DoraStanford University, CA, United States
NatashaUniversity of Belgrade, Serbia
ZhelmiraUniversity of Belgrade, Serbia
AnjaUniversity of Belgrade, Serbia
KhanhCalifornia Academy of Math & Science, CA, United States
NoarSemi Frasheri High School, Albania
19 & under
Michael DenmanCalifornia Academy of Math & Science, CA, United States
Katarina KohenUniversity of Belgrade, Serbia
History & Government > Africa
Ages 15 and up
Teacher Resources (Lesson Plans, Worksheets)
Video / Sound
German playwright Goethe once wrote, “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.”
When Catalyst 1 came together as a team, we knew right away that the formidable task of creating this website would need to broken down into smaller, more manageable pieces. The European students-Anja, Noar, Zelmira and Natasa—took on the responsibility of researching and writing about the Congo conflict and the history leading up to this terrible tragedy. In many ways, these students were uniquely qualified to tackle this duty. The end of Tito’s rule in Yugoslavia led to renewed nationalism and warfare that rocked Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Every single European member of the Catalyst1 team was impacted by this devastating civil war.
Once the bulk of the writing was done, assistant coach Katarina proofread everyone’s contributions and passed them on to the American portion of our team for a second look. Dora, a gifted writer and native English speaker, edited further and then added her own section on genocide intervention prevention. The team felt it was important to talk about positive things people can do to help end the suffering of the Congolese. To her credit, Dora has been a Darfur activist several years now so she brings tremendous knowledge to the table.
Finally, Khanh took everyone’s written material and built an amazing website around it. Only a high school junior, Khanh’s computer skills were put to the test by this endeavor. She has come through with flying colors, managing even to get the website up in several languages provided by the European team. Coach Michael worked primarily with the American students to get the site up and going, providing feedback as necessary. All in all, a true team effort!
Catalyst1 truly embodies the spirit of diversity. Even a cursory look at our team shows what a unique group we are. Our team members speak a multitude of languages-- including English, Serbian, Albanian, Bosnian, Slovak and Vietnamese—and come from a many different places.
When it came time to put the website together, this diversity was both a challenge and a blessing. Each team member had different ideas of what the site should include and how we could best achieve our goals. At the end of the day, however, this dialogue sharpened our vision and strengthened our determination to do a great job. It was out of these discussions that the decision was made to translate the site into different languages to reach as many students worldwide as possible.
Locating resources for the conflict in the Congo was a daunting experience as well. The information that exists about the conflict is complex and requires careful study not just of Congo history but of events in Rwanda, Uganda, and Burundi.
We decided early on to try to personalize as much of the information as possible. Dora, a Stanford freshman, was able to secure an interview with a Congolese refugee now living and working in the United States. Such primary sources were invaluable in making the tragedy more “real” to the team. This is not just some abstract story in a newspaper. People in the Congo are suffering and dying each day-we must speak out on their behalf.
Interestingly, the theme of civil conflict runs through many of team member’s histories. Khanh, our technical website expert, came with her family from Vietnam to the United States to escape legacy of poverty left by the Vietnam war. Dora, while born in the United States, has a mother who lived through a civil war in Nigeria some years ago. Natasa and her family fled Sarajevo when she was two. Noar used his own experiences of war to shape his examination of the impact of the Congo conflict on survivors.
Clearly, our diversity enriches and drives our efforts in this endeavor. We hope you enjoy the results!