FCNL Lobby Weekend

Guest post by Morgana Warner-Evans ’16: 

The CPGC and the Quaker Affairs Office are sponsoring students to travel to Washington, DC and participate in the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL)’s Spring Lobbying Weekend in March. According to Rosemary Ventura ’16, an intern at the Quaker Affairs Office and one of the participants in last November’s Fall Annual Meeting and Lobby Day, “FCNL is a lobbying organization that focuses on a variety of issues related to peace, equality, simplicity and truth, all within the larger context of social, environmental and political issues.”

The theme of this spring’s lobbying weekend is “Endless War and Killer Robots: Not Viable Foreign Policy Tools”. FCNL’s website states that participants will “ask Congress to repeal the (2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force) that provides cover for drone strikes, expanding military action around the world, NSA spying and much more.”

Participants in the Fall Lobby Day expressed a more optimistic outlook on the effectiveness of citizen participation in government after lobbying their representatives. “It’s easy to forget that the US government is our government and we can make a difference in its working, our opinions count!” wrote Ellie Greenler ’17.

Clarianne Moscoso ’16 wrote, “if citizens from all backgrounds use their voice to state their concerns, change is possible. It can help pop the ‘Capitol Hill Bubble’ that many government officials live in, and remind them of their responsibility to help their constituents.”

Students will leave for the Spring Lobbying Weekend at 5:30 pm on Saturday, March 22, and return on Monday, March 24 by 4 pm. Applications are available here and are due on Sunday, March 2 at 11:59 p.m. It is best to register early so that FCNL can schedule lobby visits in advance. Participants’ training, transportation, housing, and food are covered.

More information can be found at fcnl.org/events/slw/, or students can contact Walter Sullivan, director of the Quaker Affairs Office (wsulliva@haverford.edu).

Summer Internship Opportunity: Weavers Way in Philadelphia

Guest post by Morgana Warner-Evans ’16:

Spend your summer doing urban farming with Weavers Way Community Programs in Phialdelphia, as a CPGC-funded intern! Working at Weavers Way will offer the intern experience with small scale, diversified organic vegetable production and the opportunity to develop skills as an educator with different types of student groups.

547320_10151951623878274_878445672_n

“I definitely learned a lot about the specifics of organic, urban farming that I found very valuable, and I look forward to applying those skills to different farming situations in the future,” past intern Sara Jaramillo ’15 said of her experience interning at Weavers Way.

Interns have also found that working at Weavers Way has enhanced their academic experience and awareness of how inequalities play out in the food system. Maya Nojechowicz ’15 said, “My academic and professional interests have expanded to (the areas of food access and food justice). I found a new passion. I plan to work on a farm again in the future, because I loved every minute of it…So far at Haverford much of my academic work has pertained in some way to race in the US, and working at [Weavers Way] has revealed to me how that can be applied to studying food as well.”

Jaramillo stated the benefits of the internship in these words: “It’s fun. You feel like you’re making a difference. You get a chance to be outside working with interesting, compassionate people doing something you wouldn’t otherwise get to do (at Haverford).”

More information can be found here. Apply here. For more information, contact Janice Lion at jlion@hc or speak to any of the following past interns: Maya Nojechowicz ’15, Sara Jaramillo ’15, Ruthie Cartwright ’15, and David Roza ’15.

Summer Internship Profiles: Weavers Way and Michigan Land Use Institute

Guest post by Morgana Warner-Evans ’16:

The CPGC encourages students to take a closer look at two of our amazing summer internship opportunities with social/environmental justice organizations: Michigan Land Use Institute and the Weavers Way Community Programs in Philadelphia.

The Michigan Land Use Institute in beautiful Traverse City, Michigan advocates for local food and farming, walkable communities, environmentally friendly regional planning, and clean energy. At MLUI, an intern will work as a communications assistant, writing about topics such as food, farming and smart growth. Zoe McAlear ‘16 says that, during her internship,“I learned a lot about the communications work that is behind a non-profit organization. I grew a lot as a writer. I had to learn to be comfortable calling people and holding interviews, and then turn a huge quantity of notes and interviews into a concise piece of writing. I think it was really valuable that I was able to expand my writing skills and develop that professional skill set”.

