Dr. Natalie Hahn, interviewing rural Nigerian woman about dawa dawa, a local food that was being enriched with soybeans.
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, Ibadan Nigeria. Artist, Dorothy Hayes, 1988. Detail.
Dr. Natalie Hahn received an honorary chieftaincy title by the Yoruba Nation as the Balogun Iyalaje, translated as the "women who brings empowerment to others". The title was awarded for her work with colleagues at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, IITA, in introducing new food crops, particularly soybeans, to thousands of rural women.
As a fortunate Nebraskan with a 4-H and farm family background and a thirty-eight year career with the United Nations, primarily in Africa, I owe my home state a great deal with a rich heritage and privileged opportunities. On many occasions, my journalistic mother, Grayce Hahn Burney, and I visited many Nebraska schools and we found that most of the students had limited knowledge of world events, geography and cultures. The idea hit—an opportunity to provide information on global resources and fellowships for students and faculty throughout the state. Thus, the Malaika Foundation was founded in 1994. Malaika means “my angel” in Swahili, the primary language of Kenya and Tanzania.
During the past 26 years and in close collaboration with the Nebraska Department of Education, Malaika has assisted in organizing symposia, from Omaha to Scottsbluff on Bringing the World to Your Classroom, for approximately 3,800 teachers and students. Sixty-eight global fellowships have been awarded for travel to 28 countries on five continents with funding from Fund for Teachers, www.fundforteachers.org and Kenneth Morrison, an international agricultural entrepreneur from Hastings, NE. An African Celebration and Art Auction, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, 2010, raised $100,000 for global fellowships and the Gala to Support Global Education, 2013, was organized by students in the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. African art, including paintings, carvings and masks were sold at both events with African music, fashion and food. The Malaika Foundation Board of Directors has provided excellent guidance with the leadership of chairman, Dr. Douglas Christensen, Emeritus Commissioner of Education-Nebraska. Malaika Ambassadors have been appointed in eight Nebraska Colleges and Universities and assist in acquainting fellow teachers and students of global travel and educational resources.
The Malaika focus has been enhanced with a shift in ensuring that Nebraska’s history must also be understood and recognized. As Dr. Robert Manley, a Nebraska Historian and teacher of mine at the University of Nebraska, so wisely advised, “you must know Nebraska before you can know the world”. Being a global ambassador requires an understanding of Nebraska heritage and family history.
In 2019 and 2020, sixty -one items of African and Central American art has been donated by Malaika to Nebraska colleges, universities and libraries and to honor outstanding global educators. In collaboration with the Metropolitan Community College, a North Omaha African Art Corridor is being organized.
Our goal is preparing Nebraska’s students to be global citizens and ensuring the opportunity to experience other cultures while understanding and building upon Nebraska’s heritage.
Natalie D. Hahn
Dr. Natalie Hahn is a native af Polk, Nebraska and now lives in Central City and Lincoln, Nebraska.