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Renée Spencer: Military Student Mentoring

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                    [post_content] => [ictt-tweet-inline]Today we reflect on the service and honor the sacrifice of members of the military[/ictt-tweet-inline]. Many of them have families whose service and sacrifice at home should be acknowledged and honored as well. Dr. Renée Spencer is a professor at the Boston University School of Social Work involved in a project focused on helping all members of military families. Along with a team of colleagues (Timothy Cavell, PhD (PI), University of Arkansas; Amy Slep, PhD, New York University; Janet Heubach, PhD, Mentoring Works Washington; Carla Herrera, PhD, Independent Researcher), and in partnership with the North Thurston Public Schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington, Dr. Spencer is developing a model for programs to link military students with mentors.

Dr. Spencer’s work, which is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, grew out of the recognition that when a parent serves in the military, the whole family also serves. Across the United States, nearly 2 million children live in military families, and the Military Student Mentoring project is working to assess how best to support those children.

Reducing Predictable Stress

Dr. Spencer is very clear that the goal of Military Student Mentoring is to increase the supports available to all children and families experiencing the predictable stress accompanying parental deployment and military service rather than targeting struggling students. Her team of researchers has developed a model to provide weekly in-school mentoring to military students in a pilot school district in Washington State. They are assessing both whether the model works to connect military students with mentors and ultimately what the impact on military students is of having a mentor. The project’s approach includes a core commitment to understanding and incorporating military culture into the service model. Military families tend to be resilient and fiercely independent in meeting their own needs, despite the challenges of frequent moves, extended episodes of parenting without a partner, and supporting children’s experiences of parental deployment. The Military Student Mentoring project acknowledges and respects these military family strengths and therefore focuses on providing additional support aimed at reducing the widespread, normative stress military students experience related to parental deployment. The positive reception of Military Student Mentoring may be rooted in precisely this attention to the particular needs, preferences, and experiences of military families. Locating the core mentoring intervention in schools is one example. Dr. Spencer noted military families themselves identified schools as a critical source of community knowledge and resources. “With the frequent moves that they make, they don’t have a ready-made network to inquire about what are the safe, good, supportive services in the community… We learned…that the schools were a pretty good place to do this because that’s a place that the families are already connected to, there’s a level of trust in schools, because adults are screened and supervised…services offered through schools are pretty safe bets.”

Respecting Families’ Narratives

Military Student Mentoring has tapped into critically important perspectives provided by military families themselves about their openness to and interest in additional, safe, supportive adults in their children’s lives and, importantly, disinterest in outside rescuers or “fixers” of their daily reality. And in addition to these key elements of the program’s model, the importance of shared and family-specific culture is incorporated into training provided to the mentors. Dr. Spencer offered a compelling example of this sensitization to the particular needs of military families: “One of the big factors these families shared with us was, they have stories that they tell their young kids about what a deployment is, and they don’t want adults coming in and disrupting that story. So it might be, ‘daddy’s working building schools overseas, and he’ll be home in a few months.’ And when an adult who doesn’t understand this hears the word deployment, they might start saying, ‘well are you afraid, are you worried about your dad,’ and that’s not what these families want."
With the frequent moves that they make, they don’t have a ready-made network to inquire about what are the safe, good, supportive services in the community… We learned…that the schools were a pretty good place to do this because that’s a place that the families are already connected to, there’s a level of trust in schools, because adults are screened and supervised…services offered through schools are pretty safe bets.  
The Project draws on the family and deployment narratives which military parents identified to the researchers to tailor how mentors are trained. Mentors are educated about military culture generally and families’ particular choices in helping their children understand their unique context. As Dr. Spencer explains, “it really is that sense of trying to heighten mentors’ awareness they need to tread lightly and try to understand how this family has framed a deployment experience, or how they’re framing a move, and follow that family’s lead.”

Impacting Stress and Support

While Military Student Mentoring is still very much an ongoing project, it’s had early, anecdotal success, such as the positive experiences some students have shared and which you can see here. Over the longer term, the project is hoping to see specific, positive impacts on children and families. For instance, military students may feel more connected to their schools – an important outcome for children who move on average between six and nine times while school age. They may also experience a higher sense of social support particularly related to school, as their mentor can represent someone who is reliably supportive of and present for them in the school context. Beyond these child-level impacts, Military Student Mentoring is assessing whether engagement in the program could reduce stress more broadly for the whole military family. Anecdotal evidence from other programs serving military families suggests military parents can feel relief and support when they know and trust that there is another reliable adult who is committed to and aware and supportive of their child.