Weaver’s Way Community Programs is located in Philadelphia and teaches children and youth from varied backgrounds about urban farming. Intern duties include working with homeless children and youth at Stenton Family Manor, hosting educational programs at Mort Brooks Memorial Farm, and teaching students to operate a CSA at the Saul High School for Agricultural Sciences. Former Weaver’s Way intern Sara Jaramillo ‘15 says that her internship helped her learn “a lot about the specifics of organic urban farming that I found very valuable. I also feel more confident planning and leading lessons for young children. In addition, I learned a lot about how small nonprofits can operate, and what kind of goals they have and how they reach them”.

The CPGC will fund successful applicants for these internships. Applications can be found here and are due on February 23. For more information, contact past MLUI interns Zoe McAlear ‘16, Claire Perry ‘14, and Marie Greaney ‘14; past Weaver’s Way interns Maya Nojechowicz ’16, Sara Jaramillo ’15, Ruthie Cartwright ’15, and David Roza ’15; and program coordinator Janice Lion at jlion@haverford.edu.

Joint Field Research

Ariel Levin and I (Caya Simonsen) spent two weeks of our winter break in Guatemala doing research for our senior theses. I was researching violence in Guatemala, looking at continuities and differences in the violence over time. Ari was researching indigenous women’s activism. It was an amazing experience to do a research project together, and I recommend this type of joint research to others! Part of our reasoning behind doing our research together was practical – I had agreed to interpret for Ari’s interviews and also for safety reasons we wanted to stay together during our time there, especially since neither of us had travelled to Guatemala before. However, there ended up being many additional benefits to doing our research together. On the one hand, it was very helpful to have the moral support of another person. Our interviews were often emotionally heavy, and it would have been a lot to handle for one person. It was good to know that there was someone else who was experiencing the same thing and who I could talk to about the interview afterwards. Working as a team was also academically beneficial. Sitting in on each other’s interviews helped us think about our own projects from a different perspective. After listening to Ari’s interviews, I decided to add another chapter to my thesis about social protest of mines and hydroelectrics. This topic came up in a lot of her interviews, and fits well into my thesis. Overall, it was a wonderful experience working on our research projects together in Guatemala. Far beyond the practical considerations, it was academically enriching and emotionally helpful to work with another student on my research project. It is not often that two students’ topics and research locations would converge this well to be able to collaborate with field research, but I am extremely glad that in our case they did.

Footsteps to Follow: Promoting Women’s Health (January 15)

Sitting on the steps of her house– 18 years old and pregnant with her first child– Rosybel Blandon listened to a community health worker sensitize on reproductive health. Motivated by the health promoter’s insight on women’s health challenges , she thought to herself, “hey, I could do this”.

Years later, Rosybel goes door to door, wearing an apron equipped with condoms, charts, and diagrams and a dildo. “Buenos Dias,” she says, “I am a health promoter. Let’s talk about health- health of the family”.

From sensitizing high-risk communities in illicit spaces to creating a network of support for women with cervical cancer, Rosybel is a dedicated community health pioneer whose work inspires a healthier future for Nicaraguan women.

Rosybel Blandon works for Clinica Fara in Matagalpa- a renovated textile mill from the Somoza reign.  She has worked with mothers, daughters, cancer patients, convicts, sex workers, boys, and fathers.  Through determination and creativity, Rosybel raises awareness about health and increases access to treatment across Nicaragua.

“I dont know what it is about my face” she says, “but people always listen”.  It is not only her easy smile and focused gaze that makes her an effective health promoter: she is a good communicator, not shy, loves what she does, and “likes to be listened to”. When she was little she would demand attention from her siblings and give lecturas. By now, they are well versed in reproductive health. She is a “committed woman,” Sue Howe- who works closely as a health advocate with Rosybel- believes.

Committed women and passionate health promoters are crucial tools in combating diseases that predominantly affect women in Nicaragua like the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).  As access to medical tests and treatment can be expensive and time consuming, HPV, which develops into cervical cancer, proliferates in the poor and rural communities.  As a health promoter, Rosybel has spearheaded initiatives to increase HPV screening and created a network of transportation for women who seek treatment for cancer.

Rosybel travels in a mobile clinic, sometimes three hours on compromised roads from the nearest clinic, to reach communities out of touch with the medical network.  There, the mobile clinic screens and diagnosis women on the spot.  Typically, a PAP smear takes three months to schedule and another three months to diagnose.  Rosybel however, facilitates a naked-eye visual inspection of the cervix with acetic-acid wash (VIA), to diagnose HPV lesions on the spot by trained Nurses, saving women up to 6 months and hundreds of cordobas in transportation fees. Additionally after a VIA exam, the mobile clinic is equipped to treat pre-cancerous lesions using cryotherapy.

