Tuesdays with Akifa

Duke senior, Claudia LaRose, smiling
Duke undergraduate Claudia LaRose smiling while sitting on rocks in Petra



How a service-learning class sparked an unexpected friendship.

Duke undergraduate Claudia LaRose smiling while sitting on rocks in Petra
Duke senior, Claudia LaRose, smiling

When Claudia LaRose, ’20, applied to the Ethics, Leadership, and Global Citizenship FOCUS cluster before her first year at Duke, she had no idea the program would lead to a years-long friendship with a Sudanese woman named Akifa.*

As part of the program, Claudia enrolled in a service-learning class called Refugee Rights and Resettlement, where the students met every Tuesday night with local refugee women from the area.

At the beginning of the class, Claudia was partnered with Akifa, a young Sudanese woman. It was both Akifa’s and Claudia’s first fall in Durham, so the two immediately had something in common.

“Officially, my role is to help her improve her English, but it’s really more about helping her form a community and acting as a support system to help her navigate a new environment,” says Claudia.

Since beginning to work with Akifa nearly three years ago, Claudia has continued to meet with her weekly. “I’ve been with her throughout my whole time at Duke and it’s been one of my most formative experiences. I know every Tuesday night is Tuesday night with Akifa.”

Over the years, Claudia has seen significant changes—both in Akifa’s life and in her own. After studying together for weeks on end, Akifa passed her citizenship test and was recently able to get a part-time job. “It’s a really big deal for her,” says Claudia. “Now she feels as if she’s able to help contribute to her family.”

From her time with Akifa, Claudia learned how far support can go, and it motivated her to continue pursuing her interests in global health and human rights by studying abroad in Jordan.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.