Fordham IPED Director Visits Students in West Africa

Prof. Henry Schwalbenberg (right) and Mr. Randy Schwab (left) in Diourbel, Senegal

From May 18 to June 3, Fordham IPED Director Prof. Henry Schwalbenberg travelled to West Africa to visit students currently completing their internships with the Catholic Relief Services. Richie Koch, Elizabeth Shaw, Camille Tacastacas and Joshua Voges, this year’s International Peace and Development Travel Scholars, have been working with CRS’s country offices in West Africa since January 2016. Prof. Schwalbenberg traveled with Randy Schwab, the 2016 Cardinal McCarrick Travel Fellow from St. Joseph Seminary in New York. Read on to learn more about Prof. Schwalbenberg’s travel.


I began my travel outside New York on May 12. My first stop was in Rome to attend the annual meeting of the Foundation Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice at the Vatican. Pope Francis graciously decided to take the time to individually greet every participant attending the conference.


I was joined in Rome by Randy Schwab, this year’s Cardinal McCarrick Travel Fellow. From Rome we travelled through Morocco to  Senegal, our first stop for our CRS site visit. In Senegal, we visited Josh Voges who works as a Program Quality and Growth Fellow.  I was able to meet with the CRS Senegal staff on my first day in Dakar. The next day, the CRS team brought me to their sub office in Diourbel to visit their program activities.  CRS is assisting a local NGO in their efforts to provide universal access to health facilities through a health insurance model based on community run savings and lending associations.  On the following day in Dakar we were able to visit the orphanage of the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Mary.

Josh facilitating a community meeting in Diourbel, Senegal.
Randy with some of the children.


CRS Team in Diourbel, Senegal.

After Senegal, my next stop was Freetown, Seirra Leone to see Camille Tacastacas. Since January, Camille has been involved with the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition and Infant and Young Child Feeding Program which is part of Sierra Leone’s government’s post Ebola crisis response.  After meeting with the representatives from CRS Sierra Leone country office in Freetown, we travelled to Mekeni and then on to Kabala to check on CRS’s programs in those areas.  We primarily focused on their Food for Education Program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture. 

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Camille during our site visit in Kabala.
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The Sinkunia I school outside of Kabala.
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The CRS Food Warehouse in Kabala.
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Camille with the students.

My last stop in West Africa was Mali. We have two students currently interning with CRS Mali, Richie Koch and Beth Shaw.  Due to security concerns, my visit to Mali was restricted to Bamako, Mali’s capital, where CRS’s head office in the country is located.  The CRS Mali team briefed me about their operations and existing programs they have in the country. Richie is largely involved with flooding vulnerability assessment, while Beth has been working on proposal writing for rapid needs assessment and funding for emergencies. Aside from visiting the CRS office, and some sites around the city, Beth and Richie also took me to the Timbouctou Manuscript Project where we were able to see manuscripts from the 12th century.


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Beth and Richie outside the CRS Office in Bamako.
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At the Timbouctou Manuscript Project Archives.
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Outside the Bamako Museum.
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The Bamako Rail Station build in 1924.

More information about the work that Richie, Beth, Camille and Josh do for CRS can be found from the video below and from this summer’s edition of Beyond Borders.

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