Travel Grants

Cuba

Tearing down barriers in female education in the Dominican Republic

I was very fortunate to spend a week at the Teresa Toda Hogar in Azua, Dominican Republic, teaching math at a session of summer school for 33 girls ages and ranging from six to 18 years old. The girls live at the Hogar during the school year and return for two weeks during the summer, often having developed skin and hygiene complications along with signs of malnutrition. The public education system in the Dominican Republic faces challenges similar to those of many underdeveloped countries, including overcrowded classrooms, poor-quality facilities, outdated curriculums, and extremely high dropout rates. Additionally, there is inequality in access to education, especially to children living in rural areas of poverty like the Azua Province. Through this Hogar, these girls receive access to a better school, one-on-one tutoring opportunities, and an overall emphasis on the importance of female education. As Malala said, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” The nuns who run this home are helping to tear down boundaries and change the worlds of these strong young women, and I was very grateful for the opportunity to help these future leaders take yet another step forward. 

Abby Konkoly ’20

Exploring language and culture in Lebanon

With the help of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics, I was able to study at the American University of Beirut this summer. For two months, I studied in the intensive Summer Arabic Program. This program provides integrated instruction in both the formal, Modern Standard Arabic and in the colloquial, Lebanese Arabic. This rigorous level of instruction enabled me to rapidly increase my Arabic skills and provided me with an invaluable opportunity to study Lebanese Arabic for the first time. The program also had many opportunities to explore Lebanon and learn about Lebanese society. One weekend, the students in the program traveled out to eastern Lebanon and volunteered for a day at a school located in a refugee camp. The numerous experiences I had around Lebanon afforded me a new understanding of the language, culture, and people. It is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Kyle Costa ’20

Analyzing Mexican voting corruption at the Paris School of Economics

Thanks to the support of the Winston Center, I spent the summer of 2018 working as a research assistant at the Paris School of Economics in France under the supervision of Professor Liam Wren-Lewis, doing research within the academic discipline of developmental economics. The project that I worked on concerned voting corruption in Mexican states. The presence of corruption was analyzed by compiling rainfall data by municipality as well as the corresponding insurance payouts, and then cross referencing this information with voting records to try to detect corruption. The ultimate goal of this research was to improve democratic conditions in Mexico. Within this wider project, I worked on compiling a database of voting records by state so that a bootstrap regression could be done on the data to try to find patterns within the allocation of votes. My experience at the Paris School of Economics was truly inspiring and has motivated me to continue my studies in economics. I hope to one day get a Ph.D. in this field, and this internship helped to give me tangible skills that will help me achieve this goal. Beyond the career skills I acquired, I also gained a new sense of myself and the world by living in the cultural capital that is Paris with a new degree of independence. Living in a different culture for a summer truly impressed upon me the idea that while all cultures are distinct in their traditions, it is the diversity of these traditions that makes the world such an exciting place.

Kate Peaquin ’20

Empowering women in India

Mahila Mandals are women empowerment meetings that are the core of the nonprofit organization CORD Siruvani. CORD stands for Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development and aims to address all angles of the complex issues of poverty and health. To do this effectively, CORD must be embedded in the community and maintain a trusting relationship with the villagers. CORD does this through Mahila Mandals and community development workers. Motivated women in the villagages are employed as community health workers by CORD to run the Mahila Mandal meetings in other villages. The majority of my time was spent attending Mahila Mandal meetings. Villagers decide what they want to talk about and CORD provides resources to help them achieve their goals. Meetings aim to promote self-governance and eventually create self-sustainable groups. For example, CORD spends a lot of time teaching women how to interact with their local government and write petitions for services they are obligated to receive. The idea is that women of future generations will grow up educated on their rights and health to improve their quality of life. This experience has changed my world view and impacted my goals for the future. In public health classes or social justice groups like GlobeMed, you learn about these disparities and cycles of poverty but it is different to experience them firsthand. The hardest part for me was seeing the women become inspired but knowing their life reality. Yes, these women can improve their lives and utilize countless services provided by CORD, but it would be incredibly difficult for them to move substantially up in society. CORD aims to change this and provide younger generations with increased educational and financial opportunities; but even with the sustainable groups and changes CORD makes, women are still left to respond to crises and huge disparities created by systems in place. I hope to work in a public health-related field in the future and I am certain that whatever I do, I will work with vulnerable and deserving populations.

Grace Harrington ’19

Heights article

Bolivian workers

Launching a social enterprise in Bolivia

I went to Bolivia this summer to help the missionary, Pastor Ko, to launch his food truck social enterprise. He has been in Bolivia more than 15 years and has helped underserved Bolivians by providing skills training and basic needs. Pastor Ko wanted to start a social enterprise to create more sustainable and greater social impact so he could help develop a younger generation of leaders to carry on his work. Through the social enterprise, he believed he could not only continue to provide skills training to underserved Bolivians but also actually hire them. After they are hired for the social enterprise, they can see that they can make living wages by working hard. I have been helping Pastor Ko with this project since last fall. I created a pro forma business model to predict financial outcomes as well as an operational road map to plan out day-to-day business and HR strategy to find the right people at the right time. In addition, I wrote a business plan to submit to foundations that give out grants to our kind of organization. Thus, I spent most of the time working on these back-end tasks, and then I went out to the street with Lucio, the manager of the food truck business, to actually make some sales and see how people react to our menus. During the second half of my time in Bolivia, I helped them find the best place to make sales and developed a service standard to maintain a high quality of service. Also, I evaluated the business based on the pro forma, checking which prediction was right and which prediction was wrong. At the end of my time in Bolivia, I did a presentation on leadership to Lucio and his colleagues, urging them to not only work hard to cook better foods and make more profits but also to constantly think about what kind of leaders they want to become and what they need to do in order to fill the gap. The single most lesson I gained through this project in Bolivia was that it is significant to do well in business. The single most important lesson I learned through this project was that although it is imperative to do well in business, the essential thing is making sure I am developing leadership among the people I am working with. If I only do well in business and not in people, I will not be doing everything I can to make the business sustainable and successful in the long term.

Wonsuk You ’19

Gaining new worldview perspectives in Prague

My experience in Prague and Central Europe this summer has given me an opportunity to mature as an adult, living completely independent of others. I now have a better sense of the challenges that face me beyond graduation and the difficulties of self-maintenance and regulation. Furthermore, it has also allowed me to develop my skills in a fast-paced work environment. I have learned a great deal about both communication and development during my tenure at Greenpeace, Czech Republic. I have had a rapid introduction into the ways in which a larger office runs and the formalities that are included with that. I have also acquired a good sense of how to act in both meetings and work collaboratively and bilaterally even if two parties do not agree–an important skill for a political science student. Finally, I have developed my global fluency and citizenship by having traversed not only Prague but a fair share of central Europe as well. Before going to the Czech Republic, I had been to Italy, Malawi, and the Dominican Republic. These experiences have shaped my views of the world outside of North America but Central Europe challenged a lot of my previous beliefs. Seeing such incredibly different snapshots of the world led me to believe that countries were on some sort of scale from best to worst. The Czech Republic, however, is not nearly as wealthy as Germany or France but still has one of the safest cities on the planet. This, along with many other aspects of Czech government, economy, and society, changed my black and white view of the world dramatically. This experience has been really eye opening and has allowed me an opportunity to widen my view of the world to an extent I did not think was possible.

Steve LeGere ’21