ASU and the global good
ASU Web Devil
March 5, 2008


by Jordan Wendt


"I've noticed a change in my students over the last ten years. Now, when I ask my freshman students what they want to do, they say they want to help the world," engineering professor Mark Henderson says. "I am encouraged by their altruism."

Amidst unproductive Facebook groups and swarms of pamphlet-toting activists, some organizations at ASU are quietly and creatively meeting needs on local and global levels.

Henderson is a founding member of Global Resolve, an interdisciplinary program that allows students to work on a semester-long project to improve the lives of underprivileged people across the world.

Henderson says the goal is to come up with "sustainable and reproducible" solutions. For example, rather than just giving food to an impoverished village, the group introduces a new crop and teaches the villagers how to grow it themselves.

Global Resolve sent a small team of ASU students and faculty on an eight-day trip to Ghana over winter break. The group taught Ghanaians from a village called Domeabra how to distill ethanol from corn to make a safer cooking fuel. The indoor pollution from the coal- and wood-powered stoves they had previously used had caused young children to get sick and even die. The Global Resolve team showed the villagers how to set up distilleries and use calcium acetate to change the fuel to a non-spill gel form.

As a result, the villagers cut back on hours spent looking for wood to cook with, there is a lower health risk because there are no harmful fumes, and they can make excess gel to sell. All of this stimulates the economy, Henderson says.

In another village called Biemso, villagers grow jatropha, a small and previously unused plant, in mass amounts for biofuel. Global Resolve partnered with Ghanaian graduate student George Rockson, who received an $80,000 grant from the UN, to develop the project. The village already has a contract to sell the fuel to Germany, where there is a 10 percent non-petroleum fuel rule, Henderson says.

Both of these projects are still developing and Global Resolve will continue to guide them throughout the year.

Dan Killoren, a Ph.D. history student who helps lead the Ghana Initiative, is a testament to the interdisciplinary nature of the project.

"The fact that I can go on a trip like this with a background in history and still be useful, demonstrates the point that it isn't just the technical people that are needed. It takes people who think about the world differently," Killoren says.

"Global Resolve gives students a chance to apply their knowledge in a real world setting," he says.

While Global Resolve has been concentrating mainly on the community abroad, another organization, Community Outreach and Advocacy for Refugees (COAR) focuses on an international community of refugees within Arizona.

Refugees, defined by the UN as persons fleeing their country due to persecution because of race, religion, nationality or political opinion, populate Arizona by the thousands.

COAR, which was first known as Refugee Resettlement Volunteers, began in 2002 when Cambodian refugee and then-ASU student Sambo Dul wanted to help refugees acclimate to life in America. Dul was inspired by her own family's struggle to adapt to American life. By 2005, COAR was officially a nonprofit organization.

"Seventy percent of all refugees come from a refugee camp," COAR director and 2007 ASU graduate Cara Kiggins says. "You can imagine the shock of coming from a refugee camp and just being plopped into American society."

The Volunteer Anchor Program, which is one of COAR's three programs, is geared toward mentoring a family on how to be self-sufficient.

Kiggins says federal agencies provide useful things like employment counseling, but can't provide the much-needed mentorship and emotional support.

Kiggins says there are plenty of ways to help refugees.

"You can help them learn English, take them to the library, go to the parks or take a hike on South Mountain," she says. "Explain to them why there are 300 brands of cheese in the grocery store."

Although slogans like "You can make a difference!" may seem shallow to some, there are still plenty of ways to do just that on campus.

To learn more about these two organizations, visit or send an e-mail to