ECSF 2007: Updates from the Field

June 20, 2007

Our Ethics Center Student Fellows are alive and well! Currently on their internship sites, they are finding that what they expected to encounter is not always so.

Ramon De Jesus has headed down to the Victory Junction camp in North Carolina, where he is serving as a counselor for children with chronic illnesses. Ramon is conducting research to find out why there are so few camp counselors of color, and he is hard at work with the staff to come up with a plan to address the situation.

Down in Xela, Guatemala, Rachel Kleinbaum has found her calling at UTQ, a labor union coalition. She spends her days interviewing the heads of unions from the informal sector. She writes, "I never really considered the working conditions and struggles of the hundereds of people who sell everything from food, to clothes, to pirated DVDs, to phone covers on the street. It seems that what everyone wants is to be legal and left alone by the police who exploit their less-than-legal livelihoods." In addition to her interviews, Rachel cleans the UTQ office building every morning when she arrives. "I still sometimes feel as if the most productive part of my day, when I'm making life easier for the UTQ instead of merely tagging along, is those twenty minutes of cleaning."

Meanwhile, Daniel Koosed, who is interning with the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, Tanzania, is interviewing ICTR judges and coming to understand the effects of capitalism on a developing country. "I have already been swarmed quite a few times by men carrying rolls of black and white or colored fabric print posters wrapped in brown paper. I quickly discovered that, although many of these street vendors will claim, 'I make these,' that each collection is basically identical. Many of the images capture the exoticism of Maasai life that has indeed become an interesting crucible of this intersection between the traditional and the commercial."

Margot Moinester, in Kigali, Rwanda, busies herself with AIDS work at WE-ACTx, where she is involved in an income generation project that has her developing a line of bags made from African fabrics to export to the United States. Margot is also compiling the stories of 25 HIV-positive women, many of whom contracted the disease upon being raped during the 1994 genocide. What she has found most difficult to reconcile is the beauty of the landscape and the damage that lies beneath. "It has taken me until now to begin to see how the genocide still lives on in the daily lives of Rwandans. Approximately 67 percent of women raped during the genocide are now HIV positive, and therefore the genocide did not end in 1994, but rather is present every morning when the women take their antiretroviral medication, and it persists in the lives of the youth who are products of rape and the infants who are born with HIV."

In Pune, India, Neena Pathak is writing fundraising letters and helping to document the progress of newly organic villages for the Maharashtra Organic Farming Federation (MOFF), an organization that promotes alternatives to current government and transnational corporation policies that have been connected to a rash of farmer suicides. Her involvement in the small organic farming movement leads her to consider parallels between colonial powers and multinational corporations. She writes, "On farms in the United States, cotton farmers receive subsidies that helped them receive over twice the world market rate on cotton, while farmers in India, under various free trade agreements (largely influenced by multinational lobbying efforts), receive no such benefit. Once again, the fruits of labor are funneled to a more powerful institution. Sounds like colonization to me."

Finally, out in the jungle of Kakamega, Kenya, and without access to email, Jamie Pottern is working for the Kakamega Environmental Education Program (KEEP). Through weekly phone conversations, Jamie reports on the educational program she is involved with at a local school. On her first trek, she was to show the students videos about the environment, but the school was extremely basic, without a TV/VCR to play the video, and without electricity to run the TV even if they had one. Jamie found a TV and a generator, put them on wheelbarrows, and pushed them down the road to the school, hoping it wouldn't rain. She put her problem-solving skills to further use when she realized the films were in English and too advanced for the children. She suggested creating a skit which would be more age-appropriate and in language that would be more accessible for the children, and KEEP has taken to the idea.

We wish the students continued success in their field projects, and we look forward to further updates!