Hershberg Scholar Kaitlin Henning on research trip to Mexico

Kaitlin Henning is a undergraduate at the University of Kentucky studying anthropology and international studies. Last year she became one of our two 2017 Hershberg Scholarship winners with her proposal to travel to Oaxaca to study social justice. A reflection on her experiences this past summer in Mexico are below.


This summer, thanks in part to the Hershberg scholarship, I spent two amazing months in the Southern state of Oaxaca, Mexico. These eight weeks were filled to the brim with experiences and adventures which have forever changed my perspective. As a student of the SURCO organization (University Services and Networks of Knowledge in Oaxaca) my classmates and I took classes on the effects of neoliberalism as well as experienced the beauty of one of the most biologically and ethnically diverse regions of the world through first hand field work. For the first half of the trip, our group took weekend trips to different parts of the state to speak and visit directly with activist groups and cooperatives who were experts on individual topics we would spend the week before learning about in class. These weekend trips took us from hundreds of meters up into the mountains to meet with indigenous communities struggling with land reform in the north to Afro-Mexican communities navigating identity politics on the southern coast.

One of my favorite trips was to the Vida Nueva women’s weaving co-op in the nearby town of Teotitlan del Valle. These women, varying in age but all members of the Zapoteco indigenous community, were defying traditional gender roles by weaving tapestries and making other weaved crafts and selling them themselves in the Oaxaca markets. Traditionally, the practice of making and selling these items were considered men’s work but to preserve the tradition after men in the community relocated due to labor migration, women in this community took over the trade. They use the money they to earn to buy supplies as well as execute an annual community project. After making us a delicious meal, these ladies showed us how they cleaned and spun wool, which, to my classmate’s and my chagrin after trying to emulate their actions, is much harder than their expert hands make it look. They also explained to us the various methods they use to make the all-natural dyes they make to color the wool, and how delicate this practice is in order to achieve just the correct hue. They demonstrated how the addition of acids and bases can change the shades of colors as if by magic. Each pattern they incorporate into the tapestry and each color has a specific meaning important to the representation of their culture and the themes they are trying to present through their art work.

My last few weeks in Oaxaca were spent conducting research on and gathering testimonies from indigenous community radio stations. These stations use the sound waves as a form of vigilance to inform their communities of the truth in news when the media does not honestly report events that are of relevance to them. This was most markedly noted when in 2003 the village of Santa Maria Yaviche was attacked by a paramilitary group supported by the government after attempting to unite with the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca to claim their rights. This attack was not reported by the media and the news of the killings would have been silenced had it not been for the use of these community-ran radio stations that shared their testimonies with the state through this medium. My research took me to five different towns to meet with community DJs and learn about the specific causes for which each station was organized. These causes ranged from women’s empowerment to environmental preservation.

In addition to this research, I am now also drastically more comfortable in my Spanish speaking abilities. Not only did I attend Spanish classes and interact with my Spanish-speaking host family every day, but all my research interviews were conducted in Spanish as well. This practice gave me a practical experience with the translation process that is already serving me well in my Spanish classes at UK this semester.

I will never forget my time in Oaxaca and am immensely grateful for the lessons this scholarship as afforded me. On this trip, I met some of the most amazing people and accomplished things I never imagined I would be able to do. My limits were tested for the better and I have returned to campus with the knowledge that I have accomplished hard work and am ready to do more. I would like to thank Mrs. Hershberg and the World Affairs Council for their generosity, without which, I would not have been able to experience this adventure of a lifetime.

Brazilian teacher uses Louisville connections to educate students about racism on MLK Day

In Summer 2017, World Affairs Council hosted ten English Access Microscholarship Program (ACCESS) educators from across the globe. While in Louisville, the group met with Dr. Renee Campbell, President and CEO of Wesley House, to learn about the organization’s work to empower families, individuals, and communities toward self-sufficiency. An educator from Brazil, Cícero Ferreira, walked away with a profound idea. When back in Brazil, Cícero wanted to work with his ACCESS students on a project to tackle racism. With Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaching, Cícero invited Dr. Renee Campbell into his classroom via Skype, to share her experience surviving racism and to talk with students about how complex it could be dealing with this issue. Through her accomplishments, she inspired students to fight for a better world free from racism. Afterwards, students engaged in a project named ERACISM, where they debated ways racism is shown in the Brazilian society and came up with ideas on how to “erase racism” out.

Cícero shared reflections about the virtual exchange below!

It was a different Monday for our Access students during their intensive course in January. While in America people were celebrating Martin Luther King Junior’s Day, our students at ICBEU Manaus – a binational center in the Amazon city – were also getting a taste of how important this date is for our reflection: racism is a fact; it’s there and we have to stand against it. Thanks to Dr. Renee Campbel, this urgent message was even more underscored.

Thinking of that, we at ICBEU Manaus, through our Pedagogical Supervisor Cicero Ferreira, have invited Dr. Renee Campbell to address a wonderful online speech to our students due to her fruitful endeavor to assist the women and kids who are victims of racism. Cicero met her during his visit to the Wesley House as part of a program from the American Embassy in partnership with World Affairs Council of Kentucky & S. Indiana. As he observed her willingness to contribute to a fairer society as well as the results of her work, he decided to keep in touch with her through social media and had suggested that one day she would be invited to address to the Access Microscholarship Program in his city Manaus, Brazil. The suggestion was promptly regarded as an invitation.

