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2015 Winter Magazine

The student becomes A professor emeritus draws on a trusted former student for guidance as they work together to change the world. It’s 4 a.m. and still dark in Port Loko, and families channel their resourcefulness in a positive direction. She Sierra Leone, as Mr. Jo-elle draws the is also an affiliate of the Harvard Center on the Developing Child day’s water from the compound well. “Ow and an associate scientist in the Department of Child and Adolescent di bodi? ” (“How are you?”), he calls softly Psychiatry at Children’s Hospital in Boston. She was named the to a young boy building a fire nearby. Linfield College alumna of the year in 2013. For Joel Marrant, known to his Kindred spirits from the start, Marrant and Betancourt have remained in touch since Betancourt served as Marrant’s student students as “Mr. Jo-elle,” days begin in research assistant at Linfield. the middle of the night before the harsh “He and I have always shared a passion and respect for diverse Joel Marrant and Theresa African heat moves in. Soon, the school (Stichick) Betancourt ’91 cultures and social justice,” she said. “His perspectives have been compound will stir with 900 high school very influential in my own work on children and families facing students, half of whom live on site. Teachers, some volunteers like adversity due to violence and the vestiges of HIV/AIDS. Marrant, will review lesson plans over morning tea and begin the “I knew that his kindness and approachable teaching rituals of the day – all to educate youth in the war-ravaged country. style would be a tremendous benefit to the very earnest and Facilities are minimal, with only two hours of electricity and one meal hardworking students enrolled in the EducAid program. He is served daily, usually white rice and sauce. Marrant shares a room loved by everyone there and was able to gain insights into the with large insects and whiskered critters. culture and daily life of Sierra Leone as well as make tremendous “Nobody really turns on the flashlight at night because if you contributions.” did you’d see spiders the size of your hand,” Marrant explains. Like the best teacher-student relationships, theirs is built For five months last year, this was the routine for Marrant, on shared principles and trust. As a student, Betancourt said professor emeritus of anthropology, who volunteered for EducAid, Marrant respected her values and opinions with “tremendous a network of nine free schools in Sierra Leone providing education, humility,” and she echoes techniques learned from Marrant in her own teaching at Harvard. board and lodging to poor and war-affected youth. He taught English “I never felt that we had a very hierarchical relationship,” she and advised students, but his main task was giving hope. said. “We both had a lot to learn from each other.” To get here, after 29 years of teaching at Linfield, he turned to a Marrant describes Betancourt as “brilliant” and one of his former student. top students. A “My hope was that she would go into some field to make the s a Linfield freshman, Theresa (Stichick) Betancourt ’91 world a better place, and she did,” he said. put her trust in Marrant as he led her through the Marrant is no stranger to living in other cultures. Before challenges of her first year of college. Two decades retiring in 2007, his research included an ethnographic study of later, she returned the favor when a retired Marrant a Romanian village, where he lived for extended periods. Still, asked about volunteer opportunities. this experience in Sierra Leone included a number of “firsts” for “I put my trust in Theresa knowing me well enough to be Marrant -- his first time to Africa, his first time working with an able to identify where I could do some good,” Marrant recalls. NGO, his first time teaching high school students. “And it’s been one of the most important choices I could make. In 2013, Sierra Leone was named the most corrupt I’m deeply in Theresa’s debt for giving me the opportunity.” nation in the world, but students want to change this. Betancourt, director of the Research Program on Children Marrant helped them found Future Leaders of Sierra and Global Adversity at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Leone Against Corruption. The program is an ethical Harvard University, works with former child soldiers, AIDS orphans lifetime commitment to counter corruption in the country. and refugees documenting factors contributing to risk and resilience So far, more than 2,000 youth have heard the message. in the lives of vulnerable children. She’s studying how some children “The Ebola outbreak has thrown everything into chaos, Joel Marrant, professor emeritus of anthropology, spent five months teaching students in Sierra Leone last year as a volunteer for EducAid. The experience resulted, in part, from his friendship with former student Theresa (Stichick) Betancourt ’91, now a professor at Harvard. The two share a passion for social justice. 1 8 - l i n f i e l d m a g a z i n e Winter 2015


2015 Winter Magazine
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