The third annual Campus Consortium Student Fellows Washington Weekend on Friday, October 7, and Saturday, October 8, 2016, gave participants the special opportunity to experience the Pulitzer Center 10-Year Anniversary Celebration. Staff, board members, university professors and guests learned about several regions of the world, through heartening stories made possible by the students' unique approach to the issues.
Saturday's panels explored several themes; "Refugees and Migrants," "Women, Youth, and Opportunity," "Global Health," and "To End AIDS."
Refugees and Migrants
Abe Kenmore from Guilford College reported on irregular migrants in the U.K. During his travels he learned that migrants experienced "immigration theater" where they were led to believe their detention was only temporary and their asylum would be granted soon—though that was often not the case.
Amanda Ulrich from Wake Forest University traveled to Rome to report on refugees. She told us that once refugees receive documentation, there are barriers to their integration like lack of access to full time jobs, forcing them to the fringes of society. "The eternal city has had the ability to survive the rise and fall of empires. So, in order to survive should they not embrace these other cultures?" Ulrich said.
Rachel Townzen from the University of Pennsylvania documented the devastating effects of the lack of access to technology for refugees in Jordan. She discussed the issue of trust—and its absence. Refugees want to know, "Is my family OK? Is my home still standing? Do I still have a place to go back to?" Reflecting on her experience, Townzen said, "You understand what a crisis is when everything can change in one night."
Women, Youth, and Opportunity
Anna Spoerre from Southern Illinois University Carbondale investigated Peru's public education system. Families move to Lima for better work and better schooling. They find there are no jobs and no places to live so they start "young settlements," building shacks along the side of the hill. They become a disjointed community of displaced people, far from where their family grew and farmed land.
Another fellow from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Kayli Plotner, reported on children's homes in El Salvador. Civil wars in the 1980s and '90s left El Salvador with a stark split between rich and poor and a country ripe for gang violence. Plotner reported on a home for children who have been orphaned or abandoned.
Daniel Socha from Kent State University told a heartwarming story of a youth running program in Eastern Congo that allows youth who might otherwise be swept up in conflict and civil war to attend school. Socha told the story of the program's founder—a young Congolese who returned to his home after attending college in the U.S. A young woman from the running club went on to the Olympics, saying, "I'm going to be more than someone's mother and I'm going to be more than someone's wife."
"While there is lot of work to be done in Congo, this is a great example of how to move forward," Socha said.
Loyola University Chicago fellow, Dillon DeWitt, traveled to the north-most region covered by fellows this year, the Canadian Province of Manitoba, to learn about Oji-Cree youth. He arrived in Manitoba by bush plane, spoke to a man named 42, and was almost written off as "another white man here to find himself." He told them, "No, I want to tell your story." From that point on, DeWitt was "this man called horse." While several of the sacred dances and traditions DeWitt have to be kept secret, he did share experiences of a people with a special attachment to their birthplace: "We do not own the land but we live here."
Natalie Au from University of Pennsylvania reported on innovative solutions towards gender equality in India. She investigated the efficacy of the finance, tech and grassroots entrepreneurship for women to empower each other. The audience learned about development impact bonds, and social impact bonds.
Au found that the biggest takeaway was data—the more creative ways people collected data, the more accurate it was. For example, crowdsourcing data resulted in a mapping app for the safety in cities, where people anonymously report sexual violence in certain areas. She told the story of Barefoot College where rural women started to teach solar engineering to women from other rural towns. Au learned that rather than learning literacy which would not help them practically, the women valued "synthesizing the knowledge they have to help them thrive in the community and help each other."
Makenzie Huber from South Dakota University reported on the efficacy of solar ovens in the Dominican Republic. Her time-lapsed video took viewers through the experience of a community coming together to build a solar oven.
Caitlin Cotter, a student at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health traveled to a small village outside of Quito, Ecuador, to report on the health consequences of ceramic glazing there and to determine if lead toxicity is diminishing with changing practices.
Isabel Izek of Washington University in St. Louis reported on the disparate health care between well-funded and scarcely funded hospitals in Mexico. She saw that the private care hospitals with advanced technological resources only catered to 1 percent of the population. "At the root of the problem, it's not that we need more innovation, the problem now is how to distribute the technologies to the people that really need it the most. I'm optimistic that it can be done," Izek said.
Kate Petcosky-Kulkarni, Boston University School of Public Health fellow, reported on the perceptions of disabilities in India. There she found that once a person is disabled, access to education and economic independence is challenging, and the connection between disability and poverty is prevalent.
To End AIDS
Aditi Kantipuly, a fellow from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, reported on CMVR Retinitis, telling the story of how people have turned a blind eye on the HIV epidemic in India. Kantipuly discussed the challenges she faced: "Even though I speak the language and I have that sensitivity, it was difficult to make people feel comfortable to tell me their stories. I have a lot of respect for people reporting in places that are not their background because it is not easy," she said.
Rebecca Sananes from Boston University traveled to Cuba to report on its head start to finding an AIDS cure. In June 2015, Cuba saw the end to mother-to-child HIV transmission, and Cuba has the lowest rate of HIV in Western Hemisphere. Sananes told the story of patients who in the 1980s were kept in HIV sanitariums where they could find support for transgenders.
Another Boston University student, Caitlin Bawn traveled to Botswana to investigate the relationship between cancer and HIV. She found that HIV patients are more susceptible to pediatric and cervical cancer and is reporting on the links as well as on the lack of resources.
Jennifer Stephens from The George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health reported on the battle against HIV among Malawi youth. Since she was unable to attend, Pulitzer Center Projects Coordinator Akela Lacy shared Stephens' project on the "forgotten generation"—a cohort of mostly orphans that didn't find out about their positive HIV status until they were teenagers. Many teens have found support in "teen clubs" where several act as peer mentors. One young woman says, "My heart was filled with hatred, I had never done anything wrong. Without teen club I would have been dead. Now I am confident with no one to blame."
A big thank you to our 2016 Pulitzer Center Student Fellows for sharing their global reporting experiences! We applaud your dedication to telling the human stories behind these issues that will hold a special place in your journalistic careers.