason, president of Colorado Pro. “We’re always looking for ways to grow the next generation of journalism. Sometimes that’s in the form of scholarships to students here at home in Colorado, but it can also mean creating opportunities abroad, too. The proposal was a no-brainer for us, and we look forward to seeing how far the program goes.”
Burdick added, “As journalists, we must step forward and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. When they speak (with our help), it is critical that we step out of the way and listen to them. Only then can we learn. And only then can they communicate directly.”
The effort, funded by the Colorado Pro grant, is part of a project begun in 2005 by Judy Beggs, a Denver lawyer, in the rural Senegalese village of Gueoul, on the edge of the Sahara desert about four hours from the capital of Dakar. It’s a place where “education for poor Muslim girls was virtually non-existent,” Burdick said.
With the assistance of Carole Youngren, a graduate of the University of Colorado, Beggs said she wants to help high school students “hone skills of inquiry, investigation and writing in English. We’ll establish an eNewspaper that will be published periodically throughout the year in Senegal.”
The Colorado SPJ grant will be used to buy software available through Student Newspapers Online, stipends for an on-site adviser and training, notebooks and other reporting supplies, and possibly a digital camera.