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ODU Students Meet Desmond Tutu in Cape Town, South Africa

A group of Old Dominion University students who traveled to South Africa this summer on a faculty-led study abroad program had an opportunity to meet Desmond Tutu, archbishop emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, known to many as the "rebel for peace."

The 14 students participated in ODU's "Exploring International Development Through Service Learning" program, led by Jennifer Fish, associate professor and chair of the women's studies department.

The program allows participants to interact with community leaders in South Africa who are actively involved in the process of rebuilding that country's society in the aftermath of the severe racial conflict the apartheid system created. Through direct contact with local organizations and social development projects, the students were able to experience firsthand the culturally complex society in ways unavailable to tourists.

The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation, one of the partner organizations with which the program worked, is Tutu's legacy as an advocate for peace, justice and human rights. As a central figure in the struggle to end apartheid, he led the nation through its transition to democracy and headed South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

On July 30, the ODU students visited Saint George's Cathedral in Cape Town to offer gifts to Tutu and thank him for his work. Only the week prior, Tutu announced that he will retire from public life on his 79th birthday, in October.

"This year's study abroad students shared a once-in-a-lifetime moment to express their gratitude for Archbishop Tutu's life commitment to peace and its direct impact upon their own experiences in working within South Africa," Fish said.

The ODU delegation, which returned to Norfolk Aug. 8, worked in schools, clinics and nongovernmental organizations during the trip. The students will give presentations about their service-learning experiences throughout the upcoming academic year.

This article was posted on: August 10, 2010

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