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SIS Alumnus Brings Juggling to the Youth in Central African Republic

By Stephanie Block

Photo courtesy of Richard Ross.

Photo courtesy of Richard Ross.

Among the thatched huts and hardened mud structures alongside a dirt road surrounded by sprawling forest of the Bocaranga compound in Central African Republic, Richard “Alec” Ross, SIS/BA ’08, spends his free time “joggling” through the hilly paths with a flock of little jogglers following behind.

Joggling, Richard’s ability to juggle and jog simultaneously, is bringing Muslim and Christian youth together for shared and structured recreation. “The #CARJugglingClub pulls together hundreds of Bocaranga children to learn how to juggle,” Richard says. “In cities where street children roam or in refugee camps, where former pupils seek new forms of recreation, learning how to juggle immediately unlocks a young person's potential.”

Richard explains the impact of juggling with the Bocaranga children, which requires very little on their part – nothing more than fruit, rocks or discarded tennis balls. The activity presents a child with an enticing challenge achievable only through practice and concentration.

As program manager for the International Rescue Committee, Richard is overseeing the Economic Recovery Development program, an effort in L’Ouham Pende province of CAR. Financed by the European Union, the 13-month project, called the Fond ‘Bekou’ (‘Patience’ in Sango), aims to jumpstart various economic activities among women’s groups that, for reasons related to the 2013 Christian and Muslim conflict, have lost vital resources and direction.

In addition, Richard and his team work closely with IRC’s Gender Based Violence program to provide Muslim and Christian victims of sexual violence the specialized training and start-up funding to launch their own businesses. He plans to continue to push IRC to integrate juggling lessons in our child-friendly spaces across the globe.

Richard grew up among several family members working in the international service arena. His sister is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa and later joined the World Health Organization in India. His late uncle, Peter Bell, who was at the time president of CARE International, delivered the SIS/SOC commencement speech in 2007 and received an honorary doctorate from SIS.

“AU reinforced my self-worth as a global citizen and not just a member of one nationality,” Richard explains. “I truly appreciate, for better or for worse, how interconnected the world is.”

Richard’s previous professional experiences span the globe. He is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer who spent time in Senegal creating a social enterprise as well as working alongside protection specialists at UNICEF headquarters.

When asked what has been the best part of his work, Richard says, “The satisfaction I receive when collaborating with and supporting my local colleagues—those born in the countries I work in. These individuals are striving to bring hope to their neighbors and fellow citizens in what are some very desperate situations.”

Follow Richard on Instagram and Twitter.