The InterExchange Foundation is pleased to announce the final three recipients of Christianson Grants in 2013.
Migrants Rights, Bangladesh
Sadaf H. will begin work in Bangladesh with BRAC, an NGO that focuses on creating opportunity for the poor, in the Safe Migration Programme in January 2014. The Brooklyn, New York, native will work to ensure the rights of migrant workers by creating easy access to services that prevent exploitation. Sadaf, who has previously traveled to Lebanon, Jordan and Sri Lanka, and speaks Urdu, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic, will spend the majority of her time traveling to field locations outside of Dhaka to work directly with migrant workers who have returned to their families. Because BRAC internships are unpaid, the Christianson Grant provides essential financial support to Sadaf when making a difference on this global scale.
"I, myself, am a product of migration as my parents boldly trekked to New York City from Delhi in hopes of providing a better future with endless opportunities for their children," she says. "By interacting with the migrant workers and sharing pieces of my story, I will promote a better understanding of the cultural diversity of the American experience, to show the plurality and multifaceted nature of American identity. Being born in Brooklyn, being Muslim, and being Indian, are all identities that make me uniquely American. These identities do not conflict with each other but instead unite to solidify my individuality. I hope to build bridges of international understanding by sharing ideals of the 'American Dream,' a national ethos that mirrors their own personal experiences of struggle and sacrifice, and that I personally have internalized and channeled into my daily work ethic via my parents' narrative of the immigrant experience."
Anti-Discrimination Advocacy, South Africa
Marijke K. is currently serving as the Intern to the Advocacy Rights Officer at the Scalabrini Center of Cape Town in South Africa. In her role with this organization, she is offering legal advice and practical assistance to vulnerable individuals in an effort to ensure that their rights are respected.
"During Apartheid, African workers were unable to officially immigrate to South Africa, and were instead employed as migrant workers through agreements with neighboring countries," Marijke explains. "As such, many people have come to South Africa for work, and remain there, illegally."
The Advocacy Rights Office takes a special interest in cases involving xenophobic violence, disabled refugees and the protection of unaccompanied refugee and migrant children. The program also works to improve existing legislation to protect these vulnerable populations. A resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Marijke has previously studied abroad in Spain and spent two stints in South Africa, including a prior internship. The Christianson Grant is making it possible for her to extend time in South Africa and deepen her ability to provide the best support for those who need her help.
Cross-Cultural Music Education, Zambia
Jason W. has been teaching music at the Ngoma Dolce Music Academy in Lusaka, Zambia, since October 1, 2013. Ngoma is Zambia's first full-time music education school. During his time there, the New Jersey resident has led jazz ensembles, combos and classes, as well as aided in classical percussion instruction. Jason has previously traveled in Ghana, Costa Rica and Israel, and studied jazz and digital media at Tulane University. A central goal of Jason's stint in Lusaka is to utilize his skills and experience to help train a local instructor in jazz drumset education, which he calls his "most important duty."
"Upon my return I will act as a messenger to the U.S; it will be my duty to share all I have learned overseas," he says. "This will be particularly easy as I plan on becoming a college music professor with an African percussion focus. For the remainder of my career I will have an outlet for what I have picked up in Lusaka – a constant opportunity to provide a cultural understanding of Zambia for the youth of America."
The Christianson Grant has made it possible for Jason to work with the academy for a longer period, as without this additional funding, he would not be able to afford an extended stay in Zambia.
The next Christianson Grant deadline is March 15, 2014. Applicants are encouraged to visit the InterExchange Foundation website for more information. Grantees are awarded up to $10,000 in grant funding for international projects lasting six months or more.
InterExchange is a nonprofit organization committed to improving international understanding by facilitating life-changing, exceptional cultural exchange experiences for young people, businesses and families around the world. As both a J-1 Visa sponsor designated by the U.S. Department of State and a cross‐cultural ambassador, we develop meaningful relationships with participants from more than 60 countries as well as with international cooperating agencies, host employers and families. We ensure that all in our community are treated with respect and consideration and are supported by staff with firsthand experience living and working abroad.