A 10-month project in South Africa will give Wilson Majee a chance to pay forward some of the opportunities he received as a poor child in Zimbabwe.
Majee, an associate professor in the University of Missouri School of Health Professions, is the recipient of a federal grant from the United States Fulbright Program.
The grant amount is $72,950.
Majee's struggles as a youth motivated him to get an education to emerge from poverty, he said.
His brother and others helped him get a university education. Now he wants to help others in his situation.
"I would say a hopeless way of thinking can be frustrating as a young person," Majee said.
Getting an education and a good job is a way to emerge from the hopelessness, he said.
"We need to find ways to create opportunities for young people to get an education and job training," he said.
He will conduct community engagement research to boost community development initiatives for young people.
"The voices of the community members have to be a part of the solution," Majee said.
There needs to be buy-in from community members for programs to succeed, he said.
In a 2019 study Majee authored, his research found strong mentorship programs can help connect vulnerable youth with opportunities and resources to improve their lives.
A lack of higher education and employment opportunities compound challenges for disengaged youth in rural areas, found a 2021 study he wrote.
His research has included rural poverty in both Africa and the United States. Before joining the MU faculty, he worked in rural northwest Missouri for four years with MU Extension.
“With my rural background, I was not shy while working for MU Extension in very resource-limited communities. Whether it is rural Missouri, rural Zimbabwe or rural South Africa, poverty is poverty, and I have seen the struggles many rural communities face firsthand,” he said.
He previously developed a relationship with officials at Kouga Wind Farm, and that will be expanded during his time in the country, he said.
"They invited us to do a two-day workshop for the youth and community to try to understand the challenges the youth are facing and the possible innovations the youth can accomplish," Majee said.
He's looking forward to getting started and making a difference in young peoples' lives, he said.
"I'm very excited to go to South Africa," he said.
Roger McKinney is the education reporter for the Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com or 573-815-1719. He's on Twitter at @rmckinney9.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: MU professor Wilson Majee to visit South Africa on grant project