In a brilliant move, Penn Museum hires refugees as guides to exhibits from their homelands

Imagine walking through a museum exhibit from the Middle East with a personal guide from that region explaining the artifacts. Imagine having the same experience as you move through galleries from different parts of the world, each time with a docent from that region who lends a personal touch by sharing first-hand perspectives.


That's the basis of Penn Museum's Global Guides program, which hires docents (the people who explain exhibits and show people around the galleries) from the regions being showcased. It's a brilliantly simple concept—a museum staff that is culturally representative of the artifacts it houses—but one that has not often been implemented. That may be one reason the program has taken off with great success.

Another reason may be because the docents the museum has hired come from the refugee and immigrant community—a win-win situation for both the people serving and the people being served.

According to NPR, Ellen Owens, director of learning and public engagement at Philadelphia's Penn Museum, noted that most of the museum's docents were aging. They were also mostly white. Owens thought that creating a more diverse group of docent might help the museum connect with more communities.

The museum is known for its collections from the Middle East, Africa, and Central America—regions that make up a large part of the global refugee community. So Owen and her colleague, Kevin Schott, decided to reach out to non-profit organizations serving refugees and immigrants to recruit new docents.

The Global Guides are trained in archaeology and ancient history and are able to share some of their personal stories with the people they guide through the exhibits. That personal touch makes all the difference.

"We really wanted to have the narratives of lots of different people, to bring the authentic voices of people that live in other places into the galleries of the museum," Owens told NPR.

For example, Clay Katongo fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo 33 years ago and now serves as a pastor in a West Philadelphia evangelical church. As a new Global Guide, he enjoys sharing African religious artifacts predating Christianity with museum-goers.

"I love this place," Katongo told NPR. "This is my culture. This is my story."

The Global Guides is truly a mutually beneficial program. "One of the big goals of this project was actually to provide jobs for people that are immigrants and refugees," Owens told NPR. Guides work part-time and are paid about $20 an hour. The Barra Foundation grant that funds them also helps them navigate employment details, such as filling out tax forms and going through HR procedures.

The museum, in turn, not only gets first-hand accounts from the areas of the world it's showcasing, but the new docents have also proved invaluable in helping to translate documents and helping with on-the-ground research.

Attendance at the museum has skyrocketed since the Global Guides program was implemented, with a third of visitors coming specifically because of it. Other museums around the world have begun implementing similar programs as well.

Well done, Penn Museum. Thank you for leading the way.

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In the last 20 years, the internet has become almost as essential as water or air. Every day, many of us wake up and check it for the news, sports, work, and social media. We log on from our phones, our computers, even our watches. It's a luxury so often taken for granted. With the COVID-19 pandemic, as many now work from home and children are going to school online, home access is a more critical service than ever before.

On the flip side, some 3.6 billion people live without affordable access to the internet. This digital divide — which has only widened over the past 20 years — has worsened wealth inequality within countries, divided developed and developing economies and intensified the global gender gap. It has allowed new billionaires to rise, and contributed to keeping billions of others in poverty.

In the US, lack of internet access at home prevents nearly one in five teens from finishing their homework. One third of households with school-age children and income below $30,000 don't have internet in their homes, with Black and Hispanic households particularly affected.

The United Nations is working to highlight the costs of the digital divide and to rapidly close it. In September 2019, for example, the UN's International Telecommunication Union and UNICEF launched Giga, an initiative aimed at connecting every school and every child to the internet by 2030.

Closing digital inequity gaps also remains a top priority for the UN Secretary-General. His office recently released a new Roadmap for Digital Cooperation. The UN Foundation has been supporting both this work, and the High Level Panel on Digital Cooperation co-chaired by Melinda Gates and Jack Ma, which made a series of recommendations to ensure all people are connected, respected, and protected in the digital age. Civil society, technologists and communications companies, such as Verizon, played a critical role in informing those consultations. In addition, the UN Foundation houses the Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL), which advances digital inclusion through streamlining technology, unlocking markets and accelerating digitally enabled services as it works to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

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We're more than nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic and things are only getting worse. On Wednesday, December 2, America had its deadliest day yet with nearly 3,000 people succumbing to the virus.

America is experiencing its greatest public health crisis in generations and the only way we're getting out of it is by widespread administration of a vaccine.

However, if people don't take the vaccine, there will be no end to this horror story.

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This year, we've all experienced a little more stress and anxiety. This is especially true for youth facing homelessness, like Megan and Lionel. Enter Covenant House, an international organization that helps transform and save the lives of more than a million homeless, runaway, and trafficked young people.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is Delivering Smiles this holiday season by donating essential items and fulfilling AmazonSmile Charity Lists for organizations, like Covenant House, that have been impacted this year more than ever. Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a charity of your choice or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your selected charity.

Sometimes it seems like social media is too full of trolls and misinformation to justify its continued existence, but then something comes along that makes it all worth it.

Apparently, a song many of us have never heard of shot to the top of the charts in Italy in 1972 for the most intriguing reason. The song, written and performed by Adriano Celentano and is called "Prisencolinensinainciusol" which means...well, nothing. It's gibberish. In fact, the entire song is nonsense lyrics made to sound like English, and oddly, it does.

Occasionally, you can hear what sounds like a real word or phrase here and there—"eyes" and "color balls died" and "alright" a few times, for example—but it mostly just sounds like English without actually being English. It's like an auditory illusion and it does some super trippy things to your brain to listen to it.

Plus the video someone shared to go with it is fantastic. It's gone crazy viral because how could it not.

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With vaccine rollouts for the novel coronavirus on the horizon, humanity is getting its first ray of hope for a return to normalcy in 2021. That normalcy, however, will depend on enough people's willingness to get the vaccine to achieve some level of herd immunity. While some people are ready to jump in line immediately for the vaccine, others are reticent to get the shots.

Hesitancy runs the gamut from outright anti-vaxxers to people who trust the time-tested vaccines we already have but are unsure about these new ones. Scientists have tried to educate the public about the development of the new mRNA vaccines and why they feel confident in their safety, but getting that information through the noise of hot takes and misinformation is tricky.

To help increase the public's confidence in taking the vaccine, three former presidents have volunteered to get their shots on camera. President George W. Bush initially reached out to Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to ask how he could help promote a vaccine once it's approved. Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton have both stated that they will take the vaccine if it is approved and will do so publicly if it will help more people feel comfortable taking it. CNN says it has also reached out to President Jimmy Carter to see if he is on board with the idea as well.

A big part of responsible leadership is setting an example. Though these presidents are no longer in the position of power they once held, they are in a position of influence and have offered to use that influence for the greater good.

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