Creating a Model to Support Families

If Military Student Mentoring can accomplish some of these hopeful outcomes, the program model it is testing could be broadly applied and have beneficial impacts on military families across the country – and the world. As Dr. Spencer noted in closing, “[ictt-tweet-inline]It’s both humbling and incredibly inspirational to do this work.[/ictt-tweet-inline] You see up close the sacrifices that everybody in the family is making when somebody is serving our country in this way, and…it’s a real honor and privilege to be a part of a project that’s trying to offer supports to those folks.” Feature image: DVIDSHUBFather, Daughter Reunite. Navy Visual News Service. Photo by Kaylee LaRocque, used under CC BY 2.0. Electronics technician Petty Officer 2nd Class Sam HerediaPerez greets his 7-year-old daughter during a special reunion at Dinsmore Elementary School. HerediaPerez, assigned to the naval Air Station Jacksonville Air Operations Ground Electronic Maintenance Division, has been deployed to Afghanistan as an individual augmentee for the past nine months. [post_title] => Renée Spencer: Military Student Mentoring [post_excerpt] => Today we honor the service and sacrifice of members of the military and their families. We profile a program focused on supporting children whose parents are deployed through school-based mentoring. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => renee-spencer [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-05-25 05:40:30 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-05-25 09:40:30 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_profile&p=548 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_profile [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

Today we honor the service and sacrifice of members of the military and their families. We profile a program focused on supporting children whose parents are deployed through school-based mentoring.

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Djamil Bangoura

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                    [post_content] => When Djamil Bangoura speaks, the Senegalese LGBT community listens. Article 319 of the Penal Code, which prohibits and penalizes homosexuality in Senegal, mutes LGBT voices. Bangoura unifies a community marginalized in a country known for its hospitality, and he has over 10 years of experience organizing sexual minorities in francophone West Africa. In 2003, he established Association Prudence, a LGBT health and human rights advocacy group based in Dakar.

Since its establishment as a grassroots organization, [ictt-tweet-inline]Prudence has grown to serve 500 Senegalese in the local LGBT community[/ictt-tweet-inline]. The group primarily targets men who have sex with men (MSM), focusing on HIV/AIDS sensitization, education, and testing. Bangoura envisioned an organization that engages the community, providing home visits, group discussions, prevention education, and HIV/AIDS testing. The HIV/AIDS prevalence is 0.5% in Senegal, but the prevalence ranges between 38.4-44% among Senegalese MSM.

Prudence improves the community’s health by reducing poverty, unemployment, homelessness, violence, stigma, and discrimination. Bangoura’s work, which is recognized by international LGBT advocates, is not often acknowledged in a society that silences its gay brothers and sisters.

Coming Out

Bangoura grew up in Pikine, one of Dakar’s suburbs, and he accepted his sexuality at the age of 22 after friends pushed him to discover the LGBT community. Like most LGBT Senegalese, Bangoura never came out to his family because others labeled him as goorjigéen, the Wolof translation for homosexual.

“I lived quietly, but unhappily,” Bangoura said. “I was like someone who was imprisoned by himself. I was scared to express myself.”

He understood the consequences of identifying as LGBT in Senegal.

“Physical, moral, and verbal aggressions,” Bangoura said. “Someone will label you as something. They’ll call you homosexual. They’ll label you while insulting your families, treating you like animals.”

While producing music with Senegalese rappers in Dakar, Bangoura entered a romantic relationship with a German friend who financially supported the studio. Once the group discovered their relationship, Bangoura’s partner left the country, and the studio closed. After working with his partner for 10 years, Bangoura lost his job at the studio. He tried to find work for three years.

“I didn’t have any more money, so I found myself in real poverty,” Bangoura said. “I had absolutely nothing. I couldn’t support myself. After three years of unemployment, I couldn’t pay for my apartment."

Homeless and unemployed in Dakar, Bangoura connected with Serigne, a friend who introduced him to other gay Senegalese. An informal LGBT organization invited Bangoura to a five-day workshop, and it changed his role in the community. He was inspired to turn from music to advocacy.

