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OC to Present Rwandan Programs at UN

Tuesday, April 15, 2008   (0 Comments)
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Dr. Mike O’Neal, president of Oklahoma Christian University (OC), and Dr. Nathan Mellor, Executive Director of the Academy of Leadership & Liberty at OC, will present the university’s nation-building efforts in Rwanda at the United Nations on April 18.

O’Neal will be testifying at the VIII Infopoverty World Conference: “Low Cost-Smart Technologies to Fight Poverty and Save the Planet.” Infopoverty seeks to fight poverty through the innovative use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). It provides broadband services such as telemedicine, e-learning, e-government and other services to disadvantaged communities. The purpose of the conference is to help alleviate poverty through information and communication technologies. It was organized by the Observatory for Cultural and Audiovisual Communication and other organizations including the Secretariat of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development under the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The Conference program at which OC will present is moderated by Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Oklahoma Christian has been heavily involved in assisting Rwanda since 2003 when OC Trustee Richard Lawson and his wife, Pat, O’Neal and his wife, Nancy, traveled to Rwanda at the invitation of President Paul Kagame. Since that visit, four major initiatives have emerged.

Following President Kagame’s visit to the OC campus in 2006, Oklahoma Christian and the government of Rwanda partnered to bring some of Rwanda’s brightest students to the OC campus to study electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering and mathematical, computer and information sciences. Ten students per year are selected from the top 24 scorers on a national high school exam to attend Oklahoma Christian on scholarship. Currently, there are 20 students on campus and that number will increase by 10 every year until there is a total of 40 on campus. All students agree to return to Rwanda upon the completion of their studies.

Another Rwandan initiative, The Peace Through Business program, was launched last year in Afghanistan by the Institute for the Economic Empowerment of Women (IEEW). The Rwandan program will begin with the preliminary training of 30 women. After the first phase, the 30 women will be narrowed down to 15 finalists who will then travel to Oklahoma Christian in July. While the women are here, they will go through three weeks of in-class work that includes training in economic theory, management techniques, development of a strategic business plan and leadership. The women will then spend a week shadowing successful American business women.

A third program, the Rwanda Outreach & Community Foundation (ROC) was begun by a group of visionaries, led by O’Neal, who sought to help Rwanda realize its Vision 2020 education goals. Projects include the ROC Educational Center that provides lectures, conferences, workshops and training to Rwandans, a partnership with the Kigali International Community School (KICS), and a new community library.

The fourth initiative seeks to increase access to clean water in less advanced countries. Ten times as many people die each year from diseases related to unclean water than are killed by all the wars around the world combined. In Ethiopia, for example, less than one-fourth of the population has access to clean water and, in the rural areas, only 11 percent can obtain clean water. A group of Oklahoma Christian students decided to do something about that.

Led by Ryan Groves, Jason Harvey, Whitney Parker and other OC students, they have created a chapter of Wishing Well to raise money through art shows, prayer nights and concerts to build water wells in several African nations. In less than a year, OC’s group has raised more than $35,000 and has funded the construction of two wells, one in Kenya and one in Gambia, with two more on the way. Wells are planned for Rwanda, southern Ethiopia, and for an orphanage and hospital in Nhowe, Zimbabwe.

O’Neal said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to share the impact a small university can have in blessing the lives of people in far away places and making the world a better place for us today and for our children. It will also provide an opportunity to meet with organizations and individuals who are interested in partnering with Oklahoma Christian financially or collaborating to extend the reach of these programs. These four initiatives require considerable resources, and we would welcome the help of anyone who would like to make a difference in our world.”

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