As the team settles in and starts getting to work in Kukuo, it’s time to get to know them a little bit better.
Naduah Wheeler is a graduate of the University of Oregon with a degree in English and a minor in women and gender studies. She combined these two academic interests into an honor’s thesis, which examined the reclamation of Native American women’s gender, sexuality, and eroticism in poetry. In addition to her academic pursuits, she spent her four years in university working on gender-based violence education and prevention, including being a founding member of the Organization Against Sexual Assault, an organization that works with administrative staff to analyze and improve sexual assault prevention and education measures on campus. She also volunteered with animals, worked on grassroots fundraising and organizing for a variety of causes, and was part of a community-centered student cooperative. Within the classroom, she actively redirected conversations toward marginalized communities, helping to cement a lifelong dedication toward defending marginalized and oppressed voices.
While in university she worked as an Alternative Text Specialist, converting books into readable text documents and audio files for students with visual impairment and cognitive disabilities. After graduation, she began to seek out career opportunities that would enable her to travel and pursue her personal and academic interests. She accepted a position teaching English in Macau, a special administrative region of China, where she worked for a year before applying to the Humanist Service Corps. She was attracted to the Humanist Service Corps because of its combination of women’s rights activism, travel, and community building.
When not thinking about dismantling oppressive power structures, Naduah is an enthusiastic reader, film-watcher and chocolate-eater. She also has a creepily extensive knowledge of cats and Nicki Minaj.
If I offer you awe and hold you in high regard
Move to heal the wounds of centuries injuries done
Open up the self, and show me naked, no facade;
Will you come to hold me as your long lost son
Christian Hayden, a Brooklyn native and Philadelphia transplant, is the self-ascribed Ethical Humanist on the team. His involvement in Ethical Culture for the last two years has formed his religious approach to humanism, essentially providing the frame with which he will engage (and write about) his Humanist Service Corps experience. While Ethical Culture provides the frame of his outlook on humanism and intercultural exchange, service to youth in Philadelphia and New York supplied the inspiration to continue to search and commune with global communities.
After college, experiences, with African and Caribbean college classmates (and not all positive), pushed him to further realize what Pan-Africanism might mean to present and future descendants of the diaspora. Pan Africanism, an idea rooted in the writings of W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, one that touches on the connectedness of people across the diaspora in Europe, the Americas, and Africa still moves and inspires Christian. It became Christian’s suspicion that the highest realization of this idea could only come through shared experiences of people of color and intentionality toward sharing and solving the issues they face in their unique and individual spaces. This led him to working with Liberians in Parkhill, Staten Island, losing a dreadlock in the process, to dancing and eating with high students in Southwest Philadelphia. Through those experiences, he attempted to fill the void he felt growing up in an immigrant community on the edge on Brooklyn, and receiving a predominantly white private school education from secondary to college. For Christian, Ghana presents important existential and cultural questions: What does being black and American mean in Ghana? What is an ethical way of forming relationships across the diaspora? What can I bring to the humanist community in Ghana? What can I bring back to humanism in the U.S.? How does one transcend an outsider identity to an identity that is enmeshed in community? Is it possible?
Christian graduated from the College of Wooster in Ohio in 2009, with a major in Urban Studies and minor in Africana Studies. He served three years in Americorps in domestic service and has worked in community engagement and youth in Philadelphia for the past five years. He also uses Hip Hop Sanctuary, a meditative reflection using hip hop, to engage communities and youth in dialogue in response to deep inquiry that guides our lives as humans, surveying faith, community, and what piece means. As a member of the Ethical Humanist Society, and Future of Ethical Societies, he has planned conferences, service, and held education events exploring humanism. He looks forward to having a career, or life, which involves interfaith work, as well as addressing trauma in communities. He is an avid hip hop fan, novice cyclist, and somewhat of a poet. He looks forward to sharing some of his poetry, as well as the progress he makes searching for answers to his questions.
Matan Gold dances to Mariah Carey in his boxers. Whilst reading Bolano’s 2666 he made sure to read it in public, letting those in the near vicinity know that he is the type of man to emphasize international writing. Though he does not like anagrams, he finds plums delicious. He looks something like Toro y Moi. He plays Fifa aggressively. He still does not understand gerunds.
He studied writing at Brandeis U, which he attended partly due to the fact that Angela Davis was once a student. At Brandeis, Davis discovered a love for Albert Camus. It was Camus that got first got Matan interested in humanism, particularly the evolution displayed from The Stranger to The Fall.
Matan’s favorite Bowie song is Modern Love and is fairly unapologetic about this. He cannot understand why bell hooks and Octavia Butler remain under read. He has conflicting feels about homesteading. He slightly regrets playing high-school football. He has seen every episode of Boy Meets World and Dragon Ball Z and would love to find a way to combine the two.
He grew up in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. He has only recently learned to love it. The majority of his volunteer experience has been working with homeless and disenfranchised youth in Los Angeles. His Spanish is poor and viejas let him know this often. He is concerned about the representation of writers of color and the people they write about.
It is an honor for him to be a part of the Humanist Service Corps. He looks forward to the work this year supporting Songtaba and feels this team has an opportunity to do incredible, meaningful work.
Rebecca Czekalski is a registered nurse and teacher. She has taught in the science department of a dual language international high school in South Korea for the last five years. During that time, she has co-authored the school’s AP Biology and AP Chemistry curricula, collaborated on science- and English-themed camps for Korean elementary schools, and launched an annual science fair for her students. Before moving to Korea, Rebecca was a registered nurse for eight years, specializing in cardiac nursing, and was a travel nurse for two years. Rebecca’s interests in other cultures and serving people have made her time in Korea rewarding both personally and professionally and she looks forward to continuing her journey in Ghana.
Rebecca has been a secular humanist for three years, having previously been a Christian of fundamentalist origin. Rebecca is the third daughter of a Quiverfull family in the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement. Her father was a pastor and she spent her childhood serving people at church. For those unfamiliar with this particular subculture of American Christianity, it is a very strict Baptist sect, with a fundamentalist and literalist interpretation of the Bible, which tends to be rather isolated. Quiverfull families, while not always Independent Fundamental Baptist affiliated, believe in having as many children as possible, often leading to very large families. Rebecca’s family had nine children. Rebecca is a homeschool alumna. This unique background taught her to value the experiences, opinions, lives, culture, and customs of everyone she meets.
Joining the Humanist Service Corps inaugural team appealed to Rebecca because she wanted to learn more about Ghanaian culture while working with Songtaba to improve the living standards and support the communities forming in the camps for alleged witches of northern Ghana. She is excited to explore the possibility of performing international aid in a responsible and culturally respectful manner.
Stay tuned for the next post, written by one team member, that will get into depth about the work they are doing.