Transportation remains an obstacle for treatment of HPV infections that progress to cervical cancer. Women can only receive treatment in Managua for cervical cancer. Through commitment and convincing, Rosybel established a relationship with the bus services across the country to allow women with cervical cancer to travel to Managua for free to receive chemotherapy.

Even as Rosybel has helped make screening, diagnosing, and treatment more efficient and accessible to women, the biggest challenge is helping women come to terms with their prognosis. “Is there something to be done?” women ask.  “Yes” Rosybel replies, “”but you have to want it.” Rosybel inspires that together they can fight the cancer.  “Sometimes it takes thirty minutes, sometimes they cry, but I wait and say: let me know when you are ready to continue”.

There’s an overwhelming amount of work to be done to advance women’s health in Nicaragua and Rosybel can’t do it alone. According to the World Health Organization, Nicaragua has one of the highest cervical cancer mortality rates: 19.4 deaths per 100,000 females compared to the 3.1 deaths per 100,000 females in the United States of America. As a health promoter, Rosybel helps countless woman perched on steps outside houses and inspires many to don an apron with reproductive health tools.  “I believe when women walk,” Rosybel says with certainty,  “they leave footsteps”.

-Henry Elliman & Rubén Monárrez

Matagalpa, Nicaragua

Reflecting on the End, for Now

I’m near the very end of my trip. It’s hard to believe that three weeks have gone by so quickly, and at the same time with so many full days. I’ve interviewed and observed residents of five Jewish intentional communities in cities throughout Israel, and I’ve pieced together a partial answer to my essential thesis question: how do Jewish intentional communities in Israel talk about the conflict, and what do they allow themselves to say in that regard? I’ve also learned a great deal about how these groups interpret Jewish observance and ritual practice, and what new traditions they create as groups. With the help of friends, friends-of-friends, and contacts I made through determination, I have gained entrance into the homes of these communities and seen firsthand the way that the manifest intentionality, and embody modern Judaism.

 

Not all of the data I’ve collected has been encouraging with regard to the conflict and Jewish groups’ willingness to take on these issues. In fact, a lot of what I see is hard to comprehend, and each new fact about the conflict weighs heavily on my heart. For example, on one of the trips for which I joined the intentional community that I mentioned in the last post, we looked out onto Umm al-Fahm, one of the largest Palestinian-populated towns within Israel proper. That town is part of the so-called “triangle,” an area of majority-Palestinian populated towns in the northern part of the country. Near those towns there is a small area that is sort of beyond the Green Line, which divides Israel proper from the Palestinian territories, or the West Bank. But only sort of. That little grey area, which includes a school, is within the Green line by one definition (and according to one separation wall) and beyond it by another (and another, slimmer wall). This means that it only gets some of the resources and governance that areas beyond the line would get, but it does not enjoy the rights that an area within the line would. This, for me, was an example of how complex the issues in this region are—how difficult to grasp as one slowly collects the relevant facts—but each one affects the lives of real people on the ground, whether or not someone like me is cognizant of it.

IMG_4388

But people like us—this group of active-minded North American Jews who made a community committed to awareness—have the potential to create change when they go back to their home communities and home countries. A great deal of financial support to both Israelis and Palestinians comes from the United States and, in smaller part, from Jewish communities in the States and Canada. Bringing these ideas and issues home can make waves, and it’s encouraging to see this group looking to do that. Not all of the groups I’ve seen have made conflict awareness or action a central goal for various reasons, but that is a story for my thesis! I’m so glad that with the CPGC’s help I was able to have these experiences, learn these issues, answer these questions.  I’ve got so many new questions to explore.

IMG_4472

For the past few nights, I’ve been staying with a Jewish intentional community that I happened upon fortuitously. This group is a ragtag team of North American college students and recent post-grads who came to the country for about a week to learn the ins and outs of Israel/Palestine and gain perspectives that traditional Jewish trips or Jewish education may not give them. They were organized by a friend of mine from last year at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s international program, so I was lucky to catch a glimpse of their experience. The name of the game for them is intentionality, as they have planned and organized their trip together starting a few weeks before they all arrived.

