January 30, 2012 | Matt Kucinski

Calvin College's seventh-annual, student-run Faith and International Development Conference (FIDC) focuses on dialogue around best practices.

Calvin College's seventh-annual, student-run Faith and International Development Conference (FIDC) is strongly emphasizing dialogue—dialogue around best practices, when in comes to international development. The conference runs Thursday through Saturday, February 2-4, and attracts students from colleges across the country and abroad.

The 2012 conference is themed: “Yearning for justice, Learning in love: A dialogue on fear and hope.” Student organizers say that the speakers will talk about learning from mistakes when it comes to international development.

“We’re not just sugarcoating international development,” said Sarah Clark, a senior sociology and international development major who is helping to organize the conference. “There are mistakes we’ve made in the past … I want to raise these issues, not just accept them blindly.”

Shaping experiences

Clark has seen and heard about some of those mistakes firsthand. During her time at Calvin she has spent time in both Kenya and Thailand. In Kenya, she recalled the people talking about how a water pump an NGO had provided for their village wouldn’t work for hot water, which was the only clean water they could obtain with a volcano nearby. And in Thailand, people associated development with their land being taken away.

“What struck me was the idea of development being questioned,” said Clark. “My idea of development was challenged … I felt conflicted about how faith played into development.”

So Clark and conference co-organizer Jeffrey Bloem are helping provide a venue for like-minded adults to wrestle with these issues.

The conference features a solid lineup of plenary speakers, including, among others, Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, the founder of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in Uganda, which provides free education to children who have lost one or both parents to AIDS; and Shane Gilbert, founder and executive director of ‘Come, Let’s Dance,’ a grassroots organization geared toward getting to the root of the orphan cycle and creating sustainable community development by empowering the local leaders of the community.

The conference also provides dozens of breakout sessions for attendees to discuss issues surrounding international development and several opportunities for spiritual reflection.

For more info and to register for the conference, visit http://www.calvin.edu/academic/ids/conference or contact the FIDC office at 616-526-8917.

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