As the day of Marthin Luther King Junior approached, they had agreed she would deliver a speech on racism, showing where it is present in the American society, how she has contributed to assisting victims of racism(she was one herself) and how our young students could make a difference in Brazil, their country.

Speaking of the students, they were very touched by Renee’s story and felt very encouraged to become voices standing against all the evil racism does, just like she is a voice herself. The first step inside the classroom was a project named ERACISM, which served as a follow-up activity based on the issues caused by racism in Brazil, where it is present and how it can be fought. Aligned with Dr. Renee’s brilliant insights, students also came up with ways they can contribute to erase racism in their communities, schools and, considering a wide range, the Brazilian society.

Every day is the right day to discuss racism in our classrooms. More than ever, schools are key partners of institutions like the Wesley House, which – through inspiring people like Dr. Renee Campbell – instill the need for a better society tackling on such important social issues as racism. In a few minutes, Dr. Renee was able to convincingly instigate our students to stand against this evil practice and to make a difference in others’ lives. Like Martin Luther King, these students also say: “I have a dream!”

-Cícero Ferreira
ACCESS Coordinator

Dr. Renee Campbell, upon reading Cícero’s reflection had a few words of her own to share!

I sincerely appreciate and hold dear the opportunity that I had to provide an online speech to the students and teachers who are a part of ICBEU. It was indeed and honor and a pleasure to be making such a presentation a monumental and significant day as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It was remarkable to connect via SKYPE to students and teachers who were as far away as the Amazon Rainforest. I felt very blessed to be able to discuss racism and to provide strategies on how to erase it.

I also learned a great deal from the students. It was wonderful to get to know them and hear about their struggles of racism and colorism. I discovered that there is parity in the struggles that happen in Brazil, and the United States. Many youth face the same obstacles youth of color face in the United States. The students that I presented to that day are brilliant and resilient at the same time. I believe that they represent the tools and vision for our World’s great future, without racism.

I must say that my dream is to one day visit and meet these students and teachers in person.

-Dr. Renee Campbell
President/CEO of Wesley House

About the English Access Microscholarship Program

The English Access Microscholarship Program (Access) provides a foundation of English language skills to talented 13–20-year-olds from economically disadvantaged sectors through after-school classes and intensive sessions. Access gives participants English skills that may lead to better jobs and educational prospects. Participants also gain the ability to compete for and participate in future exchanges and study in the United States. Since its inception in 2004, approximately 95,000 students in more than 85 countries have participated in the Access Program. This program is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of English Language Programs.

This project was locally implemented by the World Affairs Council of Kentucky and Southern Indiana in partnership with FHI 360.

An Internship with Impact

Mary Wurtz, a sophomore at Bellarmine University, gives her insight on WAC’s student internship program.


I’ve been working as an intern in the WAC’s International Visitors Program for about two months now, and I can definitely say that this is not your typical internship. Sure, like at any office, there are always phone calls to be made and copies to be printed, but what I was not expecting were the opportunities to network with community leaders, perform service, and constantly interact with new visitors from all across the globe.

From February 13–17, the World Affairs Council sponsored four visitors from Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Palestinian Territories for a program titled Corporate Social Responsibility. Starting with a meeting at Humana that I was able to sit in on, our visitors spent the week visiting other local organizations, including Facilities Management Services, Greater Louisville Inc., and Heine Brothers Coffee to learn about these companies’ commitment to the Louisville Metro community.

Easily my favorite part of the week was the chance to put these concepts into practice through a service project at The Table. The Table is a non-profit restaurant that serves locally grown food and operates under a pay-what-you-can model. Customers may pay the listed price, pay more, or help out in the kitchen if they cannot afford their meal.

After attending a panel discussion and networking session about ethical business practices, I stayed behind with our visitors to help the restaurant set up for the day by moving furniture, cleaning, and preparing food. Once the Table opened, we ran food and drinks to different tables and greeted customers as they walked in. At the end of a busy morning, we were treated to a delicious lunch and the opportunity to get to know each other better. We talked about everything from the meetings they had attended to questions they had about American politics and culture.

My internship this semester has provided me with so many opportunities to interact with and learn from people from other countries. I will always value the skills I have learned and the memories I have made from my internship here!


If you’re interested in working with us as an intern, head over to our Internship Opportunities page for more information on each of our intern focus area or to fill out an application. 

WAC board member and veteran signs letter in defense of diplomacy

This week more than 1,200 veterans signed an open letter opposing cuts to diplomacy and foreign aid in the federal budget. Among the veteran signatories is World Affairs Council board member Brian Easley, who in the past has also served as our Visitor Programs Manager. The letter outlines the essential nature of diplomacy in preserving national security and America’s position as a global leader.

The full text of the letter is below, and the full list of signatories can be found here.