Everyone in the group is in their twenties, which makes them the perfect demographic for my research, and even better: they are extremely inclusive. Indeed, they picked up members as their week progressed, making roomon extra cots and couches for new arrivals and for me in their small rented apartment on Jerusalem’s border with Palestinian East Jerusalem. This location allowed us a unique view of the city, right from the edge. Shopping was generally done at the marketplace near the entrance to East Jerusalem, which meant that they were supporting the Palestinian economy rather than just enjoying the privileges of a Jewish group in Jerusalem proper. I’ve included a photo of the black pepper that the group bought at the market, which was labeled by someone with a creative grasp of English spelling. The apartment was also minutes away from Damascus Gate, which is the entrance to the Old City that includes the Arab Suk, or the market. That spot was also where a wedding singer from Gaza, Mohammed Assaf, won Arab Idol last year. The singing competition is like American Idol for the Arab world, and it was a huge source of pride for the local community when a Palestinian took home the title.

IMG_4412

 

The group also has regular discussions about what they learned and how they felt about their new awareness of the political situation here. I participated in one such talk last night, after I joined them on a trip to occupied Silwan, a Palestinian village in Jerusalem that is being steadily overtaken by the City of David, an Israeli archeological project and national park site. The tour was run by All That’s Left, an anti-occupation collective with hubs in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (and in New York and Toronto). The tour was co-led by an Israeli archeologist working for better recognition by archeologists and Israelis in general of the human price that is being paid for the expansion and existence of the site. After the difficult tour and discussion, everyone pitched in for Shabbat preparations and celebrations, singing a few songs to bring in the weekly Jewish holiday of rest.

Looking back to Martin Centeno and the Oficina de la Mujer on January 13

As I see the piles of snow outside its hard to think back to January 13th when we were in Martin Centeno. It was a very different atmosphere and I woke up to chickens, roosters and cows instead of classes and snow ploughs. While we students struggle to make an 8:30 am class, the community we were staying with woke up early, some with the sun, and were going through their morning routines of milking cows, cooking breakfast, cleaning houses, tending to children and animals. After a huge breakfast of eggs, rice, beans, cheese, and sweet coffee we left our individual homes and regrouped at the bus where we shared our different morning adventures from playing with babies to learning how to milk a cow. We drove back over the communities new bridge back into Rio Blanco to the Oficina de la Mujer where we were treated to the Oficina’s first powerpoint presentation made specifically for our delegation.

 

Oficina de La Mujer is an organization that supports women throughout the
community. The roles of the ladies range from accompanying the women to the police station and press charges on their partners for domestic violence and/or escorting them to shelters throughout the country. As we set in the room, not only did we hear about the work these women do, but also why they do it. The majority of the women whom work there are volunteers and they do so because they believe that no one should live under the conditions that they once did. These women showed dedication and strength, it takes a lot of courage to stand up and tell such a personal story. Many of us were moved and even felt their pain as they spoke, I remember looking across the room and seeing some my peers wipe their eyes and bow their heads as they cried. The stories of getting out and lending a helping hand
to the next woman who deserves better are what empower us to learn more about social justice issues.

After lunch we had the option of going on a hike to a local waterfall which about half of the group chose to do. The hike led us further up into the mountains on the edge of Rio Blanco and we quickly felt the effects of the unseasonal rain the area had been experiencing. We stumbled, squelched, and slid through the muddy mountain slopes as we wound our way further down towards the waterfall. The waterfall was amazing and we all quickly made our way into the water, the current from the waterfall pulling and pushing us. We stayed in the water until our bodies shook with cold and we decided it was time to head back up the mountain and to Martin Centeno.

 

We met in the community’s church with members of the Community Committee as well as some youth from Martin Centeno who are hoping to become doctors and journalists. There they shared with us the incredible history of the community as well as some of their many health projects and education awareness campaigns. We were amazed to hear of the resilience and strength of the community members who were able to construct a vibrant and thriving community without many of the tools and facilities we would all consider essential or basic.

 

The evening culminated in a huge fiesta where many of the community’s 200+ members came. After some performances from a group of young girls and women from the Oficina it was time for us to get up and join in the dancing. One by one we were pulled up onto the dance floor, some more reluctantly than others, and danced with young kids, teenagers, and adults to classic Nicaraguan music and some surprises like Michael Jackson. It was a lot of fun to be able to see how the community came together to dance and enjoy each other’s company. This small little slice of life we were able to experience helped me understand the connectivity of the community and the strength they possess as a group as they continue to build and grow together.

