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Environmental Studies

Addressing Poverty in Peru: Adam Ureneck

Posted May 18, 2012

Adam Ureneck, a 2004 Bowdoin graduate who majored in Environmental Studies and History, has worked in Peru for over nine years, both as a student and organizer for Solidaridad en Marcha, an international organization dedicated to working with the poorest of the poor. Based on his experience in Lima's shantytowns as well as his development work in Peru's High Andes, Adam came to Bowdoin to talk about the problems he sees in relying soley on technical solutions to the challenges facing Peru's highland region.

Adam's interest in justice began while he was at Bowdoin. His classes, friends, professors, and his faith helped him realize that the relevance and importance of the concept of 'justice'. He began to understand that environmental degradation is a human problem, and to see that environmental justice is related to social justice. With the encouragement of professors, such as Professor Dewitt John (environmental studies & government), Adam was able to explore this connection between social justice and the environment.

Adam's connection to Peru also began at Bowdoin.  Between his first and second year, a good friend travelled to Peru for an environmental project. The story of his friend's experience intrigued Adam, and motiviated him to take a year off from school to work with Mexican immigrants in Philadelphia. Before his year was over he travelled to Peru to work with in poor communities. This was a defining moment in Adam's life as it established his strong connection with the country. Returning to Bowdoin, he integrated Peru in his studies by focusing the history portion of his major on Latin American history. He also shared his interest in Peru with the Bowdoin community by organizing and leading an Alternative Spring Break (ASB) trip to Peru. Adam believes that an ASB trip such as the one to Peru and study abroad opportunities are essential to a Bowdoin's student's education because they inform a student's perspective of the wider world and the tremendous needs that exist. Adam thinks service is the way to give meaning to education.

Following graduation Adam was determined to put his education to work. He did this was by working with Solidaridad en Marcha, a global non-profit dedicated to health, education, and community development. They shared his vision of confronting poverty, as well as the belief that technology, though important, is not a sufficient answer to such a complex problem. Adam believes poverty is more complicated than a lack of material and technological goods. He recognizes that poverty can also have spiritual and psychological roots. While technology can address concrete material problems with trmendous effect, Adam has found that unless people can integrate the idea into their world view, it might not be a sustainable solution.

Adam has been involved in health campaigns and an outreach program with soup kitchens in Peruvian shantytowns. He has also developed his own program called Bridges, which seeks to address the dramatic gap between Peru's elite and its poor.  Bridges links students from wealthier families (who will likely be future leaders), with kids and families living in poverty. Working with schools utilizing the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, students earn community hour credits by helping in neighboring shantytowns. Adam hopes that such service will inform students and help them to recognize poverty as a major problem in their country.

Adam's service is not just limited to Peru. He is now living in the States and working to address homelessness in Denver. Adam was happy to return to Bowdoin to talk about his work and hopes that other students will use their education to serve others.

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Adam thinks service is the way to give meaning to education.

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