Aiding world’s refugees

Whether escaping political tyranny, extremist militant groups or severe poverty, more than 60 million people around the world are living in some sort of refugee camp.

One UDM professor is doing his part to change in those numbers for the better.

Jeffe Boats, chair of the department of mathematics, designed an online algebra course for JC:HEM, a Jesuit organization geared toward providing higher education to people in need.

The course that Boats designed is part of a program that would allow those living in refugee camps to earn the equivalent of an associate degree.

“These people come from conditions unfathomable to anyone here,” Boats said. “This program is designed to create leaders within their communities. Once they transition out of these Jesuit camps and back into society, they will have an education they can continue to build on.”

JC:HEM partners with Jesuit refugee camps all over the world.

The organization provides computers and basic Internet access, and recruits professors from Jesuit universities across the United States to design computer courses and programs to offer camp residents.

“I got involved with this about 18 months ago,” Boats said. “It has definitely been a challenge, but knowing the good that will come from it makes it all worthwhile.”

Boats emphasized the fact that he is just a small part in a much greater movement.

However, Boats’ peers at UDM praise him for his devotion.

“My initial thought was that Jeffe is living the mission of the university,” said Pam Zarkowski, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “It’s special that he did this on his own time. He’s serving the global community like the Jesuits and Mercys preach.”

Boats spent an extensive amount of time designing this course. He worked with an educational psychologist, web designers, a professional film crew and disability-compliance experts.

While JC:HEM distributes materials only in areas with a Jesuit presence, Boats has confidence that the practicality of the courses will help the information spread.

“The course was designed to be simple to understand through real-life applications,” Boats said. “Once someone completes a course, they will then be able to teach what they learned to others and so on.”

While Boats has finished his work on this course, he said that he would love the opportunity to do more work with Jesuit organization.

“It’s nice to know you’re having a good impact,” Boats said. “With this, you don’t have to worry if what you’re doing is helpful, you know it is.”