Hollyn Green

Following an unexpected return to the Pioneer Valley after 14 years, I revived connections with long lost friends/colleagues.  With a bit of friendly pressure (read DRE), I’m taking a moment to sashay down memory lane and reconnect with the CIE community.


This January was my 71th birthday.  From this vantage point, I can detect patterns throughout phases of activity that were built upon the tenets of doctoral studies.  For me, the fertile groundwork for learning was first laid in mid-1980’s, when I stumbled naively into Turkey as a program developer but instead slammed into a human crisis of refugees fleeing the Iran/Iraq war.  With start-up funds from the World Council of Churches, I initiated a multi-service program.  This was my first immersion into trauma of such a scale.  Over three years, I and my team, provided hands-on support while, at the same time, my worldview was thrown off kilter too many times to count. 


By late 1989, as an exhausted service provider, I sought refuge in the UMass doctoral program.  It was in this context that I started the mental process I came to know of as Freire’s “action/reflection”.  Over the course of five years, I honed my haphazard crisis experiences into a dissertation, advocating that refugee transition offered a unique educational opportunity for women.


In early 1995, a position with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) caught my and Mainus Sultan’s (my spouse) attention.  That spring, Team Green/Sultan was hired and we packed up home and our 1-year old daughter to take on the roles of Co-Country Directors in the Lao PDR.  For the next five years, this elegant country provided us a platform for Freirean “praxis”, guiding self-sufficiency initiatives in rural, ethnic minority communities. 


By late 2000, we headed back to the States and again engaged with the CIE community, this time for Sultan’s educational/work pursuits.  I took on the role of Executive Director of The Literacy Project and immersed myself in a crash course of “development” in the rural setting of western MA. 


By late 2005, we had wrapped up our U.S. tasks and I took another opportunity to support AFSC’s work, this time as the Quaker International Affairs Representative in Southern Africa.  Our family headed to Pretoria where we greatly enjoyed three years of engaging with – and learning from – activists throughout the region. 


By 2008, the financial crisis collapsed much of the funding sources for NGOs and, rather than take a transfer, I applied to be a Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State.  This position provided me a surprising platform to test action/reflection, this time as an “inside” agitator.


My first post was Mexico City where I put in my dues on the visa line and American Services.  (Mexico, by the way, is where Americans go to “freak out”.)  Before the end of my tour, unfortunately, our daughter became ill (fully recovered) and I was reassigned as a Press Officer in the Africa Bureau/D.C. with a portfolio to brief the Press Secretary on events in (eeks!) 39 countries.  Thankfully, this tour ended without a major catastrophe and in 2014, Sultan and I escaped D.C. for a three-year tour in Sierra Leone.


This experience was truly pivotal.  We arrived August, 2014 and by September the CDC had declared an Ebola outbreak across three countries of West Africa.  All “non-essential” personnel at the Embassy were evacuated and the few of us remaining joined forces with the national government, multiple embassies, NGOs and CDCs to “throw the kitchen sink” at the virus outbreak.   After a nail-biting two years, the virus was declared contained.  For the remainder of my tour, I facilitated programs to rebuild battered communities.


In September 2017, Mandatory Retirement age loomed and we departed to Savannah, GA., where we now share our lives with our daughter, Kajori Sultan, who excels as a fashionista and professional photographer. 


After many years of applying the tenets of the Freirean philosophy, I would hope that the reflection/action/reflection methodology is ingrained in my work.  In this fascinating and dynamic town, I work as the recruiter, interviewer and trainer for CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) which matches supportive adults with children living in foster care.  I have a front-row seat to learn from local social activists.  For this displaced northerner, I deeply appreciate that Savannah, the state of Georgia and neighboring arenas are richly packed in lessons from the stalwarts of social change, prompting endless opportunities for reflection…and action. [1-23]


Email: HollynJG@gmail.com


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