Karina Costa ’10, a native of New Jersey, worked in Cambodia with the Quaker-based American Friends Service Committee, and its Integrated Sustainable Livelihoods, which supports communities recovering from war and promotes conflict resolution. Cambodia continues to suffer from the almost complete destruction of its societal, institutional and physical infrastructures during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime of 1975 to 1979. “I worked in an area recovering from religious persecution,” Costa said.
Working with the Jordanian Interfaith Coexistence Research Center, Daniel Ming ’10, a native of British Columbia, taught art and photography to provide young people a means of expression. Ming, who has created an independent major in Peace and Conflict Studies, particularly encouraged younger children to use visual media to express their feelings on religion and politics.
In Mumbai, India, Christina Perry’09, a native of New Hampshire, worked with Communalism Combat, and its Khoj project to create unbiased textbooks and update high school social science and history curricula. “Mumbai school authorities had found that while they consciously maintained a plural, diverse, and secular school atmosphere, sharp prejudices still surfaced among children when bouts of violence broke out in the adult world.”
Stephanie Damon-Moore ’11, a native of New Hampshire, worked in Johanesburg, South Africa at the Phaphama Initiatives, a non-profit union of programs that addresses conflicts caused by class and race-based discrimination in Johannesburg. Within Phaphama Initiatives, Stephanie spent a large part of her time working in prisons at Alternatives to Violence (AVP) workshops. AVP workshops, which were created by Quakers in New York, address incarcerated persons levels of self-esteem, provide strategies for non-violent conflict resolution, and encourage self-exploration and realization.
Claire Frohman ’12, a native of Indiana, volunteered in the village of Flic en Flac of the Mauritius Islands off the east coast of Madagascar through the non-profit, Learning Enterprises, which recruits college-aged students to spend a summer teaching English in rural regions of developing countries. There, Claire taught English to 20 to 60 students ranging from 8 to 12 years of age who speak either French or Mauritian Creole. Through her close interactions with students of Mauritius, Claire hoped to gain a greater knowledge of how several religious groups, including a Hindu majority, Christian, and Muslim representation manage to maintain peace with one another, despite interreligious tensions that persist.
Steffany Brown ’13, a native of Kansas, worked with Ruwwad, an NGO based in East Amman which seeks to support the Jabal Al-Natheef’s community’s need through creating successful partnerships with government, civil society, and the wider community. Steffany helped to ensure that refugees of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict receive social services related to health, youth education, employment, and child cultural recreation. Through this experience, Steffany hoped to gain greater understanding of the role religion plays in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and how Ruwwad has acted as an agent of peace in that process.
Benjamin Witkovsky ‘12, a native of Wisconsin and a former President of Vassar Jewish Union, worked with the Student Christian Movement of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland. The Student Christian Movement is part of the World Student Christian Federation, an ecumenical group committed to Christian witness and dialogue, specifically around issues of gender, solidarity, culture, and higher education. Benjamin’s primary focus throughout the summer was the planning of a conference called “Building Sustainable Societies: Creating A Europe Free of Human Trafficking.” Benjamin took part in all aspects of preparation for the conference, from organizing housing to designing ecumenical liturgy. Benjamin also attended conferences on European socialism and ecumenism in London and Kiev.
Sebastian Bharj ‘15 spent the summer in Madrid, Spain, working with a local branch of the Roman Catholic humanitarian confederation Caritas Internationalis. In Madrid, Caritas works to help socially excluded populations--including African refugees and Muslim immigrants--integrate into the community without forgoing their culture, religious values, and traditions. Sebastian directly assisted new refugees and used social media to share the story of Caritas’ peacemaking efforts with people of different faiths and cultures.
Maren Thorson, ‘15 and Sophie Wheelock, ’15 spent their summer in Durban, South Africa, a region comprising Black Africans, Afrikaans and Zulu members of Christian, Islamic, Judaic and Hindu communities. They engaged with this diversity by working with Religions for Peace, an organization that seeks to reconcile existing religious tensions and conflicts, and foster peaceful dialogue between all religions and communities in South Africa. Maren and Sophie interacted with inter-religious councils, community centers, and refugee groups in order to increase their fluency in interreligious understanding and learn how religious engagement can be instrumental in social change.
Alexander Voynow, ’15, spent the first half of his fellowship in Kathmandu, Nepal, volunteering at a school that serves a diverse array of local communities. While in Kathmandu, Alex observed the interplay between religion and politics: “As both a religious and political-economic institution, caste’s importance in Nepali history set the conditions for a society whose borders between religions and between religion and politics (and culture, economics, modernity, etc.) are indecipherable.” Alex thus learned about the ways that creative inter-religious work entails understanding how the distinctions some Western traditions make between religion and politics, culture, etc. are not "universal" but particular--applicable in some parts of the world (and U.S.) but not others. For the second half of his fellowship, he left the city to participate in a trek to Gosainkunda, a glacial lake in the Himalayas, along with four groups of pilgrims; Newari, Brahman and Chetri Hindus, and Tibetan Buddhist Shamans.