 

- Marta Guerrero and Hannah Klein

Tuesday, January 14th

When the team arrived back in Matagalpa, we went to the center of the Colectivo de Mujeres de Matagalpa. The Colectivo, which focuses on sexual education and access to family planning methods, runs a wide variety of programs for the community including workshops for all ages, discussions, radio talk shows, as well as support and accompaniment for survivors of domestic violence.

One of the unique aspects of the Colectivo is the “wall of shame.” The wall of shame is used as a social instrument in which women in the community are encouraged to write their aggressors full name on the wall to denounce these aggressors and irresponsible fathers to the community. The wall of shame has been largely successful in generating social pressure to break the cycle of silence, force authorities to prosecute the aggressor, and shame irresponsible fathers into providing child support.The wall of shame has also been criticized by many and its ethics have been challenged. The representative of the Colectivo defended the use of the wall, “We simply provide the space for women to use. We don’t directly write the names and because the wall is owned by the center, we aren’t breaking any laws. We have received threats but we also have a guard at the center at all times to prevent violence and vandalism.”

The center also focuses on tackling traditional gender roles by pushing women to question traditions such as what sort of toys are gender appropriate. They also use therapeutic theater workshops to combat the social constructs surrounding love that have a negative effect on women. Many women suffer in the name of “love” and are made to believe that it is their duty to endure abuse from men in their family and/or community. “Romantic love, is dangerous love,” because when couple begin seeing themselves as a single entity, one partner will eventually have more power over the others’ decisions and life, the male in most cases.

We also asked questions about the total ban on abortion that exists in Nicaragua. We learned that while most women are unable to get a safe abortion, even when it would save their life, privileged women who can afford to pay off a private physician are usually able to find someone to perform the operation.

After this eye-opening “charla” and the Colectivo de Mujeres we went to a hospital in Matagalpa where were our team learned about Nicaragua’s health care system from the inside-out. This was an unplanned learning experience where some of us had to stay overnight in the hospital thanks to a stomach virus. The team pulled through showing each other support and compassion during this challenging time.

Looking Forward: Inspired, Curious, Excited

As the snow falls heavily outside, its difficult to imagine that only a few short days ago we were all enjoying the 90 degree temperatures of Managua and the sparkling waters of Laguna de Apoyo. Our Nicaraguan delegation, ten days in total, was multi-faceted and fast moving. I was stunned by the drive and passion of feminist workers and the audacity of those fighting for violence against women in a country where culture and the pervasive machismo mentality are so blatantly working against their goals. We had the opportunity to speak with prominent feminist activists, dedicated community organizers, local medical students, and a number of other important figures who were able to paint a comprehensive and genuine picture of the country’s reproductive health reality.

Beds at the Casa Materna in Rio Blanco

In addition to our many illuminating conversations with Nicaraguans and well-established expats, we had the opportunity to learn a great deal from each other and the diversity of our academic backgrounds. Having had no prior experience studying health or medicine, I found the comments, insights, and questions of my classmates particularly valuable. Although joined by a common eagerness for cross cultural exchange and curiosity surrounding issues of reproductive health, we had for the most part, grounded our academic inquiries in a number of different fields, from literacy studies, to health and natural sciences, to sociology and education, to political science and anthropology. As a result, our our conversations were guided by a distinctly interdisciplinary thread, bringing our diverse body of interests to an intersection, and adding a great deal to the experience as a whole.

It is rare that you encounter the opportunity to engage in personal conversation with experts and hear the life stories of individuals whose experiences resonate with course material. While we had studied themes surrounding reproductive health for seven weeks before our departure, it was another thing to come into contact with the situation and understand its implications first hand. As a result, I am so appreciative of the strong element of human interaction and personal narrative woven throughout the delegation. Our talks served to greatly supplement our time spent in the classroom and synthesize our academic readings thus far.

Having come back to Haverford, I can’t help but feel much closer to my classmates and everyone else involved in the delegation. It is always interesting to me to observe how the the twists and turns of travel teach you about those around you, and shape pre-existing relationships. The trip, which admittedly had its balance of highs and lows, ended on an extremely positive note, colored by closeness and an air of resilience, as corny as it may sound. We spent the day swimming, kayaking, and enjoying the weather on the beach of a beautiful lake before meeting to collect our thoughts in one final group reflection.

I am truly thankful for our time in Nicaragua and the knowledge I have brought back with me. As we wait for the weather to improve, I look forward to the next seven weeks of discussion, which I have no doubt will be seriously enriched by our time spent abroad.