“I’m unemployed, but I know how to create something,” Bangoura said. “We’re going to see what we can do.”

 
“Young men have shown me a lot of light,” Bangoura said. “It’s because of this [organization] that I’ve discovered I’m not alone, but there are others, too."  
  Reaching Out In the early 2000s, there were no formal LGBT organizations registered with Senegal’s Ministry of the Interior. “We need to take preventative action for this community,” Bangoura said. “It’s hard. We need to try to support this organization that is the only of its kind, and finally I realized this is an opportunity.” Bangoura understood he would need to initially frame Prudence as an HIV/AIDS prevention service rather than an LGBT advocacy group in order to gain approval from the government. Although same-sex acts are illegal in Senegal, the Ministry considered Prudence as an HIV/AIDS organization, not an LGBT organization, at a time when the government made strides in prevention efforts. “And what they told us in response was that they would give us the approval, but not because we’re gay, but because of the objectives they saw in our application,” Bangoura said. “That’s why they would sign, and finally they signed the approval, and [ictt-tweet-inline]Association Prudence became the first organization of gay Senegalese to be officially recognized[/ictt-tweet-inline].” Established in 2003, the Ministry officially recognized Prudence in 2005. “Finally we have an association that is solely comprised of the LGBT community whose objective is to fight against HIV/AIDS, which is too high in our community, and to fight against injustice,” Bangoura said. “We promote justice, fight poverty. It’s all part of our primary objectives. Help those infected with HIV to have better treatments and follow-up care. That’s our objective.” Today, there are 14 organizations improving health outcomes among Senegalese key populations, which include MSM, sex workers, and people who inject drugs. Not only is Bangoura the president of Prudence, but he also leads RENAPOC, the National Network of Key Population Associations. RENAPOC, collaborating with the National Alliance Against AIDS, streamlines the objectives of all 14 organizations. “Young men have shown me a lot of light,” Bangoura said. “[ictt-tweet-inline]It’s because of this [organization] that I’ve discovered I’m not alone, but there are others, too.[/ictt-tweet-inline]” Speaking Out Bangoura has experienced stigma and discrimination and witnessed violence against his community because of Article 319. “There are certain actors and certain politicians who say that homosexuality is not prohibited by Senegalese law, but, to me, that’s false,” Bangoura said. “This article in the Senegalese constitution condemns homosexuality. That’s what I see. Nobody can say anything else.” After the police arrested members of Prudence in 2008, Bangoura sought refuge in France for six months before returning to rebuild Prudence. “I prefer our partners to support our organizations on the ground so that we can continue what we already started,” Bangoura said. “If everyone leaves, then nothing will change. [Prudence] is founded, and they support us. We stayed, and we’re here.” A letter sent from the Ministry of Health in April 2016 signaled the government’s evolution on LGBT issues. Awa Marie Coll Seck, Senegal’s Minister of Health, invited Bangoura to represent key populations at the United Nations. The invitation confirmed his decision to work with young and vulnerable Senegalese identifying as LGBT. “When we start to talk, it's like they're retelling my story," Bangoura said. “So I see that we all have the same story.” Interviews were conducted in French and translated to English.  Editor's note: this is part two in a Public Health Post series about LGBT health in Senegal. Click here to read parts onethree, and four Image: Djamil Bangoura, courtesy of Association Prudence Facebook [post_title] => Djamil Bangoura [post_excerpt] => In part two of PHP's four-part series on LGBT health in Senegal, Nick interviews Djamil Bangoura, founder of Association Prudence, a LGBT health and human rights advocacy group based in Dakar. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => djamil-bangoura [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-22 12:15:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-22 17:15:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://www.publichealthpost.org/?post_type=bu_profile&p=479 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => bu_profile [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [view] => BUPHP_Post_View Object ( [multipage] => [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => BUPHP_Post Object *RECURSION* [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 ) [extra_args] => Array ( ) [owner] => [_trigger_error:WPLib_Base:private] => 1 )

In part two of PHP’s four-part series on LGBT health in Senegal, Nick interviews Djamil Bangoura, founder of Association Prudence, a LGBT health and human rights advocacy group based in Dakar.

