*This story first appeared in The Budget’s July 18, 2018, Local Edition.
By Beverly Keller
Learning the truth about the Amish culture and experiencing community journalism were the orders of the day last week when 18 international scholars visited the area as part of the Study of the U. S. Institute (SUSI) program on journalism hosted by Ohio University.
Mary Rogus, Associate Professor, Electronic Journalism at OU, led the group that included journalism professors and experts from Albania, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, Estonia, India, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, South Sudan, Tunisia, and Zambia. “This part of our trip is always a highlight,” she stated.
After learning from The Budget’s Publisher Milo Miller and National Editor Fannie Erb-Miller, the group heard from Lester Beachy and Mary Beachy about the reality of growing up Amish. “It is not what it appears to be in fiction books,” Mary Beachy shared.
Lester Beachy told the group that faith is the foundation they have built their lives upon and is one that keeps them going. “We remain simple to stay closer to God and serve Him,” he said.
Following a trip to The Budget office, the group traveled to the Amish Mennonite Heritage Center where they learned more about the culture and its rich history through a tour of Behalt. “It was a great opportunity to share our history with this group,” stated Marcus Yoder who serves as the executive director of the center.
The day wrapped up in a meeting with members of the Sugarcreek Rotary and Garaway Lions in the basement of Dutch Valley. It was an opportunity for fellowship amongst friends and guests and learning all around. “This is the best meeting of the year,” shared longtime Rotarian Aden Troyer as he recalled memories of the past eight years the group has visited Sugarcreek. Rogus shared that it will be her final year as head of the program. However, co-director Dr. Yusuf Kalyango may continue Ohio University’s relationship with SUSI in terms of the journalism program pending funding and grant approvals.
As a part of the program following dinner, each scholar shared their favorite past times with the group. Many noted Hollywood movies were at the top of their list.
Barakat Alshammari of Kuwait noted that he is most comfortable in front of a camera as he is a trained television news host.
Benjamin Dooley from Canada noted he was honored to be a part of the group, despite having the shortest travel time. This was the first year a journalist from Canada was selected to be a part of the program.
Sushita Samjawon-Neerbun from Mauritius noted she may have had the longest travel plan as it took her nearly 36 hours to get from the small island nation to Ohio.
“This program is amazing,” shared Fabiana Piccinin of Brazil. “I am so happy to be here to experience this unique opportunity.”
Rotarian Susan Miller stated, “We are all a little different, but, we are also all the same.” That was something everyone in the room agreed with as hearty applause and cheers filled the room.
Following the meal and introductions, the group was given time to talk, share and listen. Laughs were shared and bridges formed.
“This was an incredible opportunity,” shared Zhao Zin of China. “I have learned so much just today, and we are just getting started.”