Aliya-Begum Jessa ‘19 (Sociology and Psychology) spent her summer working with two NGOs in Lesvos, Greece: an island off the coast of Turkey that houses over 10,000 refugees, mostly from Syria and Iraq. Aliya worked with Refugee4Refugees boat spotting for incoming dinghies from Turkey and organizing children’s activities at an emergency temporary refugee camp. She also worked with A Drop in the Ocean teaching women’s English classes, running an open café, and setting up a center for women and children adjacent to the largest refugee camp on the island, Moria, which contains over 6,000 refugees. Aliya also worked with these organizations to respond to emergency situations on the island, creating safe spaces for women and children to escape fighting.
“Although I saw some incredibly difficult things and had a tough experience, the connections I made with migrants and volunteers from all around the world are invaluable. Meeting refugees and being able to help them, albeit in very trivial ways, solidified for me that this is what I want to do in my future career.”
Erin Morrissey ‘19 (Neuroscience) spent her summer in Tanga, Tanzania volunteering with a children’s rights charity called Pamoja Leo. There, she worked directly with the organization’s social worker to advocate for orphaned and vulnerable children. Pamoja Leo promotes family and community based care for orphans and vulnerable children by providing education counseling services, teaching entrepreneurship and useful skills to the families, and supporting young girls to be safe and confident. Erin spent much of her time helping to run the Girls Group program which involved teaching fun and useful skills (e.g. cooking, sewing, beading) to vulnerable and at-risk teenage girls.
“Through my time at Pamoja Leo and living in Tanzania, my world view expanded greatly. I learned so much about the importance of perseverance, child advocacy, and appreciation of supportive relationships. I am so excited to continue with this work and share this newfound perspective with the Bowdoin community.”
Jacob Dexter-Muldrum ‘21 volunteered at the Collateral Repair Project in Amman, Jordan. The Collateral Repair Project is a community center that serves urban refugees from Syria and Iraq. Jake taught English and assisted in leading and organizing the Collateral Repair Project’s After School Program and Summer Camp. The English teaching program is aimed at increasing the refugee community’s proficiency in English, which can help refugees acquire jobs in Amman and can be beneficial if they are resettled in English speaking countries. The After School and Summer Camp programs attempt to increase numeracy, literacy, interpersonal communication, conflict resolution skills, and promote healing and wellness.
“Throughout my time working at the Collateral Repair Project, I was inspired by the optimism and grit of the refugee community. Many of the individuals I had the opportunity to work alongside had been displaced in Jordan for years after having lost their homes to violent conflict. Many carried little hope of resettlement, were often separated from their families, and had little to no ability to make money in Jordan. Regardless, the individuals I worked with strove to create a community that supported one another in overcoming present adversity and previous trauma. It was a beautiful mission to witness and be a part of.”
Lexi Gray ‘19 (Psychology and Italian Studies) spent her summer volunteering at Casa di Leda, an alternative incarceration program in Rome, Italy. In Italy children can live in prison with their incarcerated mothers until the age of three. A Roma Insieme created Casa di Leda as an alternative to these children living behind bars, providing a house for six mothers and their children. Many of the women are Romani and have difficulty finding employment due to prejudice and lack of documentation. Casa di Leda strives to create the best possible environment for the children and to eliminate barriers to successful reentry by helping these women access legal aid, education, and other support services.
“My summer taught me about the marginalization and ostracization of being Romani in Italian society. At first, I worried our cultural differences would impede genuine connection. It turns out, we all like Beyoncé and a good bowl of homemade Italian pasta, and all the things we share far outweigh our differences. Through conversation and shared experience, all the stereotypes and cultural differences melt away. I’m forever grateful to the women I met for their openness, generosity, and for accepting me as one of their own.”