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Chrysula Winegar

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                    [post_content] => Both motherhood and technology shaped Winegar’s 20-year marketing and communications career. She identified her own space online to raise the profile of mothers around the world. “This digital revolution and motherhood hit, and I fell in love with digital communications as the next iteration,” Winegar said. “In my career, I have been very lucky to have the progression of digital media map the growth of my career. When I started having my children, at the same time I was discovering all these women out there talking about their lives online.”

She not only professionally witnessed a revolution in ways to approach digital communications, but she also personally observed how mothers share stories online. Winegar’s blog, When You Wake Up a Mother…You Wake up the World, uses motherhood to connect with women around the world. She tackles issues diverse topics like pregnancy, race in America, family, and travel to Mozambique. Those early mom bloggers inspired her to take part in the conversation online.

“They didn’t know each other and would build these relationships that seem so normal now, but back then, it was really radical and in many ways quite a feminist act to dialogue about contemporary motherhood in such an open and transparent way.” She finds motherhood to be an experience that connects communities 10,000 miles apart. “This one experience that is pretty universal across cultures and socioeconomics, but you find that some of those cultural and socioeconomic factors make it that much harder for many women around the world, and so your heart and your head are really switched on to this idea of global motherhood and what it’s like to be a mother in different parts of the world,” Winegar said.

But Above All She Was a Communicator

Growing up in Australia, one of Winegar’s early inspirations was her aunt, a teacher in immigrant communities who was the first person in the family to receive a college degree. Winegar’s aunt taught English as a second language to the children of Vietnamese families migrating by boat to Australia in the 1980s. “I got to watch her with these communities and how she formed relationships with the children who had trauma or difficult experiences and were processing those experiences while they were trying to go to school after moving to a new country,” Winegar said.

This aunt taught Winegar the importance of using communication to engage with communities, especially mothers and children. “The entire Vietnamese community in Brisbane just fell in love with her and wrapped her up as she just loved on their kids and embraced their culture and learned to love their food,” Winegar said. “She was a teacher by profession, but above all she was a communicator.”

[caption id="attachment_405" align="alignright" width="200"]Chrysula Winegar Chrysula Winegar[/caption]

Using lessons learned from her aunt, Winegar landed her first communications job at a headhunting agency in Sydney and London. “That began my love for figuring out how to take a message and get it out there,” Winegar said. “But then I also have always been really interested in how the message resonates, how to tweak it, how to make it better, how to make it more compelling.”

The United Nation’s Best Friend

In July 2016, Winegar became the Senior Director for Communications & Special Initiatives and the Community Manager for Global Moms Challenge at the UN Foundation, which she calls “a private organization that operates like the UN’s best friend.” Her day-to-day activities are diverse: she interacts with partners including UN agencies, watches social media channels, works on the communications strategy, manages an editorial calendar, writes, makes phone calls, and meets colleagues at other UN agencies.

“Every day, I think about how the stories I tell lift up the work of the UN,” Winegar said. Her favorite part of the job is the people she works with at the UN Foundation and partners like UNICEF, UNFPA, Save the Children, 1,000 Days, and UNHCR. She sees how every colleague is motivated to make the world a better place. She also enjoys the opportunity to moderate panels and interview impressive people, such as Connie Britton, Dr. Nina Ansary, and Lonny Ali at the Social Good Summit 2016 (as seen in the featured image).

[caption id="attachment_407" align="aligncenter" width="640"]Winegar (left) with Erika Nicole Kendall and Rosie Pope. This, and the featured image, courtesy of the UN Foundation. Winegar (left) with Erika Nicole Kendall and Rosie Pope. This, and the featured image, courtesy of the UN Foundation.[/caption]

“I am incredibly excited to be living in a time where something like the Sustainable Development Goals exists,” Winegar said. “The fact that the United Nations has the wherewithal and energy and excitement to rally all 193 countries around a list of 17 goals that will solve for poverty and mitigate climate change and really, truly leave no one behind: that to me is why I get up every day and what gives me enormous joy and hope and excitement.”
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                    [post_excerpt] => Nick Diamond profiles Chrysula Winegar, Senior Director, Communications & Special Initiatives, at the United Nations Foundation. 
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Nick Diamond profiles Chrysula Winegar, Senior Director, Communications & Special Initiatives, at the United Nations Foundation.

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