Learn & Serve: 48 A Slum Experience 2014 Retreat
Abuja, the gleaming capitol of Nigeria, is filled with neatly landscaped roads and extravagant buildings. It’s wealth, however, is matched by its poverty. The creation of the capitol city of Abuja in the 1980’s displaced many people from the area as well as created an attraction for newcomers. The majority of the new citizens cannot afford the expensive housing in the city, and urban slums have sprung up to house these families.
It is into this environment that participants stepped during Learn & Serve’s fifth-annual “48: A Slum Experience.” Seventy-five youth and adult leaders participated in the event, which was hosted on SIFAT’s campus January 18-20, 2014. During the event, youth and leaders were invited to live as the citizens of urban slums of Abuja to experience the material poverty of these communities first-hand. Participants lived in Learn & Serve’s simulated urban slum for approximately 48 hours while working to provide food, water, and shelter for themselves and their family groups.
Participants were broken into family groups made up of 5-10 students each. It was in these families that students were able to engage with the struggles of life in urban slums. At the conclusion of the event, participants were asked to consider how the experience made them feel. The goal of “48” is to allow an in-depth glimpse at life in an urban slum environment– but even when striving to be culturally accurate it is hard to replicate this environment exactly.
“We can’t convince you that you are in Africa,” Learn & Serve Program Director Addison Shock said during the conclusion of the event. “You know that you are in the middle of Alabama. But I can tell you the things that you felt this weekend, even if for just a minute, are felt everyday by the 1 billion people living in urban slums across the world. Now that you have this glimpse, what are you doing about it?”
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