Learning a language is, above all, a meaningful experiential and cultural opportunity. For students enrolled in Portuguese 2000 (Intermediate Portuguese) at York University, this past year provided the opportunity to learn about the Portuguese nation of Guinea-Bissau and the struggle for many children to access education and literacy.
Students spent several months engaged in a creative process to develop short stories that would be included in a book for children in Guinea-Bissau. They took into account a careful consideration of themes and illustrations that were both culturally and age appropriate, and also considered writing stories that focused on universal values and on reflections that have the potential to inspire change.
Professor Inês Cardoso, visiting scholar under an international protocol with the Camões I. P. (Portuguese and Luso-Brazilian Studies), developed and guided the students over several months. Students wrote in groups and used the online platform Storybird to develop their stories. The recipients of the book are young students in the village and school of Bissalanca in the Portuguese African nation of Guinea-Bissau, a region that struggles with systemic issues of underdevelopment, poverty and illiteracy. With their book, the students from York were able to contribute to building library resources for the children in need.
Project partners abroad were Professor Giselle Rodrigues Ribeiro, who leads the project “Leituras do Contemporâneo”- UNILAB (São Francisco do Conde – Bahia – Brazil), and her students João Eusebio Imbatene, Marcos Nunes Junior e Segunda Cá, as well as Abdulai Sila, a Guinean writer.
Together, they highlighted the humanistic spirit and the solidarity of the initiative that allowed for a liaison between the students who created the stories and the readers who received them, but also between countries and cultures, while acknowledging diversity and cultural sensitivity.