The Honorable Paul Ryan
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate

Dear Speaker Ryan, Minority Leader Pelosi, Majority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader Schumer,

We write as veterans of all branches of America’s Armed Forces to share how our service in uniform has convinced us that diplomacy and development are critical tools alongside the military to keep America safe. We believe that with today’s escalating global crises, America must strengthen, not weaken, our leadership around the world.

As members of the military, many of us served on the frontlines alongside America’s diplomats and development professionals. We saw firsthand how our civilian forces must continue to be part and parcel of a comprehensive national security strategy. With the recent military progress against ISIS, we know that strategic investments in the State Department and USAID will be essential if we are to solidify our hard-fought gains and prevent other bad actors from filling the void.

As Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis testified, “America has two fundamental powers, the power of intimidation…America’s awesome determination to defend herself, and the power of inspiration which is heavily conveyed overseas by our Department of State.” Yet America’s critical civilian international affairs programs saw proposals that would have drawn down our presence around the world. As you and your colleagues look ahead to the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2019, we hope you will support strong resources for America’s global leadership.

Thank you for your commitment to America’s safety, security, and prosperity. We ask you to stay vigilant and ensure that our country makes the commitments necessary to prevent conflict so that we only send our brothers and sisters in uniform into harm’s way as a last resort.

Thank you for your consideration.

Manual wins local Academic WorldQuest

This Saturday we hosted our local Academic WorldQuest at the Main library on York Street. Over the weekend  nine Kentuckiana schools participated in hopes of winning, to move forward to the national level in Washington D.C. AWQ gives opportunities to high school students to learn geography, world history, and world affairs. It is a national competition that approximately 4,000 students across the country participate in.

The competition was intense as students participated in rounds of questions pertaining to current topics: America’s diplomats, Saudi Arabia, and much more!  It was a close competition but Manual High school was able beat out their opponents to win 1st and 2nd place, with Brown coming in 3rd. We will be cheering on Manual as they continue on to the national level in the spring to compete in Washington D.C. It was awesome to see such a great turnout with so many local high schools competing. It was a great day filled with fun, friendly competition, and great prizes! We are already looking forward to Academic WorldQuest 2018.

A huge thanks to DD Williamson, The Color House for sponsoring their trip, The Louisville Free Public Library for providing a space, and to Heine Brothers Coffee, Carmichael’s Bookstore and Dairy Queen for their donations.

 

 

Interview with Vitoria Marques of Brazil Youth Ambassadors

by Karina Cabral
Original article printed in Portuguese at O Livre.
Photo Credits: O Livre.


An example in her community, Mato Grosso student wins exchange in the United States

 

Fifty students from Brazilian public schools were chosen by the US embassy in Brazil, among 23,000 applicants, to gain an exchange in the United States. Among them is Vitoria Lissa de Oliveira Marques, 18, a Mato Grossan from São José do Rio Claro (296 km from Cuiabá), an example in her community for her leadership and volunteerism.

The program that Vitória is participating in is called Young Ambassadors and was created in 2002. A success since 2010, it has been reproduced in all the countries of the Americas. Since the program began, 522 Brazilians have participated.

Vitoria always volunteered—at school, in the church, teaching English to children in a public school—but it was in 2016 that she signed up for the program for the first time.

“My mother had a fundamental role, because she was the one who made my pre-registration, without even telling me. I remember that, as the stages went by, I became more and more surprised and I reached the final, but I was not selected,” said the young woman.

In the first attempt, as a finalist she was given the opportunity to participate in another embassy program, the EIP (English Immersion USA Program), which takes the finalists of the Young Ambassadors to a week in Brasília, where they undergo a total immersion in American culture.

“We participate in lectures and classes on culture / history and other things in the United States, in partnership with Thomas Jefferson House. This gave me an incredible view of the United States and of Brazil itself, because it contains people from all over the country,” said Victoria.

Last year, Vitória tried again and went through the entire selection process, which includes a pre-registration, sending documents to prove the written application, and a written and an oral test.

The entire process is done by a partner institution, which in Mato Grosso is the State Secretary of Education (Seduc). In the end, four finalists per state are selected—and one of them gets the chance to go to the Young Ambassadors and the other three go to the EIP.

The program is for students aged 15 to 18, who are in high school, have a good command of the Portuguese language, do some kind of volunteer work and have never been to the United States. That is, this was the last year for Victoria, who is 18 and finished high school in 2017.

Fluent English is not a requirement, but it is necessary to be at a good level of the language in order to communicate in that country. Victoria never took lessons, she learned English alone.

She is currently awaiting the outcome of the Enem, as she intends to attend medicine. In the meantime, she will spend three weeks in the United States with the Young Ambassadors, attending leadership workshops, volunteer projects, meeting government officials and US community leaders and giving presentations on Brazil.

“I’m going to stay in Washington for a few days, and then I’ll be staying at an American family’s home in Louisville, Kentucky,” she said.

With the trip coming—she goes on Friday—the young woman said that her anxiety was “at a thousand”, especially regarding meeting the family that will host her. She believes that this experience will transform her future, giving her the opportunity to broaden her worldview and improve her English.

“It’s the realization of a dream, a result of commitment. I just have to be thankful,” she said.