During the month of December, we’re focusing on reciprocity — one of the core values shared by all SIT programs, along with inclusion, experiential education, engaged learning, community, social justice, and sustainability. Each week, we’ll highlight stories and posts from the past year about the ways students give back through projects and research on their programs, and the alumni who have taken reciprocity beyond their SIT experiences to make it part of their daily lives.
Bahati Kanyamanza knows firsthand about the difficulties children in refugee camps face in getting an education. Bahati was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 1996, when violence came to his community, he and his family fled to Uganda, where he lived in refugee camps for 18 years. When he was 22, Bahati and two friends established the COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA), which provides primary and secondary schooling in refugee camps, and connects students with organizations to support their higher education. Bahati moved to the United States with his family in 2016 and is currently completing his MA at SIT Graduate Institute. At the same time, he continues to raise support and awareness for CIYOTA. Hear about his story and his work on the SIT podcast OnSITe.
In 2010, Caleb and Sonja went to Uganda with SIT Study Abroad where an academic director introduced them to Patrick Ssenyonjo who, at just 19, was running Raising Up Hope (RUHU), an organization dedicated to alleviating poverty among children. Caleb and Sonya worked with Patrick and the children at RUHU, and when they returned home they began to share the children’s stories. With the support of family and friends, they began sending monthly support to RUHU and eventually started their own nonprofit, Beautiful Response, where they continue to work with Patrick and have expanded their work to include Haiti as they the opportunity for others to respond.
In 2008, two students on SIT Bolivia: Multiculturalism, Globalization, and Social Change decided to create children’s books as their Independent Study Project. Academic Director Heidi Baer-Postigo was thrilled because, at the time, children in Bolivia didn’t have many options to read about their own culture. The students spent the end of that semester researching, writing, and illustrating a story about their host mother’s childhood in rural Bolivia. Ever since, SIT Bolivia has offered all its study abroad students the same opportunity to explore Bolivia’s cultural heritage as part of a project known as Kids’ Books Bolivia. The collection of bilingual children’s books now comprises more than 38 titles.
Bridging gaps in Argentina
Every semester, students on Argentina: Public Health in Urban Environments work with the Red Cross to design a community initiative in under-resourced communities. The goal is to educate students about specific topics and bridge gaps between community and health services. This semester, students organized a health fair in the small village of Los Sarmientos, working with a wide array of local institutions to offer primary and high school students information about nutrition, HIV, exercise, breast cancer, and more.